COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Carla Berube got a taste of what it would be like working with USA Basketball a year ago as a court coach at the U-17 national team trials.
The former University of Connecticut star and the 15-year Tufts University women's basketball coach now has a full plate in front of her. She is at the United States Olympic Training Center here as the head coach of the U-16 team that will take part in the 2017 FIBA Americas Championship June 7-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"Carol Callan (USA Basketball women's national team director) gave me a call around Final Four time and asked if I would be interested in being the coach for this," Berube said Thursday night. "And when Carol Callan calls you, you jump at whatever she needs. The opportunity to represent your country and USA Basketball is amazing.
"Last year working here definitely piqued my interest, and certainly that experience was important for USA Basketball and the committee. I guess they liked what they saw. It was such an awesome experience last year."
The U-16 trials, with 133 players in attendance, began Thursday and will run through Monday. The 12-player squad headed to Argentina will not only be looking to win a gold medal, but with a top-four finish can qualify Team USA for the 2018 FIBA U-17 world championships.
Berube will be assisted by Steve Gomez of Division II Lubbock Christian University and former Stanford standout Vanessa Nygaard of the Windward School in Los Angeles. She is the first college coach hired for the U-16 top job, with the head coaches in 2009, 2011, and 2013 coming from the high school ranks.
"I don't know what the differences are," Berube said. "I'm going to be me. I'm excited about the staff I have with Steve and Vanessa. I got to know Steve here last year and I've known Vanessa since when we played against each other. I'm excited with what they can bring to the staff. We have a good mix.
"I've never coached high school kids before so it will be an adjustment for me. They're awesome and they work hard and they're sponges at this age. They have a high ceiling. It's going to be great to teach and to see them get better."
Eight national teams will take part in the FIBA Americas Championship -- Team USA, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The Americans have a 19-1 record in the event, with the only loss coming to Brazil in the 2013 semifinals.
The finalists announced Monday will take part in a training camp next week before heading to Buenos Aires.
"There will be a lot to do in those six days before we leave for Argentina," Berube said. "It's not just on-court stuff. It's off the court and developing the chemistry. There are so many facets to a successful team. I'm going to take what I've learned throughout my career as a player and coach and put together a team that's ready to go, one that's unselfish and plays hard and at both ends of the floor."
It's been 20 years since Berube, 41, graduated from UConn. Her playing days at Oxford (Massachusetts) High, the United States Olympic Festival (where she won a bronze medal in 1994), the Huskies and the New England Blizzard of the old American Basketball League were over by the time any of the players at the U-16 trials here were born.
But while demonstrating a drill here Thursday night, she caught the ball just above the foul line, turned, and appeared ready to take one of those 17-footers she made so often at Gampel Pavilion. Instead, she flipped the ball to one of the teenagers.
"Sometimes it feels like 20 years, like when I was doing stuff out there and was out of breath from doing a V cut," Berube said with a smile. "I can't believe it."
Berube's spent the last 15 years at Tufts in Medford, Massachusetts, about a one-hour drive from her native Oxford. She reached the 100-, 200-, and 300-win plateaus faster than her college coach -- Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma -- and her record of 330-88 is one win ahead of Auriemma's pace after 418 games.
The Jumbos have reached the Division III Final Four the last four seasons. In 2015, Berube was the WBCA NCAA Division III Coach of the Year and Tufts made its first national championship game appearance, falling to Thomas More College in Indianapolis.
Thirty wins and a season later, the Jumbos found their way back to the final game in March at Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"And then laid an egg," Berube said.
Against archrival Amherst, Tufts scored just two points in the opening 17:35 and trailed 20-6 at the break. The Jumbos got within seven in the third quarter before Amherst pulled away for a 52-29 victory. It was the Jumbos' third loss of the season, all to Amherst, though the first two games were decided by one and four points.
"It was an amazing season and I'm really proud of my team," Berube said. "It's not easy to make the Final Four and to do it four years in a row is quite an accomplishment. You keep knocking on that door and one day it will open. Our team will keep fighting and keep working hard. We're excited for the season ahead."
And, yes, she was in Dallas when her alma mater saw its 111-game winning streak and four-year reign as national champion end.
Berube knows what it's like to see an unbeaten season end in a national championship (1995), see an unbeaten season end without a title (1997), and lose in overtime in the national semifinals (1996). Still Morgan William's buzzer-beater in overtime that gave Mississippi State a 66-64 win over UConn at the American Airlines Center hit hard.
"Shock. I can't believe that just happened," Berube said of her original reaction. "But the whole game you were never feeling good about it. Mississippi State really took it to them. They got in their faces and played defense and weren't afraid. They were making plays. But you couldn't believe after all those wins and all those championships that the streak was finally over. But Mississippi State deserved to win.
"I've been on all sides of it."
One side Auriemma never saw in Berube was a future in coaching. Whenever he is asked about his coaching tree, he just about always brings up that the biggest surprise on it is Berube.
Twenty years after the last time she played for him, she'll be wearing a USA shirt on the sidelines during an international competition the way Auriemma did in leading the senior national team to two FIBA world championship and two Olympic gold medals.
"When I was at UConn, I never thought that I would be a coach," Berube said. "I was painfully shy and as a coach you can't be that way. He likes to joke about it because I never said two words. But he also knew that I loved the game and was a thinker of the game and had a pretty good basketball IQ. To actually lead a team and be so vocal, it makes sense he says that. But, hey, here I am. I found my passion."