Carol Callan steps down from USA Basketball weeks after Tokyo roster selection, Nneka Ogwumike outrage

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Carol Callan, director of the U.S. women's basketball national team, will step down from her position following the Tokyo Olympics next month, USA Basketball announced Monday. 

Callan has held the position since 1995 and has overseen the team's six consecutive gold medals. Team USA is going for a record seventh this month. USA Basketball said Callan will step down in order to focus on being president of FIBA Americas, a position she was elected to in June 2019. 

The longtime director oversees the selection committee for the Olympic and World Cup teams. That has been a hot topic of conversation recently after Los Angeles Sparks forward and national team "core" player Nneka Ogwumike was left off a second Olympic roster

Callan steps down from Team USA 

Carol Callan celebrates with Brittney Griner after the team won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Carol Callan celebrates with Brittney Griner after the team won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Callan oversaw the 1995-96 national team that won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics and went a perfect 52-0. She officially took over as national team director (then named "assistant executive director of women's programs") in October 1996, per her USA Basketball bio. She had previously served as a volunteer committee member for seven years. 

She is responsible for team logistics, travel and scheduling and in her time at the top, the national team has gone 112-1 so far in major international competitions. As part of her duties she is on several committees: National Team Steering Committee (chair), National Team Player Selection Committee and Developmental National Team Committee (non-voting chair). She's also involved in international, coach and hall of fame organizations for women's basketball. 

In addition to the Olympic golds, the national team has won five FIBA World Cup gold medals. 

Why did Callan leave Team USA? 

Callan, who resides in Colorado, was elected by the International Basketball Federation's Zone Board to the four-year position of president of FIBA Americas. She is the first woman to hold the position. In August, she will be inducted to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

The election originally came less than 12 months before the Tokyo Olympics were scheduled to begin, and long before COVID-19 shut down the world. The announcement for the Team USA roster typically occurs in April of an Olympic year, about 100 days out from the start of the games. Leaving her position would have been hard eight months before that announcement, and 11 ahead of Olympic logistics. 

Usie Richards, the most previous president of the organization, served as president of the Caribbean Basketball Federation for 10 years up until his election. His only concurrent positions while president of FIBA Americas appears to be only as a member of different FIBA committees, commissions or boards. 

It is a possibility that Callan always planned to step down following one final, historic Olympics. But with the postponement one year, it may have had to wait to keep Team USA at its best. 

Selection committee questioned over snubs 

But the announcement comes weeks after the Team USA roster was announced, which caused backlash for the selection choices. 

Ogwumike, who helped lead the team to two of the five World Cup golds and was named MVP of the Olympic qualifying tournament, was not one of the forwards selected despite her efforts. She is currently the only former WNBA MVP to not be on an Olympic roster. The star is rehabbing a knee sprain, but has said she would be back and ready for the Olympic games that begin in late July. 

It prompted outrage over one of the league's best players being overlooked for two consecutive Olympic rosters. It was reminiscent of the snub of Candace Parker, a former Sparks standout now with the Chicago Sky, in 2016. 

Fans have alleged UConn bias since there are so many Huskies alumnae on the rosters of both the 5x5 and new 3x3 Olympic teams. Of the 12 5x5 roster spots this year, five went to Huskies, and of the four for 3x3, there are two selections. 

Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma, in his first media availability since the announcement, alluded to himself as the scapegoat for people being mad their favorite player didn't make the team. He declined to comment on Ogwumike's exclusion, citing the fact it's a selection committee and not just him making the choice. 

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, one of the five on the selection committee, also declined comment during his own team availability after the announcement last month. He deferred to Callan.

National team head coach Dawn Staley, who is not on the committee but Auriemma said was involved in the calls, has been the only one to say anything. She said it broke her heart Ogwumike was not on the team and suggested it was because of injury. 

Callan and USA Basketball have not said anything since the team was announced and outrage followed on June 21. 

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