USA Basketball History

The United States joined the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) as a member in 1934 and it was the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) that FIBA first recognized as the organization that was responsible for USA teams in international competitions.

Until 1974 when the Amateur Basketball Federation of the United States of America (ABAUSA) which later became USA Basektball was formed, various basketball organizations within the U.S. wrestled for control and recognition from FIBA and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

A struggle for control of the USA’s international teams developed in the 1960s between the AAU and other U.S. basketball organizations.

It was in the early 1960s that an organization known as the Basketball Federation of the USA (BFUSA) was organized and began its push to be recognized by FIBA.

Consisting of representatives from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFSHSAA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), BFUSA continued to push for recognition and support in its effort to replace the AAU as the FIBA recognized basketball federation in the United States.

Just prior to the 1972 Olympics, FIBA revoked its recognition of the AAU, and, rather than recognize BFUSA, instructed the United States to form a new organization containing representation from all U.S. basketball organizations.

So in 1974 ABAUSA was formed and officially recognized by FIBA and by the U.S. Olympic Committee. ABAUSA at that time consisted of representatives from the AAU, Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), Collegiate Commissioners Association, Junior Pro Basketball Association, Inc., National Amateur Basketball Association, NABC, NAIA, NCAA, NFSHSAA, National Jewish Welfare Board, NJCAA, Women’s Basketball Association of America, Inc., and the YMCA.

On January 1, 1975, ABAUSA officially took control with its offices located in Jacksonville, Ill., and William Wall serving as its executive director.

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 changed the dimension and importance of all U.S. National Governing Bodies, and in January 1979 ABAUSA relocated to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

ABAUSA changed its name to USA Basketball on October 12, 1989, shortly after FIBA modified its rules to allow professional basketball players to participate in international competitions. USA Basketball then admitted the National Basketball Association (NBA) as an active member and made the name change.

U.S. Men’s Olympic Team Selection Process

Through the years, the group responsible for the selection of the U.S. Olympic basketball teams has changed, as has the process for selecting the teams.

Although the AAU established a Basketball Committee, beginning with the 1936 Olympics, the first Olympic Games to feature men’s basketball as an official medal sport, the selection of the USA Olympic teams and coaching staffs was handled by the U.S. Olympic Basketball Games Committee (originally known as the American Olympic Committee Basketball Committee).

The 1936 Olympic Basketball Games Committee originally consisted of six representatives of the AAU, four representatives from the NCAA, and three other representatives, two of which were appointed by the American Olympic Committee.

The 1948 Olympic team was still selected by the 13-member U.S. Olympic Basketball Games Committee, however, eight teams participated in the Olympic Trials — three AAU teams, two NCAA teams, and one team from the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) and YMCA.

Selection for the ’52 Olympic basketball team was handled by a 14-member Olympic Basketball Games Committee. The Olympic Trials again featured eight teams in a playoff — the NCAA Tournament winner and runner-up, the National Invitational Tournament winner, the NAIB Tournament winner and the top four finishers from the AAU National Tournament (Junior College, U.S. Armed Forces and YMCA teams were eligible to compete in the AAU championship).

By the 1956 Olympics, the Basketball Games Committee had been restructured so the AAU and NCAA each had six representatives and the U.S. Armed Forces four. And for the first time the Olympic Trials consisted of four teams — the AAU Tournament champion and runner-up, a college all-star squad and an Armed Forces all-star team.

In 1960, the Games Committee selected from eight teams — three AAU squads, the NCAA champion, a NCAA university all-star team, a NCAA college all-star team, an Armed Forces all-star team, and a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) all-star team.

The 1964 U.S. Olympic Basketball Games Committee consisted of eight AAU representatives, eight NCAA representatives and four U.S. Armed Forces representatives. This committee selected the 1964 Olympic team from a trials which consisted of three NCAA all-star teams, two AAU all-star squads, and one NAIA all-star team.

By 1968, the Olympic Trials consisted of three NCAA all-star teams, one NCAA college all-star team, and separate all-star squads representing the AAU, NJCAA, NAIA, and U.S. Armed Forces.

