Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones were part of one of the greatest dynasties in women's college basketball. A decade later they're reunited with their coach on a squad that has a chance to be one of the best Olympic teams ever.
"When you're young and going through that process you never really think what your career is going to look like," Cash said. "You're young and nieve. To look back on it 10 years later, it's been really a blessing. You really don't understand the impact you've had on the game until you look back. To have all the players here on the team really just shows what we've done throughout our careers and the potential we had early on."
All they've done since graduating UConn in 2002 is win, combining for eight EuroLeague championships, seven WNBA titles and five Olympic gold medals. The four, along with coach Geno Auriemma, were reunited two years ago and helped the U.S. win the 2010 world championship, earning an automatic bid to the London Games.
"It's great being around those guys again," Jones said. "The world championship two years ago and now playing for the highest honor with the Olympics. Most people's careers don't last that long. For all of us to be playing 10 years later together again that's awesome."
They are back together again trying to earn an unprecedented fifth straight gold medal for the U.S. It would be a third consecutive gold for Taurasi and Bird, putting them in elite company. Cash won a gold in 2004 while Jones is making her first appearance at the Olympics.
The biggest problem for the Americans heading into the Olympics happened off the court, where an employment discrimination lawsuit was filed against Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball on June 11 by a woman who works as an NBA security official. Kelley Hardwick said she was removed from a 2012 Olympics assignment after she spurned an advance from Auriemma.
The coach has called the assertion "beyond false" and intends to fight it. Auriemma has said he won't let the lawsuit be a distraction to the team in London. The UConn players as well as the rest of the Olympic team have been keeping their distance from the controversy refusing to specifically talk about the suit.
"I only know him as my coach," Jones said. "I don't know what happens off the court with him. It's not my business, and it's none of his business what I do off the court. We stay in our lanes."
None of them think it will be a big enough distraction to prevent another gold medal for the U.S.
"I think because we have great leadership on this team that we're just going to focus on the task that will be at hand and that's to prepare to win a gold medal," Cash said. "You never want to let outside distractions interfere with that and I think that we'll have the right leadership to make sure that everybody comes to play and is ready to go in London."
Before their pro success, they were involved in the most dominant run in college basketball helping UConn winning four titles in five seasons - a feat never matched.
"Coming into college the mindset wasn't to change the game," Cash said. "We were young and we wanted to come in and have an impact on the university. That was our main goal. At the end of the day, we just had no idea. It's humbling."
Bird, Cash and Jones were sophomores in 2000 when they led the Huskies to their second national championship. However it was a defeat the next season to Notre Dame that might have sparked their later success. After beating the Irish in the regular season, UConn lost to Notre Dame by 15 in the Final Four - surrendering a 16-point deficit in the first half.
"Absolutely. Everyone hung onto that. That was a very difficult loss," Bird said. "For my class, we really had to step up and be the leaders. As seniors, we weren't going to let that happen again."
They didn't. UConn ran through the competition winning by an average of 35 points with only Virginia Tech able to come within single digits.
They steamrolled Tennessee by 23 points in the national semifinals before beating Oklahoma by 12 in the championship game to cap the perfect 39-0 season. While Bird, Cash and Jones were off to the WNBA - chosen first, second and fourth in the draft that season, Taurasi helped guide the Huskies to two more national championships.
"The four of us, there was a reason that college team was so good and there's a reason we're on the Olympic team now," Bird said. "It's kind of nice to have it come full circle. It's been a good ride."
The reunion isn't lost on Auriemma, though even he had no idea how good that group would be.
"If you told me in 2002 that they'd be the best basketball team in the history of college women's basketball and then say coach that's nothing. Ten years from now you're going to coach a team that's going to be better than that and involve a lot of the same guys. I'd say that's science fiction and then look here we're doing it. I hope we can have the same ending as that 2002 team did. That would be a storybook ending."