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Not Just A Dream
Curry Kirkpatrick
June 08, 1992
Though overshadowed by the men, the U.S. women have a golden vision
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June 08, 1992

Not Just A Dream

Though overshadowed by the men, the U.S. women have a golden vision

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In Italy, where Gordon led Comense Pool of Como to the 1991 Italian women's pro title, apparently nothing. Included in Gordon's pro contract, besides a free apartment, are all kinds of initials: BMW, TV, VCR and an ample supply of CDs. Oh, yeah, and a salary of about $200,000. Gordon, who starred at Tennessee and on the '88 U.S. Olympic team, has her own fan club, the Boys of Bridgette, not to mention more jewelry and a better haircut than any three NBA thrillionaires combined. "I'm a professional, and in Europe I'm treated that way," says Gordon. "I'm used to being a star. And then I come back home, and I'm treated like an amateur."

Grentz, who coaches at Rutgers, is more circumspect about the plight of the women: "I think with what's happened with the NBA, it's just a fact of life."

"I look at it from a positive point of view," says Nancy Lieberman-Cline, 33, the grande dame of distaff hoops, who, alas, like Lacy and Gordon, did not make the cut down to 18 women on Sunday. (The final 12-member Olympic team will be named on June 12.) "The men are like rock 'n' roll stars. We don't live in that fast lane, with the celebrity status. If we can sneak into that shadow, we'll get more attention, and that's not bad."

Cheryl Miller, the Southern California legend who raised the women's game to a new level in the early 1980s before be-coming-a sports reporter for ABC-TV, responded to all the attention she received as a surprise candidate at Colorado Springs by at first refusing to speak to the media. Bad form. Cheryl. But if Miller was preparing an exclusive sound bite on herself, she got a stunning scoop when she did indeed make the cut.

It turns out that Miller had been playing pickup games in Los Angeles under strict secrecy, or as much secrecy as a superstar could get while mixing it up with the likes of Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. "I'm damn near over the hill, at least near the slope," Miller, 28, said, "hut I love surprises. I love surprising people."

And about that three-day silence? "I've been interviewed so much. It was their time, the younger players," she said.

Good form, Cheryl. You must have been taking p.r. lessons from Jordan, the men's version of Cheryl Miller. Unfortunately, Jordan won't be able to see Miller play. On Monday night Miller withdrew from consideration for a spot on the team because of a knee injury. Still, Jordan and the men's squad have been very supportive of the women. "I talked to Michael Jordan," says Lieberman-Cline, "and he said that in Barcelona the guys will probably come to the women's games."

Whooooa! Stop the presses. That right there would be one humongous improvement over the relationship between the men's and women's teams at the Pan Am Games in Cuba last summer, when the men's team commuted by air between their games in Havana and their hot tub-equipped rooms at the May-fair House in Miami's Coconut Grove, and the women's team stayed in the athletes' village in Havana. "Every one of these kids is going to be a multimillionaire in two years." Bill Wall, executive director of USA Basketball, semidiplomat and head coconut, said last summer of the men players, who were all from the college ranks. "That's why you can't equate this with team handball. If we're spoiled and arrogant, so be it. The days of being Boy Scouts in the village are over."

Notice, Wall did not mention anything about Girl Scouts—until the American women's team was "upset" 86-81 by Cuba in the semifinals as a certain fatigue-wearing, beard-stroking, cigar-chomping ruler led the home fans in the wave. Later, when Wall was asked if there was anything the women's team needed, he replied, "Yeah, a new coach," a remark that demeaned the unpaid and tireless efforts of Vivian Stringer, the coach at Iowa who has twice been national women's college Coach of the Year.

Last week Wall, now a lame-duck executive director—following the Olympics he will become coordinator of special projects for USA Basketball—reiterated an apology he had made to Stringer "for that quote being taken out of context." The context was that the nucleus of the U.S. women's team had played for Grentz on previous international gold-winning squads and was more familiar with her system.

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