From Michelle Smith: Inside The W
Before we dive too deeply into fantasy, we need to deal with a reality check.
Sue Bird, who has started every game for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the last three Olympic Games – leading them to gold in each – sustained what looked to be a potentially serious knee injury in the quarterfinal win over Japan on Tuesday.
But by Wednesday morning in Brazil, Bird underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a right knee capsule sprain. She was listed as day-to-day and both Bird and the U.S. team breathed a collective sigh of relief.
It’s rare to see the U.S. women’s basketball team struggle during the Olympics. Then again, they’ve had Sue Bird running the show for over a decade.
With the starting point guard sidelined with a knee injury, the Americans were out of sorts for a half before finally getting it together to pull away from France in an 86-67 win in the semifinals Thursday night. Now they’re back in the Olympic final once again, one victory away from a sixth consecutive gold medal.
U.S. coach Geno Auriemma made it a point, however, after the game to stress that unforeseen developments like Bird’s injury makes it a little bit harder than just who the U.S. will beat next and “when’s the gold medal ceremony.”
Rachel Blount, Star-Tribune: After slow start, U.S. women’s basketball beats France to reach gold medal game
While her U.S. teammates struggled against France, Sue Bird found it even more difficult to watch. The veteran point guard, who had started every game in the past three Olympics, sat out with a sprained knee Thursday and agonized throughout the first half of her team’s semifinal.
“It was really hard,’’ said Bird, whose 132 games with the national team are the most on the current roster. “We were a little out of sorts. I felt like I could help in that department.’’
Gary Burton, Boston Globe, looks ahead to Tokyo (which is why I’m planning for Spain, 2018): Without Sue Bird, US women need direction
Perhaps Team USA’s second-best point guard here in Rio was purchasing souvenirs at the Olympic Park superstore about 90 minutes before the women’s basketball semifinal game against France.
That was 46-year-old Dawn Staley, an assistant coach who still looks like she can dish an assist or two. So Team USA was relegated to patchwork when four-time Olympian Sue Bird, still considered the best point guard in the States, was unavailable because of a sore right knee.
And the outcome was predictable.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, what is it like for you now when you watch the Olympics?
Tina Thompson: “My most favorite sporting event is the Olympic Games. As a young child and a family experience, it’s what we’ve done my entire life. We’ve always watched the Olympics. And when I tell you we watch the Olympics, we watch everything – everything from rowing to fencing. We watch things that you just don’t necessarily watch on a regular basis. For me, watching and loving the Olympic Games the way that I do, to have been able to be a part of it is amazing in itself. It is an unbelievable accomplishment and I never thought, at the time that I was watching the Olympics as a child, that that’s where I would be. Then you fast forward to actually being a part of it and watching it now, the love is still the same. The only difference is that I can truly understand the process, what they’re going through and the emotions that you have when you’re a part of that experience. I know the joy that they’re feeling when they win gold and our national anthem is being played. I get it.
The United States was just a start-up when women’s basketball was first played in an Olympics in 1976. Back then, Team USA was 12 women living off one credit card and sleeping in bunk beds without air conditioning. Forty years later, the memories are a measurement.
At the 2016 Rio Games, the U.S. women led by Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings are living on a Silversea cruise ship along with the men’s team, and they deserve the sumptuous lounge chairs, because they’re going for a sixth straight gold medal and are beating their opponents by an average of 40 points. But they’d play that way no matter what the lead, or their circumstances, because that’s the program’s tradition.
Since we’re talking history, here’s a WHB Flashback: Hunter Lowe:
Ted first talked about Hunter on this blog in 2005, when he was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
In February of ’08, we wrote about the Hunter and his Kodak All-Americans when State Farm took over the AA sponsorship.
Hunter died this past September, and Sherri Coale spoke to Low’s impact.
Recently, others offered their reflections on Hunter Low:
Betty Jaynes, former head coach of Madison College (Harrisonburg, VA) from (1970-82).
On meeting Hunter.
[In 1975] we had that national AIAW championship and I happen to also be the tournament director. That was the year Eastman Kodak decided that they would have a Kodak All-America team. I was on the committee to select — as well as the Championship chair — and that is where my life crossed with Hunter.
He walked into our gym one January with a whole entourage of Eastman Kodak folks to sit down and talk with me about how we could have a meeting place for the Kodak committee and the kinds of things that we could do with a group. At that time the AIAW would not let a sponsor have any type of appearance or recognition at the championships site. So our plan was, once the players were flown into Harrisonburg, to bus them in to Washington DC where we could have the Kodak luncheon and the presentation.
[Eventually] the AIAW got a little bit better at allowing Kodak to be near the championship, so about two or three years later we are able to bring the players in and have our own luncheon in the city where the championship was.
He was instrumental in that because, in 1980, the NCAA decided that they would take over women’s sports. When they did that, the AIAW sued them for antitrust (and eventually lost). Hunter was very concerned about where the Kodak All-Americans would be housed — they had a contract with the AIAW and it was no longer in existence.
