February 17, 2024 

How Cheryl Reeve’s bench will look in Paris

Thibault, Lawson and Taylor return to sidelines for Olympics

Team USA lived up to its high expectations in winning the 2022 World Cup in Sydney. Thus, it seemed natural to return the coaching staff for this summer’s Paris Olympics. Cheryl Reeve, who was determined as the head coach for the Olympic cycle more than two years ago, will be rejoined by Mike Thibault, Kara Lawson and Joni Taylor.

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“I enjoyed the diversity in each of their backgrounds,” Reeve told The Next in a phone interview. “For example, someone like Mike Thibault who is the winningest coach in the WNBA, that speaks for itself. My relationship with him through the years has been one that I’ve valued. He’s seen everything, so leaning on him in situations is something of great value.”

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Thibault was previously an assistant to Anne Donovan at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, of where Lawson was a player. Currently, he is the general manager of the Washington Mystics, while Lawson is in her fourth year as Duke’s coach. Taylor guided the U.S. Under-19 team to a gold medal last summer in Spain.

Reeve highlighted Taylor’s success both at Georgia and now Texas A&M and continued to emphasize Lawson’s repertoire of experience, from being a gold medalist player to a broadcaster to the 3X3 coach from the Tokyo Games.

“All of those experiences have given her (Lawson) a unique view of what we will be doing over in Paris,” she added. “I really enjoyed all of their personalities, their disposition, in terms of how they approach the position. They are all of a serving position. Whatever is needed, they are willing to jump into action. I just thought our staff had great chemistry in Sydney, and we will be able to carry this over to the Paris Olympics.”

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Back to the scouting tapes

Not only will the coaching staff echo the Sydney World Cup, but so will the opposition. Of the 12 teams that competed there, 10 qualified for the Olympics.

“There is familiarity, but it will work both ways,” Reeve said. “We are all familiar with each other, so it’s not a one-directional thing. It’s helpful from a scouting perspective. The teams could change a little bit in terms of the final rosters. Overall, the teams going over there, I think we have a really good handle with one another, and that will make for a tremendous Olympics.”

Impressions from Antwerp

The team is coming off a 3-0 performance against Belgium, Nigeria and Senegal at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, last week in Antwerp, Belgium. Reeve said everyone had their moments that impressed her in Belgium, virtually naming the entire roster. There is one player, however, of whom she is very familiar, making her mark with the national team.

Napheesa Collier continues to have her MVP coming out party,” said Reeve, who coaches Collier with the Minnesota Lynx. “She is on the verge of being the MVP in the WNBA, and certainly, she continued that play on the international stage. The last go around with the national team, she was the young person. She didn’t get to participate that much on the floor, and now she will be a vital part on the team.”

Reeve previously mentioned that the young players need to be ready for when they are needed and they will discover new roles. For example, Rhyne Howard came off the bench and scored 25 points in 15 minutes during the win over Senegal.

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Nailbiter with the Belgians

Team USA’s opener in Antwerp against the host Belgians was hardly the blowout with which the program has become synonymous. It took a Breanna Stewart game-winner at the buzzer to avoid senior national team defeat for the first time since 2006.

“It was important for us to face adversity and find a way to win,” Reeve continued. “That was the biggest takeaway. I said it numerous times, anyone who was around me. We were looking for challenges to help us grow. It will help us understand our team better and grow as a team. You have to grow through adversity to find yourselves.”

A final roster of 12 players will be breaking out in the next few months. Action from Paris will tip off two days after the opening ceremonies, on July 28.

“It will be nice to have a roster named to know exactly who we have,” Reeve added. “Then we can forge a path for the team as far as an identity. We are on the home stretch in doing that. I am just excited to build on what is one of the greatest legacies in all of sports – the dynasty that is the USA women’s national team in basketball.”

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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