Not going never crossed her mind.
“Every Olympic games, there’s always some type of controversy that arises,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “If we second-guess going, I wouldn’t be a three-time Olympian. I wouldn’t participate in a fourth Olympics as a coach.”
The crumbling foundation of the 2016 Olympics has a lot of athletes declining to represent their countries. The unhealthy conditions in Rio de Janeiro and the outbreak of the Zika virus has taken its toll on several would-be Olympic athletes – such as U.S. men’s basketball players.
Staley, who’ll assist UConn coach Geno Auriemma with the women’s basketball team, hasn’t paid it any attention. Since she was offered, she was going, and she said the 12 members of the team aren’t concerned, either.
“Everybody’s a go,” Staley said. “It’s probably going to be the most protected place in the world.”
Any health concerns would be butting against the primary concern – making sure American dominance of the sport remains intact. The U.S. has won the past five gold medals and has gone 58-3 in Olympic competition.
Staley, part of three of those golds, knew the deal as soon as she signed up. Auriemma even mentioned it that day – players are told, “Don’t be coming back with no silver.”
“Gold or bust,” Staley said. “In my first Olympic games, the only thing I heard was gold or failure. The players know exactly what’s at stake. That’s why they understand that they don’t bring anything other than a selflessness about winning basketball games.”
Staley leaves for Spain on Thursday to recruit at an under-17 event and will be back on July 4. The Olympic team gathers in Los Angeles on July 23 and plays four exhibition games across the country, three against international squads and the other against a U.S. select team.
They hit Rio on Aug. 1. Staley will assist Auriemma, as he tries to extend his perfect international record, and then think about the future.
Auriemma said he had zero interest in coaching another Olympic team after 2012, but was coaxed back for 2016. It seems likely that he won’t want to return in 2020.
Staley, who has given half her life to USA basketball, would seem a natural successor, although it hasn’t come up.
But she wouldn’t turn it down.
“That’s for the committee to decide. I think we just need to get through 2016 to Rio,” Staley said. “For me, I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to do it. If I’m ever honored in that way, it wouldn’t take me long to decide.”
NOTES: Four of Staley’s five recruits (including Kentucky transfer Alexis Jennings) are on campus. The other, Ty Harris, won’t report until August because she’s playing with U18 Team USA. … The Gamecocks’ schedule will be released as soon as contracts are returned. Like the men’s team, one opponent dropped out and has to be replaced. “But I think Nikki (McCray-Penson) will get that done fairly quickly,” Staley said of her assistant.
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