He encouraged me, along with many other coaches, to form a Coaches Association so that we would have our own identity, no matter what area we played — whether it was the NCAA or the NAIA, or NJCAA — no matter what it was, we could bring our coaching profession under a Coaches Association and have our own identity about strategies, awards and be political about our rules and regulations.
He sponsored the original group that met in Syracuse. Norfolk [VA, 1982] was our organizing committee, and the group that met in Syracuse during the Olympic Festival was sort of a sounding committee. They came together and decided, yes this is what we’re going to do. And he was responsible for housing that group and getting them to the meetings.
How did he connect with women’s basketball?
He had two daughters Valerie and Elizabeth – and one of them played. His wife Jody has always been heavily involved in this whole All-American thing. She said for years he went away to be with all these women, and she finally got pretty much tired of it, so she decided she’d tag along. And she falls in love with everybody and everybody falls in love with her and then Hunter says, “Now wait a minute. This is my gig!” (Laughs)
Hunter had always been involved with the American Football Coaches Association in doing their Eastman awards. You’ve got to understand that he’s a Kodak man. He was in film and the football coaches had film every Saturday. They filmed the games, they sent it Kodak and they processed it, and it was back in their hands the next day. I think he saw men’s and women’s basketball as the potentials for the use of that film. I think that was his whole thing. That’s why Kodak was the official imager of the women’s basketball committee.
Was he connected to the 1991 book of women’s basketball photographs, “At the Rim”?
His boss was responsible for that, Ray Mouland (?). Ray was really into the imaging and so he said that if we would help to get all female photographers — that was part of it. It had to be all-female photographers. We did all of that legwork for them — signed the players and the teams and the coaches — and then they put together the sports information groups, like in Virginia, and got the female photographer there. Then they went through and picked out the photographs.
That was a real exciting time for me because they let me go to Rochester and see all the pictures. I had no input, but it was just an absolutely amazing kind of thing to watch all that transpire. And then the deal was that every member of the WBCA would get a copy.
I love the one of Muffet McGraw and her baby. He went away as a [college] freshman this year. It’s just amazing how all these things transpire.
Describe the man to somebody who never met him.
Well Hunter was very big in stature — I want to say maybe 6’3” or 6’4” — a big, overpowering, gentlemen. You would think that he would be rough, but he was a gentleman’s gentleman. That’s my sister’s comment, that he was a gentleman’s gentleman. But that’s what he was — he was tender, very caring. Exceptionally polite to everyone and very gracious when he was introduced to someone.
He loved to all of the All-Americans. They always remembered him. They would write to him and communicate with him. Ann Meyers Drysdale was one of his favorites. He loved Nancy Lieberman. And Jody Conradt. Lin Dunn, who coaches the Indiana Fever. Billie Moore, the ‘76 Olympic coach, because he was responsible for taking care of a lot of their housing and their practices in Rochester.
I loved being around Hunter and his sidekick Bill Orr. Bill was with Tel Ra Productions in Philadelphia. Bill always provided a videotape of the Kodak All-Americans that we distributed to all of our [WBCA] members, and our members would show the highlights of these players during their camps. That’s the only kind of video that they had, the Kodak All-American videos. I think that’s why so many young girls coming up through the system said that they wanted to be a Kodak All-American. They learned it from their experiences during summer camps.
He just loved to the fact that women received recognition. Even before the Kodak, the early days of 70’s, the latter part of 60’s, he was involved with basketball clinics in the Poconos. It was a Kodak clinic. He funded those and that then fell into the Kodak All-American. And it just kept rolling. He was just extraordinary.
Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee
Hunter Low was a great friend of women’s basketball for many, many years. I first met Hunter in 1976 when he helped to arrange a place where our women’s Olympic basketball team could train in Rochester before we headed to Montreal for the Olympic Games.
He was passionate about the game of women’s basketball and was instrumental in the development of the Kodak All-America team. There was no better person, father or friend to the game than Hunter.
Hunter Low saw the exuberance and passion that women’s college basketball players played with and was instrumental in helping make women’s college basketball what it is today.”
Ann Meyers Drysdale (UCLA 1974-’78. First player, male, or female, named to Kodak’s All-America team in four straight seasons)
Hunter, Hunter, Hunter! He really was a special man and friend. I am so sad to hear the news.
He took care of me when the first Kodak team was named. Since I was the only freshman, he sent me a round trip ticket. Or did I pick it up at the airport (LAX)? Remember in those days (1975) tickets were hand written. I was babysitting as my Mom and Dad went up to Oregon to watch UCLA and my brother David play at in the NCAA tournament. I don’t remember how Hunter worked it out with my folks to get me to fly cross country — but he did. Then when I was flying back home out of Reagan Airport (it wasn’t Reagan yet) I had thrown my airplane ticket away, because I had already used it (one way) and didn’t think I needed the receipt (which was the other leg home), but who knew? Hunter had to go to the counter and get my ticket rewritten and explain the WHOLE thing! :>)
My sophomore year in Minnesota, Hunter had a big birthday cake for me and had all the All-Americans sing Happy Birthday to me.
