Team USA captured their fifth consecutive Olympic gold yesterday by beating France, 86-50. Candace Parker came off the bench to lead the stats category with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
There has been a debate during these last three US games as to whether or not Coach Geno Auriemma was justified in changing Candace Parker’s role from starter to reserve. Logically, it didn’t make sense to bring the WNBA’s leading MVP candidate off the bench. Auriemma explained it this way:
“We started Candace for the early part of the tournament and there just wasn’t any kind of a rhythm or any kind of a flow, because what happened is that Tamika Catchings is out of position,” said Auriemma. “So I took a shot and said ‘well I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world that has someone like that coming off the bench, so let’s see where that goes.’
“And tonight she was spectacular; I think she was the Candace Parker that everyone hopes they can see every single night.”
No rhythm and flow in blowouts?
Auriemma also limited Angel McCoughtry’s minutes, despite her being one of the team’s top producers. This included yesterday’s match up, when he pulled her after a few moments after she had gone in and scored immediately:
“We knew that our role was going to be different here coming in,” said WNBA scoring leader Angel McCoughtry.” I accepted my role; I wanted to be the one that brings energy off the bench. But the great thing about our team was even when we subbed, it was still like you had stars in, we didn’t lose a thing.”
Throughout the tournament, McCoughtry was often the best player on the floor for the United States in her limited minutes. In less than 15 minutes per game, McCoughtry finished second on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg), while leading the team in FG percentage (.602) and steals (2.5 spg).
The Chicago Tribune, Parker’s hometown daily, says she succeeded in spite of Auriemma:
That attitude came in handy for Parker when Auriemma decided after the Games began to replace her in the starting lineup with Maya Moore. Moore is one of six of players on Team USA who played for Auriemma in college. He could not have had more of a Connecticut influence on the roster without adding an insurance agent to the staff.
If the decision frustrated Parker, she took it out on her opponents.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to start,” said Parker, who averaged 10.5 points over eight Olympic games. “It’s definitely a different mindset. But I just tried to provide as much energy as possible when I came in.”
Parker’s response typified the maturity she and her teammates showed throughout an Olympics in which Team USA often was taken for granted.
They paid more attention to who was watching — their irrepressible coach — than anyone who wasn’t here. They tuned out and locked in, Auriemma style.
“We just played,” Parker said.
I have no doubt that Auriemma wasn’t being consciously biased towards his former players. But there’s no doubt he was being subconsciously biased.
In the meantime yesterday, Australia beat Russia for the bronze medal.
The U17 national team whooped Australia 103-58 yesterday in their second exhibition game en route to the world championships in a few weeks.