Suzie McConnell-Serio, Kamie Ethridge, Charlotte Smith Return As 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U19 Coaching Staff
After serving as the head coach for the gold-medal winning 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team that qualified the United States for the 2017 FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup, University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio has been selected to lead the USA U19 World Cup Team this summer. She will be joined on the sideline by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University, both of whom served as 2016 USA U18 National Team assistants. The coaching staff was selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee.
Six-time defending U19 gold medalists, the United States will look to make it seven gold medals in a row at the July 22-30 event in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy. Trials to select the 12-member team will be held May 18-21 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and athletes eligible for this team must be 19 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1998) and U.S. citizens.
"While the team will not be the same, there will be additions as well as some holdovers,” said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster, chair of the selection committee. “The experience gained by this staff working with this young group gives us the best opportunity of winning a world championship. This is a staff with excellent teachers and a lot of experience with USA Basketball.”
The trio, each of whom competed for USA Basketball prior to progressing to the coaching ranks, directed the 2016 USA U18 National Team to a perfect 5-0 mark at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Valdivia, Chile, where the top four teams advanced to the 2017 U19 World Cup.
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, FIBA changed the names of its age-based world championships in 2005 to reflect the age of eligibility, and recently updated the names of all of its world championships to world cups. The tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA in 2005 modified its calendar and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year. USA women's teams are 73-12 in U19/Junior World Cups, capturing a sixth-consecutive gold in 2015 with a 7-0 record.
The draw to determine the preliminary round was held Feb. 1. The USA was placed in Group A and will open against Mali on July 22, face China on July 23 and cap the preliminary round against host Italy on July 25.
Drawn into Group B were Egypt, Puerto Rico, Russia and Spain; Group C includes Canada, France, Latvia and South Korea; while Group D features Australia, Hungary, Japan and a nation from the Americas to be determined by FIBA at a later date. Brazil claimed bronze at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship to qualify for this summer’s U19 tournament. However, the Brazil Basketball Federation has since been suspended by FIBA.
Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded according to group play, and all participating teams will advance to the July 26 round of 16. Winners will advance to the July 28 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be held July 29, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 30.
Notable players to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship include: Alana Beard (2001), Essence Carson (2005), Tamika Catchings (1997), Bria Hartley (2011), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Jantel Lavender (2007), Lisa Leslie (1989), Rebecca Lobo (1993), Maya Moore (2007), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009), Vickie Orr (1985), Cappie Pondexter (2001), Katie Smith (1993), Dawn Staley (1989), Azurá Stevens (2015), Breanna Stewart (2011 and MVP of the 2013 U19 World Championship), Diana Taurasi (2001), Morgan Tuck (2011 and 2013) and A’ja Wilson (2013 and MVP of the 2015 U19 World Championship).
"We’re excited about the opportunity and the challenge of playing in the (FIBA U19) World Cup,” said McConnell-Serio, who in 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach owns a 179-128 record (as of Feb. 3, 2017). “We know that we’re playing against the best, at this age level, from all over the world. What you learn from previous years, playing in last year’s zone competition, is how important team chemistry is. Your personnel – having players that complement each other, having a great inside game, having great shooters and great playmakers – the personnel is key because you’re together for such a short time in your preparation. When preparing for USA Basketball, you’re basically preparing for an entire season in a short amount of time and we have to be focused and ready for anything that we will see at that level.
"I’m excited to work with Kamie Ethridge and Charlotte Smith again. They’re great coaches and they’re great teachers of the game. We had great chemistry among our staff. They’re very knowledgeable of the game and I’m thrilled to be on the sideline with them once again. I think having Charlotte working with the post players and Kamie with the guards has been outstanding. I think our players are learning from two of the best in the game, and I’m excited that I have the opportunity to work with these coaches and with this team.”
McConnell-Serio, a two-time Olympian who won gold medals as a player at the 1988 Olympics, the 1986 FIBA World Championship, the 1991 World University Games and the 1985 R. William Jones Cup and a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, currently is in her fourth season as head coach at Pitt and is 12-10 (as of Feb. 3, 2017) thus far this season.
