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Candace Parker blamed UConn coach Geno Auriemma for the Olympics snub that ruined her USA Basketball career

Insider
Insider
 2021-12-01
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Candace Parker (left) and then-USA Basketball head coach Geno Auriemma. Harry E. Walker/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • Candace Parker spoke with Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks about her fallout with USA Basketball.
  • The WNBA star blamed UConn coach Geno Auriemma for her Olympics snub and criticized USA Basketball.
  • "I don't think Geno wanted me on the team," Parker said, adding, "It wasn't on the court."

Candace Parker is airing out her dirty laundry with Geno Auriemma and USA Basketball.

The Chicago Sky superstar and two-time WNBA MVP spent many years competing internationally with Team USA. However, in 2016, she was shockingly left off the roster for that year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, Auriemma — the longtime head coach of the UConn Huskies — was at the front of the bench for the national team.

The Tennessee Volunteers alum — who led Pat Summitt's squads past UConn every time they met during her collegiate career — blames her former rival's outspoken coach for the Olympic snub and her subsequent fallout with USA Basketball.

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Parker looks at Auriemma. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

"As soon as he was named the coach again, I was like 'Ah, well, this is gonna be interesting,'" Parker told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks during a sit-down interview. "He doesn't like me. I don't like him. We don't like each other."

"I don't think I personally fit," she added. "I don't think Geno wanted me on the team."

Parker described playing some of her best basketball in the lead-up to her devastating omission from the 2016 gold-medal winning squad. She said she went to a USA Basketball camp ahead of the games and "got a triple-double," likely referring to Team USA's four-game European tour in October 2015, where she led the squad in minutes played, rebounds, assists, and blocked shots while ranking third in total points.

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Candace Parker celebrates winning gold at the 2012 Olympics with her daughter, Laila. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Parker also excelled in the WNBA that year, averaging 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game for the Los Angeles Sparks. Combine that with her extensive USA Basketball experience — she had previously won two Olympic gold medals with the team — and it's tough to argue that she didn't have the credentials necessary for a trip to Rio.

"It wasn't on the court," Parker told Rooks. "So if it's me as an individual, as a person, I'm spending time away from my daughter to come and do these camps [where] I'm not even being judged off of how I'm playing."

"Just tell me, and then don't beat around the bush," she added.

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Parker (right) goes up for a layup against Australia's Lauren Jackson. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Eventually, after Auriemma's tenure as the national team's head coach came to an end, USA Basketball approached Parker about rejoining Team USA ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She declined because "I can't teach my daughter lessons and tell her about respect and treatment and communication and all that stuff and then go back to that."

"I'm done," Parker said. "I'm happy I got two gold medals. I appreciate the experience, and I wish them well, honestly ... It's important for USA to stay on top."

But she seemed to imply that Team USA's dominance has come in spite of USA Basketball, not because of its efforts. Parker said that the American governing body for the sport hasn't "continually evolved with time," which has left players to shoulder a heavy burden while representing their country.

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Parker (right) and USA Basketball teammates react to a play. AP Photo/Eric Gay

"There's so many times where now looking back, especially after being cut, that they have this expectation that you just drop everything and just come and play in your one break," Parker said. "... For a long time, women dreamed of playing in the Olympics, and they would do anything at any cost [to get there]."

"And I think the evolution over time needs to be more about the player and the health," she continued, adding later that "I hope... it's gonna become more of a players' thing where it's gonna be more player empowerment."

Check out Parker's full comments about Auriemma and USA Basketball below:

—Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) December 1, 2021

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