U.S. women’s basketball team director Carol Callan to step down after Tokyo Olympics

2:14 PM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Carol Callan, director of the U.S. women’s national basketball team since 1995, will be stepping down from her role after the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Callan will continue in her role as president of FIBA Americas, for which she was elected to a four-year term in 2019. She is the first woman to hold that position.

Callan, who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, in August, also will consult for USA Basketball’s newly formed foundation working on initiatives for women and youth development in sport.

Callan told ESPN on Monday that she has been thinking for a while about the right time to step away as women’s national team director, and likely would have done so last year if the Olympics had been held then as originally scheduled. With the Tokyo Games being delayed to 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic, she stayed on.

“When you love something, it’s a little hard to think, ‘When do you draw that line?’ ” Callan said. “But I have the opportunity to delve into FIBA Americas position, plus still be on call as a consultant to help whoever the next person is. And also to continue to work on things I really enjoy, including 3 on 3 and other developmental things in the sport.”

FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, has various “strategic pillars” the organization and its member nations hope to improve on, and the growth of women’s basketball is one of those specific focuses during Callan’s current tenure as FIBA Americas president. She and Canada’s Michele O’Keefe, who is on FIBA’s Central Board, led the way last year in launching a leadership development program for women called ADELANTE that serves FIBA Americas’ 43 federations.

As she transitions post-Olympics to focus on being FIBA Americas president, Callan also will have the chance to interact even more with leaders in the organization’s other four zones: Africa, Asia, Oceania and Europe.

“In some ways, it feels a little like what I’ve tried to do with USA Basketball program,” Callan said. “Now it just goes to a broader level.”

Callan will have one last go-round with the U.S. team, which will prepare for the Olympics by playing against a group of other WNBA players in the All-Star Game on July 14 and then have exhibitions against Australia on July 16 and Nigeria on July 18. All three of those games are in Las Vegas.

USA Basketball will begin to focus after the Tokyo Olympics on finding Callan’s successor. The next major competition for the U.S. senior women is next year, with the FIBA Women’s World Cup being held in Sydney, Australia, from Sept. 22-Oct. 1 2022.

When Callan took over her role in 1995, the U.S. women were coming off bronze medals in the 1992 Olympics and 1994 FIBA Women’s World Cup (which was formerly called the World Championship). With backing from the NBA, USA Basketball put together a touring team in 1995-96 coached by Tara VanDerveer, who took a leave from her Stanford program to guide the American squad. That team won gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Americans’ only loss in international competition in Callan’s time as national team director was in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Cup, resulting in another bronze. The Americans will be going for their seventh consecutive Olympic gold in Tokyo. They have won five FIBA World Cup gold medals under Callan’s leadership.

“One of the things about 1995-96 is it was new, and we made a lot of decisions along the way,” Callan said of that gear-up for the Atlanta Games, after which first the short-lived ABL and then the WNBA launched. “We didn’t really have a complete vision of what it was going to look like, but we knew what success would look like. “And we knew what wouldn’t work, so we could design something that would. I don’t think you could have started at the beginning and know that this is where it was going to go, but I’m probably most proud of being able to be a part of it, and to have an influence on making it better.”

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