1996 team impact: Big Olympic moments, where are they now?
The 1996 U.S. women’s basketball team keeps impacting the game at all levels — sparking the launch of two professional leagues and inspiring players at the college and high school levels. Here’s a look at the players on the gold-medal winning team, their contributions and where they are now:
CONTRIBUTION: Speedy backup point guard.
BIG MOMENT: Former Stanford standout had 18 points, 3 assists, 3 steals in win over Congo in group play.
BEST MEMORY: “To be in the Ukraine, you see a lot of the world and how a lot of the world struggles, that people in other countries — if you’ve never been out of the country — you go to some third-world places and you see they don’t have anything close.”
NOW: Head coach of the San Francisco Dons.
SHE SAID IT: “It was a great experience. Any national team experience I’ve ever had has been incredible, and then to play for Tara that Olympic year, we were together for 18 months because our team in ’94 were bronze medalists and so they wanted to keep us together. That actually became the platform for the WNBA, which is pretty incredible.”
CONTRIBUTION: Defensive stalwart, started all eight Olympic games..
BIG MOMENT: Former Auburn standout shut down Brazilian guard Paula in the gold-medal game, winning 111-87.
BEST MEMORY: Going into the stands at the medal ceremony and putting her gold medal around the neck of her sister, Mae Ola. “It was extremely special. I knew her journey and her drive always was to play in the Olympics. It was unfair when I made it, and she didn’t. I said when we win the gold medal, I was going to share that experience with her.”
NOW: The mother of two children, 4 and 6, in Sacramento, California, Bolton is a motivational speaker who also is discussing domestic violence. She’s the subject of an SEC Storied documentary that aired in May. Working on two books, one for teenagers. She also helps develop a curriculum for group homes for teens who’ve been victims of sex trafficking.
SHE SAID IT: “It’s hard to explain the feeling you get when you stand on that podium and you see that gold medal on behalf of the United States of America, on behalf of your family, on behalf of your city, on behalf of your state. A humble experience, it’s something you always played for, and it’s hard to let it go.”
CONTRIBUTION: Leadership. First U.S. basketball player to compete in four Olympics at that time, finished with five.
BIG MOMENT: Former Georgia standout took the competitors’ oath at the opening ceremony on her 32nd birthday.
BEST MEMORY: “I’m screaming and crying with Muhammad Ali and then I’m up there reciting the Olympic oath. So it was a big time in my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that hyped.”
NOW: Edwards, who splits her time between New York and Atlanta, is planning summer camps with Katrina McClain and making appearances. She also wants to check out life after 50 without basketball.
SHE SAID IT: “No matter how far I’ll run, I’ll never be able to get away too far (from basketball). It always reaches to pull me back in.”
CONTRIBUTION: Versatile inside presence, started all eight games.
BIG MOMENT: Former USC standout set U.S. Olympic single-game record scoring 35 points against Japan in the quarterfinals.
BEST MEMORY: “We were down by about one point playing against Australia. Coach calls a timeout and tells them, ‘Look, you’re going to get the ball inside to Lisa,’ like they should, ‘You’re going to get the ball inside’ and that was going to be the end of the game right? We get out of the huddle, Dawn says, ‘Big girl. Look, they’re going to double-team you. I got you. I got you a 3 up at the top.’ Well, you know what happened. They throw me the ball, double-team comes. I knock it over to Dawn. Of course, you know the rest is history. She knocks down the 3-ball.”
NOW: Leslie is TV analyst, co-host of “We Need to Talk,” a motivational speaker, married with two children.
SHE SAID IT: “Understand and learn the history of our game because it’s a precious history. Those of us who’ve played, and now that we’re moving on and this new generation is coming in, you guys have to understand ... we’re a basketball family and we all represent each other.”
CONTRIBUTION: Backup post player
BIG MOMENT: Former Connecticut standout had 8 points, 6 rebounds in opener vs. Cuba.
BEST MEMORY: “Being on the podium and getting the medal around your neck it’s just what you always expected it would be with the hair standing up on the back of your neck. ... It was a sense of accomplishment, but also relief and finality.”
NOW: TV basketball commentator for ESPN.
SHE SAID IT: “The funniest memory. Gymnastics was on the other side of that curtain. We literally would come out of the locker room to warm up as the gymnasts were coming by and they’d be giving us high fives and we’d be giving them low fives. I wish there had been a camera to watch. We’re all the same species, but we didn’t look it. All these tiny petite but strong women are passing us. It was a visual that at the time I was thinking was very hilarious, I wish people could see this.”
CONTRIBUTION: Dominant inside with three double-doubles, started all eight games.
BIG MOMENT: Former Georgia standout scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 96-79 win over Australia in group play.
BEST MEMORY: The long, 52-game tour before the Olympics. “It’s kind of hard because we just weren’t used to that. I hated that we had to be together for so long. It worked ... We were like family. We hated each other some days, and then there were days we just couldn’t stand being away from each other. It really worked out well.”
NOW: The mother of three, McClain lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where she works with her foundation to help at-risk youth with obesity and offers reading programs. She also is a volunteer coach.
SHE SAID IT: “We played with a lot of heart and we just played for the passion of the game. That has really opened doors and paved ways for today’s game. Yeah, they have a lot of talent today, but man, the talent back them to me, in my opinion, was just off the chain.”
CONTRIBUTION: Outside shooter, backup guard.
