Babcock McGraw: Too much drama in women's basketball
It's difficult to keep up with all the drama in women's basketball.
On the college front, there seems to be an epidemic occurring with multiple coaches under fire for alleged mistreatment of their players.
In the WNBA, all the buzz is about USA Basketball's snub of Naperville native Candace Parker, who did not make the cut for the 2016 Olympic team. Parker helped the U.S. women to gold medals in the last two Olympics.
Theories abound about this move, including the suggestion that there is a Connecticut bias on the team since UConn head coach Geno Auriemma is the head coach of Team USA. Of the 12 players on the roster, five are from Connecticut, including Breanna Stewart, who is in her senior year at Connecticut.
Stewart is the only player on the team without WNBA experience and is one of three first-time Olympians who essentially pushed out Parker, a star for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and a former MVP.
NBA legend Magic Johnson, part owner of the Sparks, tweeted his disapproval.
"I'm very disappointed @Candace_Parker wasn't selected to the USA Basketball Women's Olympic Team," Johnson tweeted. "I feel @Candace_Parker is the best all around women's basketball player in the world!"
I agree that she certainly is among the top five. Parker, at 30 and in her prime, is healthy after battling injuries over the last year. She was Team USA's top rebounder at the last Olympics and had a double-double in the gold medal game. When she returned from injuries halfway through last year's WNBA season, she was among the league's leading scorers and rebounders.
Picking Stewart for the team isn't an outrage. She is an incredibly special player who will also be a star in the WNBA. But in terms of the Olympic team, it might not be her time just yet. Especially if it means that she's pushing out a player of Parker's caliber.
College programs under fire:
A little closer to home on the drama front is the case of Loyola women's coach Sheryl Swoopes, the former Olympian and WNBA all-star. Of the 12 players eligible for next season, 10 have requested transfers. Five others transferred after the 2014-15 season a year ago.
"I was humiliated, belittled," former player Cate Soane said of her experience with Swoopes. "I was subject to a lot of inappropriate conduct."
Soane, who transferred to UIC after the 2013-14 Loyola season, said players were mocked and threatened with the removal of their scholarships.
Loyola is investigating.
Meanwhile, the University of Illinois just settled litigation with a group of former players who transferred after making allegations of mistreatment and racism.
Head coach Matt Bollant kept his job, but assistant coach Mike Divilbiss did resign in the wake of the allegations.
Connie Yori, the head coach at Nebraska and a former Big Ten coach of the year, also resigned after similar allegations. And Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie are under investigation as well.
I think two things are happening in women's college basketball.
The sport is growing, the stakes are higher, there is more money being put into programs and coaches' salaries. Winning is a huge priority and perhaps some coaches are feeling the pressure and letting their behavior and their treatment of their players reflect that.
This also could be a commentary on today's youth in an "everyone gets a trophy," helicopter-parenting society. Are we "wimpifying" our kids by constantly making all of them winners and fighting their battles for them?
As a longtime observer of youth sports, as a journalist, a parent, and as a youth coach, I think this is absolutely true. Some young athletes out there are tough and motivated and see adversity as a challenge to improve themselves. But many others whine and complain the moment something gets tough, and they'll expect their parents to fix the problem, real or perceived, immediately.
I'm not saying college athletes who are raising concerns at the moment are lying or overexaggerating. Just wondering if there are other factors in play. It will be interesting to see how some of these investigations play out, and if new drama will unfold.
Second chance for Parker?
Meanwhile, the drama involving Candace Parker might not be over. If a player on the 12-woman Olympic roster gets injured between now and the Olympics, Parker would likely be asked to fill the spot as an alternate. Whether or not she would do it could spark more drama.
So, buckle up women's basketball fans. The next few months could give you even more soap opera material to follow.
• Follow Patricia on Twitter @babcockmcgraw, and contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.