In 1972, the Olympic Trials were still controlled by the Olympic Basketball Games Committee, however, the Trials format was changed and 66 athletes were invited to tryout, 28 from the NCAA, eight from the AAU, junior college, NAIA and U.S. Armed Forces ranks, and six at-large.

In 1976, the Olympic Basketball Games Committee established a 12-man selection committee and 56 players, primarily from the NCAA, competed in the Trials.

In 1980, for the first time, the USA Men’s Olympic Team was selected by the ABAUSA Men’s Games Committee following Trials at the University of Kentucky. The 22-member Committee was chaired by then Big Eight Conference commissioner Charles Neinas.

The 1984 Olympic Trials, held April 17-22 at Indiana University, consisted of 72 college players. Brice Durbin was chair of the ABAUSA Player Selection Committee Games Committee, while David Gavitt (NCAA) was chair of the Player Selection Committee which included four NCAA representatives, two at-large representatives, and one representative from the NFSHSA.

In 1988, 92 college players attended the May 18-24 Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Big East Conference Commissioner David Gavitt was chair of the Games Committee for Men, while the ABAUSA Player Selection Subcommittee was chaired by C.M. Newton (At-Large) and included three representatives from the NCAA, one from the NAIA and one at-large representative.

In 1992, for the first time no actual Olympic Trials were held for the men. Instead, because NBA players were now eligible to play, USA Basketball’s 12-member Men’s Olympic Team Subset Committee, chaired by C.M. Newton, reviewed player performances from the 1990-91 and 1991-92 basketball seasons. The ’92 committee consisted of five NBA representatives, four NCAA reps and two at-large reps.

Selection for the 1996 men’s Olympic team was similar to 1992, with the players’ performances in the preceding seasons used as the trials process. The men’s squad was selected by USA Basketball’s 11-member Senior National Team Committee, which was chaired by Rod Thorn of the NBA and also consisted of seven NBA representatives, two athlete reps and one NCAA representative.

The 2000 men’s team was again comprised of NBA players and selected by USA Basketball’s 11-member Senior National Team Committee, chaired by Thorn. However, because the United States had to finish in one of the top two spots at the 1999 Tournament of Americas in order to qualify for the Olympic Games, player performances from the 1998-99 season were reviewed by the Committee for selection to the 1999 and, subsequently, the 2000 teams. The first nine NBA players named to the 1999 Tournament of Americas squad, which was rounded out with three recent collegiate graduates, were then selected to the 2000 team. Due to injuries, only seven of those nine competed in Sydney, while the remaining five selections were made based on the 1999-2000 NBA season.

The selection of the 2004 U.S. Men’s Olympic teams was again similar to 1992, 1996 and 2000, with the players’ performances in the preceding NBA season used as the trials process. The Senior National Team Committee that chose the 2004 U.S. Team was chaired by Stu Jackson of the NBA and consisted of nine voting members, seven appointed by the NBA and two athlete representatives. As they did in 1999, the United States had to qualify for the 2004 Olympics by finishing in one of the top three spots at the 2003 Tournament of Americas. Player performances from the 2002-03 NBA season were reviewed by the Committee for players were selected to the 2003 and, subsequently, the 2004 teams. The first nine NBA players named to the 2003 USA Olympic Qualifying Team core group were also promised a roster position if the USA qualified for the 2004 Olympics. The 2003 Olympic Qualifying Team won gold and qualfied the U.S. for the 2004 Summer Games, however, because of injuries and other issues, just two of the original nine selected core group players competed in Athens. The 10 player selections made to complete the roster were made in the Spring of 2004 and were based on player performances during the 2003-04 NBA season.

Without a gold medal finish in a major international competition since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, USA Basketball in 2005 set off in a totally new direction with its men’s senior national team. Setting aside the old committee system used for selecting its senior teams, respected former Phoenix Suns chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo was selected to serve in the newly created position of managing director of the USA Men’s Senior National Team Program for 2005‑2008. Building a national team program that ultimately consisted of 33 of this country’s best players, Mike Krzyzewski was named head coach, and some of the very best coaches from the NBA and NCAA, Colangelo and USA Basketball proceeded to create a true Senior National Team program that represented the U.S. at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

U.S. Women’s Olympic Team Selection Process

Women’s basketball became a medal sport at the 1976 Olympics and the Olympic Women’s Basketball Committee, chaired by Mildred Barnes, was responsible for selecting team members. Following five regional tryout camps, which were held in April, 34 players were invited to the Olympic Trials which were held in May at Central Missouri State University.

