Tue Dec 01 04:48pm EST
Sue Bird, guard, Connecticut
Though Bird played less than three full seasons in the decade, she was the premier point guard in the country and leader of Husky teams that won the national title in 2000 and 2002. She not only distributed the ball with flair but also possessed a lethal jumper and ability to penetrate. Bird twice shot better than 50 percent from the field and nearly shot 50 percent from three-point range as a sophomore. She played 100 games in the decade and UConn won 97 of them. And of course, she paved the way for Diana Taurasi to lead the Huskies to two more titles after Bird was selected first in the 2002 WNBA draft.
Diana Taurasi, guard, Connecticut
Need her to play point? OK, she'll finish with more assists than Sue Bird. Need her to score? OK, she'll take every clutch shot you need. Lost your top rebounders to the pros? OK, she'll grab two more boards per game the next season. And she'll win more than anyone ever has. The Huskies won 139 games in Taurasi's time from 2000 to 2004, including 31 in a row the season after four UConn starters went in the top six of the WNBA draft. No wonder Taurasi won two Naismith Awards and herself went No. 1 in the 2004 draft.
Seimone Augustus, forward, LSU
Augustus led LSU to the first three of five consecutive Final Four appearances from 2004 to 2006. She was the top scorer in the country as a senior and never shot worse than 53 percent from the field. Though Augustus never got the Tigers into the championship game, she remains the only back-to-back Wade Trophy winner of the NCAA era.
Candace Parker, forward, Tennessee
Move over, Chamique Holdsclaw? Probably not, seeing as Parker played only three seasons for the Lady Vols and won one fewer title. But it's close. Parker morphed into Women's Basketball Superstar 2.0 during her time in Knoxville, satiating the masses with her ability to dunk and wowing women's basketball fans with her unprecedented multifaceted game. And not that anyone questioned her toughness, but she won her second Final Four Most Outstanding Player award while playing through a dislocated shoulder.
Courtney Paris, center, Oklahoma
The folks in Norman won't make Paris repay her scholarship as she offered to do. Nor should they. Though the Sooners fell short of her championship aspirations, the NCAA career rebounding leader wasn't to blame. She posted double-doubles in her first 112 games and was the first freshman AP All-American, first sophomore AP Player of the Year and first four-time All-American. No other college player in any division has amassed 2,500 points and 2,000 rebounds.
Player of the decade: Taurasi
"We have Diana, and you don't." So said her coach, Geno Auriemma. OK, Geno, you win again.
Coach of the decade: Geno Auriemma, Connecticut
Five titles out of 10 is pretty good, even with a four-year drought.
Honorable mention: Jackie Stiles, guard, Missouri State (then SW Missouri State), the all-time scoring leader (but graduated in 2001); Ruth Riley, center, Notre Dame; Alana Beard, guard, Duke; Sylvia Fowles, LSU; Candice Wiggins, guard, Stanford; Maya Moore, forward, Connecticut.
Sheryl Swoopes, guard, Comets/Storm
Swoopes not only won the first four WNBA titles with Houston but also won a pair of MVP awards after that, in 2002 and as late as 2005. Not only was she unguardable but also she was a shutdown defender, as averages of 16 points and more than two steals per game attest (that, and those three Defensive Player of the Year awards). There's a reason she has been called the Michael Jordan of the women's game.
Diana Taurasi, guard, Mercury
Taurasi picked up where she left off at Connecticut, though it took her four seasons to capture the first of two titles (2007 and 2009). Only once has she failed to make the five-player all-WNBA first team, and in 2009 she was named the league's MVP.
Tamika Catchings, forward, Fever
This was the toughest call of the group, but Catchings' credentials are hard to argue with. Despite the lack of a title, Catchings has been the league's best defensive player three times and made the all-WNBA first team four times. Of course, she also is a prolific three-point shooter who averages almost eight rebounds per game. Tina Thompson and Katie Smith merited strong consideration.
Lauren Jackson, forward/center, Storm
She's 6-5, blocks shots, shoots threes and grabs boards. Jackson does it all in the relative anonymity of Seattle, where she led the Storm to the 2004 WNBA title and was the league's most dominant player in the middle part of the decade. She bookended a five-year streak on the all-WNBA first team with MVP awards in 2003 and 2007.
Lisa Leslie, center, Sparks
Leslie tailed off a little in the last few years of her career and only won two titles, but nobody has been more consistently solid and often dominant than the recently retired Sparks center. She has three MVP trophies and a Defensive Player of the Year award as recently as 2008, and she retired as the league's all-time scoring and rebounding queen.
Player of the decade: Leslie
This is a close call, but all those points and rebounds and those defensive accolades give Leslie the nod.
Coach of the decade: Bill Laimbeer, Shock
I can't believe it, either. But the man won three titles and one Coach of the Year award without coaching one MVP.
Honorable mention: Sue Bird, guard, Storm; Katie Smith, forward, Lynx/Shock; Tina Thompson, forward, Comets/Sparks.
Paris photo from AP. Leslie photo from Getty Images.