October 13, 2022 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: Ann Meyers Drysdale, Lusia Harris and the 1976 USA hoops legends who paved the way

Howard and Andrew discuss the 1976 USA basketball team and origin stories of Ann Meyers Drysdale and Pat Summitt

It’s time for another episode of the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast. This episode features host Howard Megdal and Andrew Maraniss, who has written an exceptional and vital new book, “Inaugural Ballers.” He joins Howard to tell the story of the 1976 USA Basketball team.

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Andrew Maraniss talks about how he first heard about the 1976 USA Basketball team:

“So the literal answer to this question is, I was standing in the room just yesterday where the idea first came to me a few years ago. So I’ve written other books about sports, history and social issues and have traveled around the country talking about those books many times at middle and high schools. You know, my books are written for teenagers and adults.

A young lady, an eighth grader, raised her hand and said, well, you’re here to tell us about the first men’s Olympic basketball team; what was the first U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team? And it was a great simple question from that student. And all I knew at the time was that they had played at the 1976 Olympics. And didn’t know who the coach was, who the players were, or any of the backstories of the team.

But when she asked that question, I realized, standing on that stage at a middle school, this needed to be the next book that I should write. And one of the things I’m interested in doing in all my books is writing about people and events that haven’t been that well covered before. And also that have some social element to the story that elevates it beyond just a sports book.”

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Andrew Maraniss talks about the surprises he came across researching the 1976 USA Olympic team for his book:

“I mean, you’re a better longtime scholar of the game than I am until I started working on this book. I thought that it maybe would be a steady progression of progress, but that really wasn’t the case. Like you said, and I write about this in the book, there were women school teachers in Springfield, Massachusetts, that heard this commotion in the gym where the game was invented and would spend their lunch hour watching the men at that time play the game.

They asked Dave Smith if they could play too. And he said I don’t see why not. And so, as you mentioned, within a couple of weeks, there are women playing the game. The problem was there were no other women in the world that had ever heard of basketball. So who are they going to play against? So they ended up playing against the spouses and some of the women that were on campus there at Springfield.”

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