For the first time selection of the 1980 Olympic women’s team was handled by the ABAUSA Games Committee, which was chaired by Claudia Dodson. Trials for the team were held in two stages in Colorado Springs, Colo. The first stage, held March 24-25, was an “open” Trials which featured 203 players primarily from the AIAW college ranks. The second stage was held March 26-28 and consisted of 18 invited players joined by seven players who had been selected from the “open” Trials.

In 1984, Lea Plarski chaired the 14-member ABAUSA Women’s Games Committee, which consisted of nine NCAA, three NJCAA, one AAU and one NFSHSA representative. Trials were again held in two stages and 80 players, who were members or alternates of USA teams in the prior three years, participated in a preliminary Trials, and 10 players selected from the first trials joined 28 invited participants.

Selection of the 1988 women’s team was again the responsibility of the ABAUSA Women’s Games Committee. Chaired by Barbara Gill, and consisting of four NCAA, three NJCAA, three at-large, two AAU, and one athlete rep, and one representative from the NAIA, NFSHSA, and WBCA, 57 players were invited to the Trials which were held in Colorado Springs.

The 1992 Olympic Trials were held May 28-31 in Colorado Springs, and consisted of 56 players. The Olympic players were selected by a 17-member USA Basketball Women’s Games Committee, that was chaired by Susan Blackwood and comprised of six NCAA, four at-large, two NJCAA, one athlete representative, and one rep from the AAU, NAIA, NFSHSA, and WBCA.

For 1996, USA Basketball went to a national team plan which saw trials held from May 18-25, 1995. Twenty-five invited players competed for national team roster spots and 11 players were selected for the historic team by the 13-member Women’s Player Selection Committee. Chaired by Karen Stromme, the Committee was made up of five NCAA, three athlete representatives, and one representative from the AAU, NAIA, NFSHSA, NJCAA and WBCA. All 11 members of the National Team and one additional player (Venus Lacey), were named to the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s team on June 16, 1996.

Following the success of the 1995-96 USA Women’s National Team, USA Basketball hired Nell Fortner to act as a full-time National Team Program head coach for the three years leading up to the 2000 Games. The three-year program enabled the Women’s Senior National Team Committee to evaluate a pool of players in various national and international competitions. The Committee selected the first five members of the National Team core group in August 1998 and by September 1999, the National Team’s roster was nearly complete with 10 athletes. On January 6, 2000, Kara Wolters was named to the squad, which was rounded out with the addition of Sheryl Swoopes on June 25, 2000. All 12 members of the National Team were named to the 2000 Olympic Team. Chaired by Stromme, the Committee was made up of five NCAA representatives, three athlete representatives, and two representatives from the WNBA.

The USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team Committee, chaired this time by the WNBA’s Reneé Brown, selected the 2004 Olympic Team. Seven players were initially identified in October 2003, and remainder of the roster was completed in the months leading up to the Olympics. Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who had led the USA to gold at the 2002 FIBA World Championsip that was played in China, was named head coach of the U.S. squad. The Committee consisted of nine voting members and non-voting chair, and included six appointees from the WNBA, one from the NCAA and two athlete representatives.

Riding the crest of three consecutive Olympic gold medals, USA Basketball again relied on the USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team Committee, again chaired by Renee’ Brown, for selecting the 2008 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team. the firdt nine players were named on May 31, 2008, and the final three players were added July 10, 2008. Anne Donovan, who is the first player turned head coach to win gold as an athlete (1984, 1988) and head coach, while also collecting gold as an assistant coach (2004), was named head coach of the U.S. squad. The Committee consisted of seven voting members and non-voting chair, and included five appointees from the WNBA, one from the NCAA and two athlete representatives.