Kara Lawson Named 2021 USA Basketball 3x3 Coach of the Year
After she led the U.S. Olympic 3x3 Women’s Basketball Team to the gold medal at the inaugural Olympic 3x3 tournament this past summer at the Tokyo Games, USA Basketball selected Kara Lawson (Duke) as the 2021 USA Basketball 3x3 Coach of the Year.
While USA Basketball has awarded a National and Development Coach of the Year honor annually since 1996, 2021 marks the first time USA Basketball has selected a 3x3 Coach of the Year.
“Kara did an outstanding job guiding our U.S. Women’s 3x3 Team to Olympic gold, which makes her most deserving of this recognition,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO. “Kara’s involvement with our 3x3 program started five years ago, and she has coached numerous 3x3 teams that helped her prepare for this ultimate Olympic journey, which included getting our U.S. women qualified for the Olympic 3x3 tournament. We are appreciative of her time and commitment to USA Basketball and our 3x3 program.”
Lawson became the first person to win an Olympic gold medal as an athlete, which she did in 2008, and as a USA 3x3 coach, which she accomplished this past summer.
“To be named 3x3 Coach of the Year for USA Basketball means a lot,” Lawson said. “It’s really personal because of how far the 3x3 program has come. When I started working with 3x3 five years ago, I started with high school players, and I was learning to be a coach and they were learning to be high-level players. It was kind of the perfect marriage of hungry, goal-oriented people that wanted to continue to grow. Our big picture mission with USA Basketball as a whole, on the women’s side and the men’s side, was to create the best 3x3 program in the world. We weren’t there when we started five years ago but to be able to see this mission through means a lot. To start with our U18 group and help lead them to World Cup gold, to Pan American Gold and now in the first edition of 3x3 at the Olympics, to help lead USA Basketball to a gold medal – I don’t know that there’s a group or achievement that I’m more proud of than that.
“I just want to thank USA Basketball for the recognition and the opportunity to have involvement with this sport at the highest level on the international stage. I am so thrilled and honored to receive this award. I’m really touched by all the players that have been a part of my 3x3 journey. I’ve coached over 100 players in 3x3, and I think they’re all a small part of this achievement.”
On Dec. 6, the 2021 U.S. Olympic 3x3 Women’s Team was named the 2021 USA Basketball 3x3 Team of the Year. The team played nine games in five days and compiled an 8-1 record from July 24-28 in Tokyo.
The U.S. Olympic 3x3 Team included Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut/Port Jervis, N.Y.), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings/South Carolina/Sandersville, Ga.), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington/Poway, Calif.) and Jackie Young (Las Vegas Aces/Notre Dame/Princeton, Ind.).
“Coach Lawson is amazing, and as a coach, she’s a winner,” said Gray. “We all came in not knowing too much about 3x3, and she did she a great job of preparing us for games by teaching us, helping us adapt so quickly and showing us techniques. For us to go and win in our first year, it’s even more of a testament to her strength and expertise as a coach, especially since she could not coach during the games.”
Prior to the Olympics, Lawson led the USA 3x3 Women’s National Team that qualified the USA for the Tokyo Olympics with its 6-0 record at the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that was played May 26-30 in Austria. That team featured Dolson, Gray, Plum and Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Huntington Beach, Calif.).
Lawson has helped USA Basketball teams to seven 3x3 gold medals since 2017, including on the women’s side at the 2020 Olympics, 2017 and 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cups and 2018 Youth Olympic Games; on the men’s side at the 2019 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup; and with both the U.S. men’s and women’s team at the 2019 Pan American Games.