Sparks coach Agler: “You’ve got to make basketball decisions based on basketball”

Candace Parker celebrates a Sparks run last summer as coach Brian Agler looks on. Photo by TGSportsTV1.
Candace Parker celebrates a Sparks run last summer as coach Brian Agler looks on. Photo by TGSportsTV1.

The collective shock earlier this week that two-time gold medalist Candace Parker was not chosen for this year’s Olympic team wasn’t limited to fans and media. Parker’s coach for the Los Angeles Sparks was also caught off-guard by the decision, which he calls “mind-boggling.”

After practice Saturday, Brian Agler said the Olympic Committee’s decision not to include two-time WNBA MVP Parker on the final roster of 12 still reverberated.

“I heard about it over a week ago and I still can’t believe it,” he said.

Agler, in his second year coaching the Sparks, has coached the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx, and has coached with the Phoenix Mercury and San Antonio Stars. He said he knows the majority of the athletes on the Olympic roster well, and said he isn’t necessarily opposed to any of them being selected.

“I’ve studied this and been in this 20 years. I’ve coached a lot of these players, and have coached against almost all of them. I know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they hardly have any weaknesses,” Agler said.

“That pool of 25 (finalist) players is comprised of a lot of great players. When they got it down to 15 – those are all great players. The whole Olympic team is comprised of great players. But within that group, there’s a select core of elite players; the best of the best. And Candace is one of those. Candace is elite.”

Agler said he doesn’t understand how an elite athlete wouldn’t be chosen for the Olympic team.

“It’s mind-boggling and disappointing that she’s not on the final roster,” he said. “I don’t have the answers. I wasn’t in the decision-making. I don’t know what to say except that it’s extremely disappointing.”

In announcing the selections Wednesday, Olympic Team Committee chair Carol Callan said the the group had chosen the team that would best be able to capture a gold medal at the games. Agler took issue with the explanation.

“We have so much talent and depth in the U.S. that we could fill up three Olympic teams, and the next nation would still come in fourth place,” he said.

Echoing a statement he made on Twitter three days ago, Agler said, “You’ve got to make basketball decisions based on basketball.”

“Candace was featured in the promos for the Olympic Team,” Agler said. “I think the decision to cut her from the team was made a long time ago, and they used her.”

Parker had strong performances for USA Basketball over the past year, including a triple-double explosion in a game last fall. She took time off over the winter from her usual busy overseas schedule to rest and work on her game, in preparation for the Olympics.

Candace Parker looks to pass over Elena Delle Donne, with coach Brian Agler at right. Photo by TGSportsTV1.
Candace Parker looks to pass over Elena Delle Donne, with coach Brian Agler at right. Photo by TGSportsTV1.

She was informed of the Olympic Committee’s decision eight days ago. Her only comment was a Twitter post four days later that she was “surprised and disappointed to be left off the 2016 USA Olympic Team,” and that she wished the squad good luck at the Games.

The Summer Olympics will be Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro.

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