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Bill Wall has died. From USA Basketball CEO/Executive Director Jim Tooley:

The entire USA Basketball family mourns the passing of Bill Wall.  Bill was a treasure to the basketball community worldwide, someone who gave much more then he ever received back. His passion for basketball, as a player, coach, official and as an administrator, was evident to anyone who met him, and his efforts helped grow the game to the popularity it enjoys today.  He became this organization’s first executive director in 1975, and in the 18 years he served in that position he helped transition ABAUSA (Amateur Basketball Association of the United States of America) into USA Basketball. Under Bill’s leadership, USA Basketball was recognized as one of the premiere national federations and Bill from the early years on was a true advocate for women’s basketball.  Bill Wall will be missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Bill Wall did not lead a controversy-free life (in the land of basketball) but if not for his American Express Card, it’s likely the US women’s team, which surprised most by making it to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 – including the USA Basketball Olympic Committee – would have had to walk to Rochester for their practices or called their parents for care packages. From Sally Jenkins’ 2012 article in the Washington Post: Women’s Olympic success: a flood that began as a trickle (apologies for the long quote, Sally, but I hope you believe Bill deserved it):

This is how it happens: A dozen women, isolated outliers, are so committed to playing for their country that they will practically starve for the honor. The first American women’s basketball team in ’76, captained by Pat Head Summitt and featuring Ann Meyers Drysdale among others, had a budget of $500. They held training camp in an unairconditioned gym in Warrensburg, Mo., because it was the cheapest facility they could find, and they begged meals from the rotary club.

“We’d do anything for free food for the team,” Moore says.

Bill Wall, the executive director of USA basketball, stepped forward and put up his personal credit card to support their attempt to make it into the Montreal Games. When they won the qualifying tournament, they were such a surprise that nobody had made any accommodations for them.

They found an empty dormitory that was under construction at the University of Rochester, and bunked there for a few days amid the sound of hammering. Then they moved into a two-bedroom condo in Montreal someone had found them — 12 players and the coaching staff. Some of them slept on cots in the kitchen. “And no one complained,” Moore says.

Speaking of no complaining. With the injury to Indiana Pacer player Paul George during the men’s tryouts, the NBA folks are wondering if they dare risk their… players (I was going to use another word, but I won’t) in the quest for Olympic Gold. Out poured articles like “Should NBA stars play in FIBA World Cup, Olympics?” and Why is Rose still playing USA Basketball?” and “Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban criticises sending NBA stars to the Olympics” and “When ‘Patriotism’ and NBA Marketing Collide with Reality and Basket Stanchion” etc., etc.

Sure, John Smallwood counters with Mark Cuban has it all wrong and Harvey Araton counters with his piece, Cuban Loses Sight of the Role of International Play – In Paul George Remarks, Mark Cuban Discounts Benefits of International Basketball, but honestly, was anyone surprised at the response of the USA Basketball women? Nope!

Tamika Catchings has known Paul George since he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2010.

She was sickened when she heard the news that he broke his right leg on a freak play during the U.S. men’s national team scrimmage Friday. Still, the Indiana Fever star has no hesitation about suiting up for the women’s national team again this fall.

“I don’t think it gives me a second thought,” said Catchings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion. “For me representing our country is the highest honor you can have. I know I speak on behalf of all the women, and I’m sure the men too, who are trying out, it’s an unfortunate injury that can happen anywhere.”

Catchings’ thoughts were echoed by U.S. women’s national team players across the country over the weekend.

Speaking of USA basketball – part of the 1976 team’s legacy is the success of the women’s programs: next up, the U-18-ers in Colorado Springs for the FIBA Championship: nm

“I think we are getting excited,” Staley said about the upcoming tournament. “We have beat each other up in the morning practice and then depending on who we scrimmaged, either we were getting beat up, or we had some pretty good competition in some of the other national teams. I think we want to play for a stake, for a gold medal. That’s why we are here, so we are getting a little bit antsy about playing the real competition.”

Now for some good news:

NY Times: Spurs Hire Becky Hammon as N.B.A.’s First Female Full-Time Coach and KSAT.com: Spurs tap Becky Hammon for assistant coach and Spurs Nation: Hammon overwhelmed, thrilled and humbled by historic opportunity and  USA Today: Spurs hire Becky Hammon as assistant coach and NESN: Becky Hammon Hiring Keeps Spurs Ahead Of Curve in NBA, Pro Sports World

From Kate Fagan: Becky Hammon was born to coach

If you know Becky Hammon, one thing has always been clear: she would become a coach after she finished playing.

We all figured it would be for the Colorado State women’s basketball program, her alma mater, the school she put on the map in the late 1990s with her sweet outside shot and clever ball handling. In fact, there were even rumblings around Fort Collins back in the day that the CSU athletic department had made some sort of handshake, wink-wink deal with the dynamic local star: The moment you retire, we’ll have an open spot in the athletic department — guaranteed.

The reason we all knew Hammon would become a coach is actually quite simple. She could see a play once and know all its options and offshoots, categorize them from most to least effective. And she could do this for every position on the court, instantly — as if the X’s and O’s had been coded into her DNA. Most of the time, the team’s head coach approached Hammon for her insight — rarely was it the other way around.

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