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Carol Callan

USA Basketball’s Carol Callan Honored for Contributions to the Game

  • Date:
    Mar 8, 2019

The Atlanta Tipoff Club recently announced that longtime USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan has been honored as the recipient of the 2019 Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women’s Basketball award.

“Congratulations to Carol on receiving this award,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO. “Her contributions to not only USA Basketball, but basketball both internationally and domestically are well known. She’s well deserving of this honor. Again, many congratulations from all of us at USA Basketball.”

“For 24 years, Carol Callan has been the backbone of USA Basketball women’s teams,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, a longtime USA National Team member and current USA National Team head coach. “To so many of us, whether players, coaches, or staff, Carol has been a mentor, a fearless advocate, and most of all, a friend.”

First presented in 1982 to Curt Gowdy on the men’s side and in 1993 Margaret Wade on the women’s side, the Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Basketball Award is presented annually to individuals whose extraordinary efforts have made outstanding contributions and created a long‐lasting positive impact on the game of basketball.

The recipients display character, integrity and dignity and have contributed to the growth, success and viability of the sport. Chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Directors, Callan will be honored later this year and presented with a Naismith-themed plaque.

“To be associated with the Naismith name and the list of previous contributors is an unbelievable honor,” said Callan, who as the USA Women’s National Team director acts as a liaison to women’s competition committees and is responsible for all USA Basketball women’s team programs, including competitions, trials and training camps. “Growing up around basketball with a father who was a long-time coach, it’s been so satisfying to be able to be a part of the growth of the women’s game and its successes.”

Verne Lundquist was honored as the 2019 Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Men’s Basketball.

“Each year, we select recipients who have truly impacted the lives of so many players and fans and brought the spirit of basketball to life,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.  “Carol has elevated the women’s game around the world, and Verne has helped our game reach millions of television viewers. It’s an honor for us to include them in the Naismith Awards family.”

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Carol,” said Sue Bird, a four-time Olympic and four-time FIBA World Cup gold medalist. “The success of the women’s national team program has been consistent, dominant and inspiring, and that is what Carol embodies. Excellence trickles down from leadership positions to the play on the court, and the one person who has always been there is Carol. Her leadership guides us and allows us to be our best version.”


A primary architect for the historic, first-time USA National Team program, Callan was responsible for team logistics, travel and scheduling of games and training for the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National Team that posted a perfect 52-0 record and assisted with operations for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team that reclaimed the gold medal with an 8-0 record.

“Carol is so deserving of this honor and recognition,” said Ceal Barry, who was an assistant coach for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. “She is a tireless worker and advocate for the sport of women’s basketball and has been for over four decades. Carol is respected as a leader by her peers in the game and is often called upon to help steer the direction of and future of women’s basketball.”

Following the Olympics, Callan assumed duties as the USA Basketball Women's National Team director (then referred to as assistant executive director for women's programs) in October 1996. Since then, she has been responsible for all facets of the USA Basketball women's program.

With Callan on board, the highly successful USA National Team has posted an 100-1 slate in major international competitions, winning six-straight Olympic gold medals, five of the past six FIBA World Cup gold medals and the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship gold medal.

“Six consecutive Olympic and five World Cup gold medals don’t happen without the blood, sweat, and tears of Carol Callan and her incredible ability to embrace the athletes, coaches and staff who would give their right arm for her as well as their country,” stated Ilene Hauser, manager for Nike’s Women’s Pro Basketball division, who has worked closely with the USA National Team since 2006. “Carol has created an environment at USA Basketball where athletes and coaches would do anything for her because of her integrity and perspective.”

Not only has the USA National Team seen unprecedented success during Callan’s tenure, the USA Basketball junior teams have excelled internationally as well. Beginning in 1996 (excluding exhibition games), USA junior teams that Callan oversaw posted a stunning 289-22 (92.9 winning percentage) record in international competitions, winning 38 gold medals, six silver medals and five bronze medals. Highlights include the USA’s historic first gold at the 1997 FIBA U19 World Cup, a string of six-straight U19 golds and a total of 19 gold medals in 24 age-based competitions.

“Carol Callan has impacted players, coaches, and fans of women’s basketball all over the world,” said Jeff Walz, University of Louisville head coach and head of the 2018 USA U18 National Team coaching staff. “Her professionalism, leadership and tireless work ethic has been a constant for nearly forty years. Carol’s attention to detail is second to none. Our gold medal history is due in large part because of her foresight and her efforts. Thank you Carol, and congratulations to our 2019 Naismith Outstanding Contributor to Women’s Basketball.”

Callan also oversees the national team side of USA Basketball’s 3x3 program and is proud of the USA women’s 3x3 teams collecting seven gold medals, two silver medals and three bronze medals since the launch of 3x3 competition at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

“Carol is very deserving of this honor because of her contributions at every level of the game,” said 2008 Olympic gold medalist Kara Lawson, who has spent the past two years working with Callan and the USA’s 3x3 National Teams.

“She is a tireless force for the women’s program,” Lawson added. “She sets the standard of what USA Basketball is about: class, respect and winning! The record speaks for itself. Congratulations Carol on this wonderful honor!”

Callan is a member of several USA Basketball selection committees – the USA National Team Steering Committee (chair), the USA National Team Player Selection Committee and the USA Developmental National Team Committee (non–voting chair). She serves on the FIBA and FIBA Americas Women's Commissions, the WBCA Board of Directors and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors.

Prior to taking the reins of the USA National Team program, Callan was involved with USA Basketball for almost seven years as a volunteer committee member. She served on USA Basketball's Executive Committee as secretary from 1992 to 1995 and from 1989 to 1995 was a member of the Women's Player Selection Committee and served as chair from 1992-1995. Additionally, Callan was a member of the Women's Programs Committee from 1992 to 1995.

“USA Basketball is one of the most respected brands in sport,” stated Debbie Antonelli, a longtime women’s basketball analyst. “As the caretaker of this prestigious, international brand in women's basketball, Carol Callan has delivered a personal stake and the ability to communicate a competitive spirit and vision as the leader for decades. Carol's contributions, commitment and love for the game of basketball has propelled girls to play for generations, past and future.”

Callan came to USA Basketball after spending 10 years (1986-1995) as director of athletics /activities and two years as an assistant principal (1993-1995) for Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. Earning two master's degrees from the University of Colorado, Callan holds a master's in business administration and a master of science in physical education. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from William Woods College (Mo.) in 1975, graduating magna cum laude in mathematics and physical education.

ESPN’s Carol Stiff, Vice President of Women's Sports Programming, summed up Callan’s legacy on the Olympic front: “Carol’s outstanding contributions have been priceless to the success of our USA Basketball Women’s National and Olympic programs,” said Stiff. “Securing the gold medal for the past six Summer Olympic Games are due in large part to her dedication, enthusiasm and vision. Our gold standard of excellence for USAB Women’s Basketball’s future looks bright thanks to Carol.”

“Having had the pleasure to be around Carol in one capacity or another for her entire tenure, I can say, without reservation, that Team USA would not be what it is today without her contributions,” Staley added. “Our team, and our game, are better and stronger because of Carol‘s contributions to our game. I don’t know of anyone more deserving of this award.”

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