Former Tennessee Lady Vols star Candace Parker was left off of the 2016 Team USA Women’s Basketball Olympics team. Ironically, Geno Auriemma is the coach.
UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma has been the leader of Team USA for women’s basketball since they competed in the 2012 Olympics. During that time, he has been accused of slowly working to create a UConn-only Olympic team.
Up until this point, I defended him from those accusations. The Huskies were so dominant in women’s college basketball, it was inevitable that they would have tons of great players qualified to play on Team USA. No scandal appeared present.
But after Candace Parker was left off the team this year, Auriemma has some serious explaining to do.
Sure, Parker was injured for much of the year, but she came back fully healthy and was the most efficient player in the WNBA. As a two-time MVP in the league already and arguably the best player when fully healthy, which she is now, how could she not make the 12-player roster?
The only possible explanation to this point is a spin-off of the original accusation: that Auriemma is trying to create a UConn team, or at least trying to keep Lady Vols off the team.
Parker’s absence from the squad likely assures that Breanna Stewart, a recent UConn graduate, will now be on the team.
Also, former UConn great Diana Taurasi, a player who is three years older than Parker, is on the team.
Overall, five players players from UConn are likely to be representing the United States in Rio. Any idea how many Lady Vols there will be without Parker? one.
That’s right, one of the two most storied programs in women’s basketball with the second most talent in the WNBA has one player representing it on this year’s Olympic team, which just happens to be coached by a rival school.
And that one player is Tamika Catchings, who pretty much has a lifetime contract to play in the Olympics as long as she wants.
It is already clear that there is bad blood between the Tennessee Lady Vols and Auriemma, a rivalry that has always been about supremacy in women’s basketball. Things were taken to a new level when Pat Summitt canceled the series back in 2006.
That bad blood would not have given him any excuse to leave Parker and former Lady Vol great Tamika Catchings off of the 2012 team, so they were on. But now Catchings is old, and Parker did surpass the age of 30. That could have given Auriemma the perfect excuse to leave her off. Except, as we mentioned earlier, he kept Taurasi on.
Again, Auriemma is not proven to be guilty of anything. And in fact, he was in the hospital for much of last week, so it is unclear just how much input he had in selecting the players anyway.
But he should have to give a viable explanation as to how he could have left Parker off of Team USA when she is probably the best player in the WNBA.