Coach Anne Donovan discusses the focus and progress of the USA Team

Going for the Gold

Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan is also the head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team. This week the team will head to Chile to compete in the FIBA Americas tournament. Because they finished third in the 2006 World Championships, the U.S. must return from Chile with a gold medal to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Hungry for a first-place finish in Chile, Donovan discusses the hurdles her players must overcome as well as the progress they have made thus far with WNBA.com's Lauren Brill.

Q: What are the team's goals as you head to Chile?

A: "Our only goal is to go to Chile, win a gold medal and qualify for Beijing. That is the only thing we have our sights on right now."

Q: How do the injuries of Tamika Catchings, Sheryl Swoopes and Lindsey Harding affect the team?

A: "The beautiful thing about the United States is that we have a lot of talented players here. The difficult thing about the three players you mentioned is that they have a lot of experience and they have a lot of heart and passion. But I am sure someone will step up and try to fill in the holes. But there is no doubt Catchings and Sheryl are going to be very much missed and definitely Lindsey as well."

Q: Why did the committee decide to add Candice Wiggins, Asjha Jones, Kara Lawson and Loree Moore to the preliminary pool?

A: "The committee made that decision recently. As we have had injuries and late arrivals and as players have really stepped up in their WNBA careers and Candice Wiggins stepped up on her summer tours with the junior team, we recognized that they could strengthen our pool."

Q: Where is the team's focus on the court?

A: "This team has to be able to defend and really concentrate on our defensive efforts. I am sure we can score. We have great scorers in the WNBA and in USA Basketball, but we have to, as a team, defend first."

Q: How does the current wide range of ages on the team benefit the future of USA Basketball?

A: "I think the women have done very well with that over the years, where we have always had our steady players that are two-, three-, four-... sometimes five-time Olympians that bring the experience and bring the heart and bring the know-how of what it takes to compete at this level and win gold medals. It's also nice to bring along the younger players that get to be a part of that in a smaller role. But as the older players leave the program, Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain, they have passed that torch on to Dawn, and she is now passing it on to Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Katie Smith, Diana Taurasi, Catch and Sue Bird."

Q: Although Lisa Leslie will not join the team for the FIBA Americas tournament, how important is Leslie to this team?

A: "She hasn't passed the torch on yet. We look forward to her rejoining the program and being back because she is one of our players. Sheryl, Dawn and Lisa have all been three-time Olympians that understand what it takes. It's tough not having Sheryl here because of her health. Dawn on the sidelines can only impart so much information. Having a player on the floor that has done that is really important."

Q: When Leslie came to the first practice in New York, what did she discuss with the team?

A: "She talked about team and that nothing will be remembered in terms of points and rebounds and who did what. The only thing that you remember is... gold medal. She talked about the two bronze medals in her entire career and the plays that led up to them. I think the significance of that is you walk away as a team with a gold medal and when there is a bronze medal you really have to identify what the problem was and make sure you are focused on fixing it. So that is the position we are in after the World Championships in Sao Paulo. We are in the business of fixing that and making sure we get after gold."

Q: How does the timing of the WNBA Finals affect the USA Team?

A: "It definitely puts us in a crunch as it did last year with the World Championships, but these players are committed to try and overcome that challenge."

Q: Does the WNBA help prepare your players for the Olympics?

A: "Definitely, the WNBA is the greatest league in the world and all our players love competing in it and going against the best players. Many of those players they compete against are now their teammates or players they are going to see in Chile or in the Olympics. So the WNBA is a great training ground."

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