USA Basketball women's head coach Dawn Staley will be surrounded by familiar faces on her staff for the 2020 Olympics.
WNBA coaches Cheryl Reeve of Minnesota and Dan Hughes of Seattle, plus college coach Jennifer Rizzotti of George Washington, were named assistants to Staley for the Summer Games in Japan. All were on the U.S. national team's staff last fall when the Americans won the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup.
Hughes' inclusion is noteworthy because he underwent surgery last month to remove a carcinoid tumor in his digestive tract. He's set to return to the sideline for the defending WNBA champion Storm on Friday when they host Los Angeles.
Storm forward Breanna Stewart, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon playing overseas in April, is expected to be a top player again for the U.S. team in the Olympics. Last year, she was the MVP of the WNBA regular season, WNBA Finals and the World Cup.
"If I know Stewie, Stewie will be ready to rock and roll when it's time for us to compete for a gold medal," said Staley, South Carolina's head coach and a former player and assistant for the national team before taking over as USA head coach in 2017. "I think with she and Dan going through injuries and illness, they're pretty much cut from the same cloth in that they want to get out there, they want to get back as soon as possible and represent their country.
"The resiliency of Dan ... he was a good patient and listened to his doctors, and that's why he's probably back sooner than probably anybody anticipated. I knew he was going to come back. We had a number of conversations about where he was health-wise, and he assured me it wouldn't interfere with anything that we would do in Tokyo."
The U.S. women's team has won every Olympic gold medal since 1996, a streak of six in a row. The Americans already have their spot in the 2020 Olympics because they won the World Cup last year. Still, they will take part in pre-qualifying and qualifying tournaments in November and February, along with an event called AmeriCup in September, which sets seeding for the pre-qualifying tournament.
The AmeriCup will overlap with the end of the WNBA playoffs, so it will involve only players who aren't still competing in the WNBA. Overseas leagues will suspend play for both the pre-qualifying and qualifying tournaments, so all players can participate.
Because the United States is already qualified, these events don't have any impact on the Americans' Olympic status. They are just good opportunities for the U.S. team -- which doesn't have that much training time together -- to compete prior to the Summer Games.
The familiarity of the coaching staff is a bonus. Reeve is in her 10th season as head coach of the Lynx, with whom she has won four WNBA titles. She was also an assistant to former U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Hughes, in his 18th season as a WNBA head coach, was a member of the U.S. national team player selection committee from 2009 to 2016 before becoming a U.S. assistant last year. Rizzotti, who played for UConn's first NCAA title team in 1995, has an extensive USA Basketball coaching background at different age levels and was the organization's coach of the year in 2011.
"What our assistant coaches do individually is prepare us for opponents," Staley said. "They do the scouting reports, they present them to the players, and they're doing a lot of the grunt work and watch a lot of film.
"Dan and Cheryl have been through every basketball situation that's imaginable. Jen knows international play probably better than all of us. What was officially done today was something that I knew would take place because of the chemistry we had as a staff from our experiences working together before."
In other USA Basketball news, women's national team director Carol Callan was elected president of FIBA Americas over the weekend. She is the first woman to be president of a FIBA zone. She will oversee international tournaments for men and women involving the Americas zone, which has 43 federations spanning North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. In her role, which is a four-year appointment, she'll also serve on the FIBA Central Board.
"It's been enjoyable for me to work behind the scenes to put women's basketball and basketball in general on a larger scale internationally," Callan said. "The difference is that now I'm in a more formal role, but I anticipate the work will be very similar to what all of us do -- trying to make basketball better not only in the United States, but throughout the Americas zone and, being on the Central Board, throughout the world."