Go-to woman: Callan’s stealthy impact keeps US hoops rolling

Jul 20, 2021, 12:11 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2021, 12:43 am

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Carol Callan has excelled in many roles during her decades-long career as women’s national team director for USA Basketball.

From planning all the logistics of trips the teams are taking, to charting fouls on the bench during games to acting as a surrogate mom for players who are far from home for the first time. Callan has been a steady force behind the scenes for the U.S. women’s program during its unprecedented run since 1996.

The team just wrapped up its training camp in Las Vegas, and with Callan calling the shots, the U.S. women have won six Olympic gold medals and five world championships.

“She’s been the heart and soul of the women’s national team,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “She’s a selfless person with no ego. She’s been a great mentor and leader and example for women’s basketball.”

The 68-year-old Callan has announced she is stepping down next month, after the Olympics end, from the position she has held since 1995. She’ll be focusing on her role as president of FIBA Americas. There’s no immediate successor in place and that will be the top priority after the Tokyo Games end, Tooley said.

“She has a great passion for it. She makes it so that the players just have to play and the coaches just have to coach and that’s where the selflessness comes in,” the CEO for USA Basketball said. “She’s not looking for accolades. That’s why she’s been so successful.”

Callan will still engaged with women’s basketball on the international stage. She was elected by the International Basketball Federation’s Zone Board in 2019 to serve a four-year term, becoming the first female to hold the position as head of FIBA Americas.

“I loved every minute of it,” Callan said of working with USA Basketball, adding “with the FIBA Americas presidency, there’s an opportunity to continue to serve women’s basketball and basketball in general in our zone in the Americas and have influence throughout FIBA. I’ve been been doing multiple jobs and now can give a more fulltime effort to that.”

Coach Dawn Staley, who was playing for the U.S. when Callan was first beginning in her role, has seen how invaluable Callan has been to the program.

“She never looks flustered, never looks like she’s not organized, always in control,” Staley said. “She never flinches about anything and we’re able to do what we do comfortably as players and coaches because Carol ran a tight ship. Whoever follows her has a tough job. A really tough job.”

Callan will continue to be a consultant for USA Basketball’s newly formed foundation working on initiatives supporting women and youth and sport development.

She arrived at USA Basketball after spending 10 years as as an athletic director at a high school in Colorado. She graduated from William Woods College and then earned two master’s degrees from the University of Colorado. She will be enshrined into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame next month.

One major reason she’ll be such a tough act to follow is that every detail matters to Callan, nothing is too big or too small to bring to her attention.

Sylvia Fowles, who is playing in her fourth Olympics, remembers getting off a plane overseas early in her USA Basketball career and asking Callan if she could borrow her cellphone since she didn’t have one. She wanted to call her mom and let her know that they had safely arrived.

“She’s always been that person to make sure she’s there when you need her. Always answering your texts in the middle of the night,” Fowles said. “To have her around this long doing such great work means a lot. I definitely see her as a mother figure.”

Five-time Olympian Sue Bird agreed with Fowles, saying Callan is like a “mama bear”

“I’m 40 years old and I texted Carol that ‘the (electricity) plugs in Japan are the same right?’ I googled it but didn’t necessarily believe it so I asked Carol. So there are moments like that where she’s the one you’ll go to.”

Bird said that Callan is the fabric of USA Basketball.

“The standards that are set are set by Carol. She’s the one … that helps maintain that and those standards never drop and everyone’s living up to them. She’s super important to everything that’s been accomplished here.”

And still is. Her efforts will play a major role in whether the U.S. women can leave Tokyo with another gold medal in basketball.


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, reacts after falling in the women's combined slalom ...
Associated Press

Shiffrin shifts from record chase to medal races at worlds

Perspective. The big picture. Dealing with both success and failure. Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations. Her takeaways? “Accept a little bit more that sometimes things […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Latvia considers Olympic boycott if Russians compete

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Latvia will consider boycotting next year’s Paris Olympics if athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus are allowed to take part after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While various governments in Europe, including Latvia, have condemned the International Olympic Committee’s push to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete, and Ukraine has threatened […]
1 day ago
New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III, right, goes up for a basket as Denver Nuggets guard Jam...
Associated Press

Murray, Jokic help Nuggets hold off Pelicans 122-113

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray is locked in right now — with his shot, with his swagger and especially with his confidence in his team. “It’s fun to play basketball,” the Denver point guard said. “But we still have room to improve. We’re not satisfied with where we’re at.” Murray scored 32 points, Nikola Jokic […]
1 day ago
FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) drives past Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker (...
Associated Press

Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her. If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel […]
1 day ago
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton drives past Charlotte Hornets' Terry Rozier during the second half...
Associated Press

Bucks beat Hornets 124-115 for 5th consecutive victory

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton is making the most of his limited minutes as he works his way back from injuries that kept him from playing for much of the season. Middleton scored 18 points and sparked a third-quarter run that put the Milwaukee Bucks ahead for good as they beat the Charlotte Hornets 124-115 […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, slaps the ball away from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar...
Associated Press

Leonard, Powell lead Clippers past Bulls, 108-103

CHICAGO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and Norman Powell added 27 to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 108-103 on Tuesday night. Paul George added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who’ve won six of seven. Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bulls, […]
1 day ago
Go-to woman: Callan’s stealthy impact keeps US hoops rolling