As she still does somewhat frequently, Carol Callan earlier this summer shared a lunch with one of her players from Fairview’s memorable run to the Colorado girls basketball state championship in 1985.
From those humble days at Fairview, Callan went on to become one of the nation’s most respected leaders in women’s basketball circles. Yet as she shared that meal, reminiscing about the championship, Callan had a sense of her life coming full circle.
“Still having these relationships through my life is something special,” Callan said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”
A local fixture from her time at Fairview and the University of Colorado, Callan’s remarkable career will be celebrated on Saturday as she is inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville. Callan will be inducted in a class set to include former players Debbie Brock, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, and Lauren Jackson; two others who, like Callan, are esteemed contributors to the game in Sue Donohoe and Carol Stiff; and former NBA commissioner David Stern, an early champion of the WNBA.
Callan spent 10 years as a coach, athletic director, and principal at Fairview, but it was during the 1990s that Callan’s career blossomed on a bigger stage when she became one of the leaders of the USA women’s basketball national team. Under Callan’s leadership as the national team director, the US won gold in Atlanta in 1996 and would do so six more times, culminating with another gold medal at the delayed 2020 Games in Tokyo earlier this month.
In addition to those seven Olympic gold medals, under Callan’s watch the US also collected four gold medals at the FIBA World Cup. Because she announced her resignation from the director’s role before the Tokyo Games — Callan will retain her role as president of FIBA Americas, a post she was elected to in 2019 — there was a little more appreciation for the latest Olympic gold.
“We’ve had a great summer. We’ve had a very busy summer,” Callan said. “What people see is the tip of the iceberg with the Olympics. We had qualifying events to do. We have junior-level events to do. We have all these things going on, and the culminating event for people always is the Olympics. To basically get seven Olympics over my time with USA Basketball, starting with that ’96 team, it’s really an indescribable kind of feeling.
“It’s somewhat bittersweet. It’s also deeply satisfying that we’ve accomplished what we’ve accomplished during this time. But it’s also a good time for someone else to have this opportunity.”
Ties to the CU Buffs will loom large during Callan’s induction ceremony. She has served as one of the voices of the CU women’s basketball as the radio analyst for 35 years, a role she hopes to continue. Callan has two Master’s degrees from CU in business administration and physical education. And on Saturday, none other than legendary former CU women’s basketball coach and athletic administrator Ceal Barry will be Callan’s presenter.
“I’m humbled because you know this doesn’t just happen,” Callan said. “You have to have a lot of people in your life to either put you in the position to do this, or you’ve worked together to achieve things that are pretty incredible. I’ve watched so many people over the years that I’ve been doing this get this honor, and it’s nice now for it to be me.”