Hunter was great with EVERYONE! But he and I hit it off and he and Jody became very special friends in my life. He was a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. We were so lucky to see the world through Hunter’s eyes and heart. He was special to so many and made our world a better and happier place to be in!
Jody Conradt, former head coach at Texas (1976-2007)
Talk about Hunter’s “hidden” legacy.
I think in our sport we have a tendency — I mean in the general public — to think this is something that just started in the 1970’s. At that point in time there just wasn’t as much focus on women’s basketball the way it is in certain situations now. So therefore people that weren’t involved at that point in time probably don’t have an appreciation for what Kodak’s contributions was and the fact that that contribution happened solely because of Hunter Lowe.
Describe Hunter to people who’d never met him.
I used to always think about his sense of humor. His sense of humor and how he had a wonderful recall. You could not see him for months — almost years — and you would be in his presence and he would remember obscure details about the last time you saw him, or about your team. Just wonderful recall.
Nancy Lieberman, Old Dominion University (Kodak All-American 1978, ’79, ’80)
Talk about what Hunter’s role in the growth women’s basketball
I had sent a letter to his family. I just wanted them to know what he meant to all of us and to women’s basketball. He did things…Kodak didn’t have to support women’s basketball or the all-American team. They were one of the first people to really step up, not with a toe in but with a full commitment. We’re talking about the early 70s. It wasn’t a popular thing to do, but he was so passionate.
He had a vision. He was so real. There was nothing pretentious about him he could make the call. He had the ability to write the check. Or tell the people that needed to write the check. And he did.
I couldn’t wait to give him a hug because this man just genuinely loved women’s sports. He just treated us like we were gold. Really, some of my experiences around Hunter were some of the first experiences that I had — eating at a nice restaurant or staying in nice hotels. I mean, I was a poor kid from New York. In ‘76 I was 17 — I turned 18 in Montreal (at the Olympics). Hunter was real protective of me because he knew I was so young and that I probably was a little out of my element. He always made me feel so comfortable. You don’t forget that.
What Hunter stories do you have?
I can’t tell you how many times I had dinner with him in Rochester or when he was with us with USA basketball or with the Kodak team. He loved to tell this story my senior year we’re at the Kodak All-American banquet. Inge Nissen, my teammate who was 24 — at the time we were all like 22 or something, but she was very mature because of her European background– and Inge is sitting at the Kodak All-American table with me with a cognac in one of those big glasses. Her hand is on the bottom and she’s swirling it around, and smoking a cigarette and kids are coming up, “Oh, Miss Nissen, I want to be like you one day!”
And I’m just sitting there and Hunter’s going, “You want to die of smoke inhalation and be inebriated?” [Laughs] I was such a nerd. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, but she was so mature. Hunter loved telling that story — it was the darndest thing I’ve ever seen because, you know, she was so much older and mature. We laughed.
Talk about his legacy.
I think the hardest thing for people like me is that we didn’t see him enough, after we had a measure of success, to say thank you. And that’s the thing you kick yourself in the behind about. It’s the simplest thing to just be able to just say, “Hey thanks for everything.” And you lose those opportunities. And I’m really sorry, on a personal note, because we only saw him at events.
We were his family and his family was our family. He treated one and all like family. And he has decades and decades of us on posters. All you have to do is take a look at them and you’ll know. That’s the key to life.
Think about this for a moment: Forty years ago, the United States Olympic Committee did not even expect the women’s basketball team to QUALIFY for the Games. When they won the qualifying tournament, there was a mad effort just to get the team accommodations in Montreal.
That was the first Olympic women’s basketball tournament, forty years ago, and the United States played in the first game, against Japan.
The headline in one American newspaper after that game: “Japan Downs United States Gal Cagers.”
Fast Company: Do Female Athletes Get Stiffed By The Sports Industry?
Marketer and talent representative Leonard Armato says the lack of high-quality media coverage, as well as everything from societal attitudes about women in sports to event attendance figures, stack the deck against women athletes. Armato is CEO and founder of Management Plus Enterprises (MPE), which represents sports figures like Oscar De La Hoya, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kerri Walsh Jennings, among others, and is the former CEO and commissioner of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour which, under his direction, offered equal purses for men’s and women’s competitions.
Over the years, Armato says he’s seen the bias against women athletes firsthand.
The Olympics brought a moment of equality to women in sports, but don’t expect it to last.
WNBA news: New York Liberty activate Epiphanny Prince
The New York Liberty announced Friday morning that Epiphanny Prince has been added to the active roster and will begin practicing with the team immediately.
The Liberty waived rookie forward Adut Bulgak, the team’s first-round pick, to make room on the roster for Prince.
The move has enormous implications for the Liberty, and provides the team with a significant upgrade that no other WNBA roster will be getting heading into the final few weeks of the regular season and playoffs.
More Lib news: New York Liberty to hold Swin Cash retirement ceremony