BIG MOMENT: Former Tennessee standout nearly had a double-double against South Korea with 16 points, 9 rebounds.
BEST MEMORY: The gold-medal game. “That game was so powerful and so special to play against Brazil. They had Hortencia (Marcari) who was one of the greatest women basketball players ever and just to see America come together and really embrace our team and all the fans that we had and our families. In the Georgia Dome and it was packed. It was an unbelievable night to witness that and to be a part of it.”
NOW: Assistant coach at South Carolina.
SHE SAID IT: “We were on a mission. We trained for a year and half together. That was the first time USA Basketball had ever put a group of women together. We were machines. Credit Tara VanDerveer and her staff for just getting us ready, and we were unstoppable. To go 60-0? That’s never been done before.”
CONTRIBUTION: Shot-blocker, backup post player.
BIG MOMENT: Former Tennessee standout scored 10 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked 2 shots in a win over Congo.
BEST MEMORY: Thinking she’d been pranked by her Olympic teammates when getting a phone call about helping with the Olympic torch ceremony at the White House, McGhee called President Bill Clinton by his first name. Alerted the call was for real, McGhee scrambled to Washington D.C., where she apologized to the president. “Right before the Olympic Games, he gave us a speech. He’s like, ‘My girl Carla over there, we’re on a first-name basis.’ That was probably one of my most memorable times on the Olympic team, just talking like the president was a plain, old average Joe.”
NOW: McGhee lives in Alpharetta, Georgia, where her son graduates high school in May. She runs More to Hoopz with basketball training, clinics and camps. She also consults with athletes and parents on recruiting. She has a contract with the city of Alpharetta to run children’s sports classes.
SHE SAID IT: “It was just the ultimate ride of a life.”
CONTRIBUTION: Feisty leader, backup point guard.
BIG MOMENT: Former Virginia standout had 9 points, 3 assists in gold-medal game vs Brazil.
BEST MEMORY: “I take away just friendships, of sisterhood, sisters that I can call on any day, any moment any time during the day and we can go back to that place where we had each other’s back. It just wasn’t on the court, it was off the court.”
NOW: Head coach at South Carolina.
SHE SAID IT: “We knew what was at stake. We knew there was a WNBA in waiting, there was the ABL in waiting. It was all depending on how successful we were as a team. And we also wanted to show America, our nation, that women playing at the peaks of their careers was truly something special.”
CONTRIBUTION: Swoopes’ backup at small forward.
BIG MOMENT: Former Stanford standout scored 11 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in win over Cuba, final game in group play.
BEST MEMORY: “We were in China, Jennifer looked around and said, ‘Oh my God! We’re all in the same room.’ It was kind of like that moment we realized we kind of came together from lots of different areas, age groups and everything to bring that team together. I don’t know there was a watershed moment or anything like that but, ‘Hey we’re a team!’”
NOW: Head coach at Boston University.
SHE SAID IT: “It’s really special whenever we’re in the same place at the same time.”
CONTRIBUTION: Versatile shooter, quick defender. Started all eight games.
BIG MOMENT: Former Texas Tech standout scored 16 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, handed out 5 assists and had a steal in gold-medal game.
BEST MEMORY: Training together before the games. “It was a grueling time for all of us. Everybody had moments where they were like, ‘This is too much, and I just don’t want to do that.’ We all made those sacrifices and thank God we did because that team to me in my eyes will forever be a very special team that did some incredible things.”
NOW: Elected to Naismith Hall of Fame in April, Swoopes coaches at Loyola, Chicago. She is helping her mother through treatment for colon cancer and plans to work with the Kay Yow Fund in the future.
SHE SAID IT: “When I look at Lisa and Dawn, Teresa Edwards, when I look at Katrina McClain that are already in the hall and I had an opportunity to play with them as well, I definitely feel blessed to have had an opportunity to have played with some of the best in the world to ever play the game.”
CONTRIBUTION: Experienced, backup post player.
BIG MOMENT: Former Louisiana Tech standout had 13 points, 7 rebounds in win over Congo in group play.
BEST MEMORY Before the gold-medal game when Lisa Leslie was nervous. “I don’t know if she’d remember. She was nervous, and I asked her ‘Why are you nervous? You’re going to do fine, Lisa.’ She was so nervous, and she went out there and she played her game. I have never been so proud of a player that I have played with on any team.”
NOW: Lacy lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with 13-year-old son and works in AAU basketball and is re-starting her Venus Lacy Foundation.
SHE SAID IT: “I wasn’t going to try out for the team at all because of what happened in ’92. It made me happy they reached out to me and asked me to come along and help them. I’m just so grateful and thank them for giving me my opportunity.”
CONTRIBUTION: Gave up year at Stanford to coach national team to 60-0 record.
BIG MOMENT: Finishing with gold medal.
BEST MEMORY: “I learned a lot. I worked with, again, players Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, Ruthie Bolton, Sheryl Swoopes, Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain. I worked with the best female basketball players ever. I don’t know that there’s really any team that’s been more successful or that it’s been more demanding — the travel, the practice, the commitment that Rebecca Lobo had to make (during college). It was a tremendous commitment. It was a dedication to winning that gold medal.
NOW: Head coach at Stanford since 1985.
SHE SAID IT: “It was a magical year. Although I don’t know that our players would say that. It was really a fantastic trip. I loved the whole experience.”