This summer will mark the third USA Basketball coaching assignment for McConnell-Serio. In addition to her head coach duties with the 2016 U18 team, she helped the USA to a 6-0 record and gold medal as an assistant coach at the 2011 World University Games.
"The greatest advantage of having been a part of USA Basketball’s gold medal team at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship is that we gained wisdom, information and insight as to the various styles of play, the intensity and the quality scouting needed to succeed at the highest level internationally,” said Ethridge, who has guided UNC to an 18-3 record (as of Jan. 31, 2017) this season, including a perfect 10-0 mark in the Big Sky Conference. “Our staff and team members got a taste of the wide variety of unique challenges that international basketball brings to the table. Winning a gold medal in a zone championship and winning a gold medal in a (FIBA U19) World Championship are two wildly different endeavors. There will be tremendous challenges, and each and every game our opponents will bring great commitment in attempting to defeat the United States. Our goals as a staff will be to represent USA Basketball with the highest level of competitive intensity and integrity and to win the gold medal.
"Last summer it was a joy to represent USA Basketball. A highlight of that experience was getting to work with Suzie and Charlotte. They are true examples of what USA Basketball exemplifies. At every stage of their careers they have succeeded at the highest levels. Their enthusiasm, passion and commitment to the success of USA Basketball is contagious. I am extremely confident that this staff will bring together the very best individuals the United States has to offer and that we will mold them into a world championship team.”
Ethridge, who in addition to the 2016 USA U18 National Team previously served as a court coach for the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Trials, won gold medals with USA Basketball as a player at the 1988 Olympics, the 1987 Pan American Games, the 1986 FIBA World Championship and the 1986 Goodwill Games. She also won a silver medal at the 1985 World University Games, and she played for the gold medal winning South teams in the 1982 and 1983 U.S. Olympic Festivals.
In her third year at Northern Colorado, Ethridge has compiled a 53-32 overall record (all records are as of Jan. 31, 2017).
Prior to Northern Colorado, she spent 18 seasons as an associate head coach at Kansas State University (1996-97 through 2013-14), helping the Wildcats to a record of 350-226 over that span.
"(I’m) just excited about another opportunity,” said Smith, who is 103-75 (as of Jan. 31, 2017) in six seasons at Elon. “I learned so much. I feel like I’m a much better coach for my team because of what I learned this past summer. (I learned) that you can’t take the opportunity for granted, because each year is a new season and there will be more people and more coaches that will be vying for those positions. You have to be on your A game and come prepared each year to compete and not get comfortable or complacent knowing the world championship is on another level. In terms of recruiting and trying out for the team, we’re looking for the best talent in the country and some people may improve within a year, so the dynamics of the team could change, but everybody has to come in prepared to earn a spot. Even for me as a coach, I had to shine and do my best job with the U18 team.
"It was outstanding. It was a great opportunity to work together with Suzie and Kamie. They both are good, humble people and very knowledgeable so I was able to not only contribute with things I know but learned a lot as well. It’s a great opportunity to learn from systems all over the country. I was fortunate enough to do a lot of scouting and learned a lot about the game just from scouting our opponents. I’m a sponge – I love to soak it up and learn more about the game, so that’s what I’m most looking forward to is the relationships and becoming a better coach.”
This season Smith has guided her squad to a 16-5 mark (as of Jan. 31, 2017), including an 8-1 record in Colonial Athletic Association play. Of her five losses, four were between 5-10 point margins, including a 68-61 loss to then-No. 21 Duke.
While playing for USA teams, Smith won a gold medal at the 1996 R. William Jones Cup and silver medals at the 1995 World University Games and 1992 FIBA Americas U18 Championship (then known as the Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament). She also played for the 1997 USA Basketball Women's International Invitational Team, the 1994 USA Select Team and at the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival.
In addition to Foster, the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee includes NCAA appointees Melanie Balcomb (Vanderbilt), Lindsay Gottlieb (California) and Joi Williams (Central Connecticut), as well as athlete representative Kara Lawson Barling, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist.