Most college head coaches spend their summer months attending high school camps, recruiting players and maybe taking a much-needed vacation. However, that was not the case for Ole Miss Women's Basketball Head Coach Carol Ross. Ross spent her summer representing her country and helping guide Team USA to a perfect 8-0 record and a gold medal finish at the 2005 FIBA Women's Under-19 World Championship.
As an assistant coach on the U-19 team, Ross was happy to give up her summer months for the chance to win a gold medal.
"This was an opportunity to play for a world championship," said Ross, who will begin her third season at the help of the Lady Rebel program this fall. "That was very exciting for me. Only one USA team had won a world championship in this event and I took it as a challenge to be part of winning a gold medal."
The decision to coach with the USA Basketball staff was made easier by Ross' own staff.
"I wrestled with accepting the position," said Ross. "If you coach a national team that means you are leaving your college team, but because I have great, experienced assistants it made the decision to accept easier. I had great confidence in my assistants to handle anything that arose."
In addition, Ross was not worried about leaving her team.
"I have a wonderful group of young women that wear the Ole Miss uniform," said Ross, who has guided the Lady Rebels to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. "I don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about their work ethic."
This was not Ross' first time to coach USA Basketball. As a head coach, she guided the 1998 USA Select Team to a 7-1 record in international competition. While Ross enjoyed her first experience with USA Basketball, she wanted the opportunity to compete for a title.
"The first team I was part of did not compete in a tournament format," said Ross, who is now 15-1 with USA Basketball. "I wanted the opportunity to be part of a world championship team."
To Ross the opportunity wasn't just about representing her country or winning a gold medal, it was a chance to work with other talented coaches from around the country.
"Working with USA Basketball was an opportunity that I could not pass up," said Ross. "It was a chance to work with coaches (Duke head coach) Gail Goestenkors and (Hofstra head coach) Felisha Legette-Jack. To have had the opportunity to work with such talented coaches, I certainly believe I returned a better coach. The benefits will be immeasurable."
Ross also sees her USA Basketball experience as an advantage for her at Ole Miss.
"Anytime you have the opportunity to coach in July it gives you an advantage because most other coaches are recruiting," said Ross, who is 36-25 in two seasons in Oxford. "To be on the court working with great players and having hands-on experience gives Ole Miss a great advantage."
While Ross has spent her last 14 years in coaching as a head coach, she enjoyed going back to the assistant role for the summer.
"I have always loved being an assistant coach," said Ross. "I was a post coach, which took me back to my assistant coaching days at Auburn. Hopefully, I will now be a better head coach because I put back on the assistant coaching shoes."
For Ross the six-week commitment proved not just to be about winning gold or honing her own coaching skills, but an educational experience as well. Her travel took her from Colorado Springs, Colo., to San Diego, Calif., to Washington D.C., to Hungary and finally Tunisia.
"At each stop we were able to take in the culture," said Ross. "It made for a more complete experience. The great thing about USA Basketball is our mission was clear, to win a gold medal, but at the same time it was a great educational endeavor."
"I think we had a great responsibility uphold," said Ross. "It is not about you as an individual but about representing your school, your state and your country, so you never stop being an ambassador."
"There is nothing more powerful as an athlete or coach than to represent the United States and to see the respect we have across the world, both athletically and culturally. There is a great deal of admiration for our people and our country. It was a moving experience to see that up close."
In the end the opportunity was a fulfilling one for Ross, both professionally and personally.
"It was a tremendous experience just being a part of a group of great players and coaches," said Ross. "Winning the gold medal solidifies that our mission was accomplished."
Carol Ross helps bring home gold to USA
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