© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fairfield native inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

United States Olympic women's basketball team waves after they won the silver medal in 1976.
Bettmann Archive
Getty Images
United States Olympic women's basketball team waves after they won the silver medal in 1976.

Mary Anne O’Connor remembers howling with joy alongside her fellow U.S. women’s basketball teammates once they found out they won a silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

“When we got there, and we ended up winning silver medal. I mean, it just blew everybody's mind,” O’Connor said.

And they’re going to celebrate once again, 47 years later at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino Friday. O’Connor and her teammates will be inducted into the Naismith U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame for their pioneering efforts as being the first U.S. women’s basketball team at the Olympics.

O’Connor said she’s excited about participating and said the recognition comes as women’s basketball gains in popularity.

O’Connor said being an inspiration is part of the job.

“That's kind of our job to inspire future generations," she said. "Our team got where we got, because there were women that played before us that never got any recognition. … So we're standing on their shoulders. The subsequent generations like the '96 Olympic team, they were standing on our shoulders.”

O’Connor grew up in Fairfield, and went to several different schools in the area. But it was at Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, where she picked up the sport. She credits her coach at the time, Ann DeLuca, with improving her game.

Basketball players were taught at the time to shoot two hand set shots, she said. But in 1967, DeLuca taught her how to jump shot in her freshman year.

She ended up at Southern Connecticut State University and trained to qualify for the 1976 Summer Olympics.

But while she was a skilled player, the team went up against the then Soviet Union, which she considered the best. No one, she said, expected them to best them in a match. She noted their center was 7 feet, 2 inches.

They won silver and it’s something she still remembers.

“We didn't have a track record, doing well in international competitions. And so we surprised everybody,” she said.

Getting silver was life changing. She ended up living in France for 15 years playing professional basketball and later went into the IT sector.

But she'll reunite with her old teammates at the Mohegan Sun.

“It just takes you back. It's like a great opportunity for a reunion, and then at the same time getting this great honor,” she said.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content