Geno Auriemma will return to coach the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.
USA Basketball will discuss the move at a news conference Friday in Connecticut. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the appointment of the Connecticut coach has not been announced.
Auriemma will be the first repeat coach for the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team, which has won a gold medal at the past five games. Mike Krzyzewski decided in May he would return to coach the men a third time.
Auriemma’s team cruised through the 2012 London Games, winning by an average of 34 points, including an 86-50 rout of France for the title.
Since the end of the Olympics, Auriemma has denied interest in coaching in Rio and repeatedly said he would not return if asked. The 59-year-old Hall of Famer compared the experience to eating a bowl of his favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream.
“The second bowl doesn’t taste as good as the first one,” he said. “It never has and it never will.”
Still, he has a chance now to be the first women’s coach to repeat as a gold medalist.
“We have traditionally picked a coach for four years and rotated that every four years and had great success with that,” women’s national team director Carol Callan said during the summer. “We’ve had several who could repeat, but we never had gotten through to that discussion.”
That group includes Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers Pat Summitt, Tara VanDerveer, Kay Yow and Van Chancellor.
Auriemma had felt his Olympic duties took too much time from his coaching at Connecticut. Still, the Huskies won an eighth national championship in April to match Tennessee for the most in women’s basketball. With most of his team returning, including Breanna Stewart, the Huskies look poised to repeat.
On the Olympic front, the U.S. women play at the world championships in the fall of 2014 in Turkey, where a victory would qualify the team for Rio.
Auriemma can expect the return of veterans Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings. All three have said they would play in Rio if healthy. In fact, most of the roster from the 2012 Games could return with stars Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles all reaching their prime. Not to mention a wealth of young talent with WNBA rookies Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner.
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