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Cheryl Miller, Lea Henry, Lynette Woodard

Facts & Photos: 1976 to 1984 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Teams

  • Date:
    Jul 25, 2020

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were to be held July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Summer Games to 2021. USA Basketball is celebrating the original dates of the 2020 Olympics with a look back at past U.S. Olympic men’s and women’s basketball teams through photos and fun facts. Be sure to check in daily for Olympic memories galore!

On this day in USA Basketball Olympic History: July 25

1976 was the first women’s Olympic basketball competition. Held in Montreal, the tournament featured six nations, and the U.S. won the silver medal with a 3-2 record.

1976 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team

The USA’s opening game against Japan was scheduled for 8 a.m. Because of that, the coaches woke the team between 5-6 a.m. for practice the week before. Three team members decided to go to one practice in their pajamas as a joke. The joke was on them – the coaching staff wouldn’t let them change, and they had to practice in their PJs that morning.

Nancy Dunkle, Nancy Lieberman, Sue Gunter
From left to right: Nancy Dunkle, Nancy Lieberman and USA assistant coach Sue Gunter.

Gail Marquis still wears her 1976 Olympic silver medal almost everywhere she goes.

Doug Bruno, Gail Marquis
2006 & 2012 U.S. Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno (left) and Gail Marquis.

Due to a possible three-way tie for second place, the USA clinched the 1976 silver medal by virtue of mathematics in its 83-67 victory over Czechoslovakia but had to wait a day for the tournament to end to participate in the medal ceremony.

1976 Olympic women's medal stand

Before it was known that the USA would not participate in the 1980 Olympic Games, in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, a 12-member roster was selected for the women’s basketball team.

1980 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team
The 1980 team is pictured here in the apparel it would have worn at the Opening Ceremony.

The 1980 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team did take part in several exhibition games and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where the team went 6-1 to win the 22-team tournament. The qualifier did not feature a team from the Soviet Union, which already had qualified for the 1980 Olympics as the host country and was thought to represent the USA’s toughest competition. (The Soviets went on to win gold at the 1980 Games.)

Rosie Walker (left) and Holly Warlick.

At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the Soviet Union and 13 other Eastern European countries chose to boycott – preventing a much anticipated matchup between the USA and the Soviets.

 1984 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team

Earning the USA’s first women’s basketball gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles, the U.S. squad was coached by Pat Summitt, who became the first person to be named to a U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball roster as an athlete, assistant coach and head coach. (Anne Donovan, who was a member of the ’84 squad, became the second to do so, and Dawn Staley will become the third at the Tokyo Olympic Games.)

Pat Summitt

Teresa Edwards, who was 20 years old when she won gold in 1984, went on to collect five Olympic medals and still stands as the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s basketball gold medalist in history.

Teresa Edwards

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