USC set to honor 1983, '84 championship teams

Cheryl Miller remains among the all-time NCAA women's basketball leaders in scoring and rebounding. Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Rhonda Windham jokes that she’s still got it after 30 years.

“I just don’t use it,” Windham said.

On Sunday at USC’s Galen Center, one of the pioneer teams of modern college women’s basketball will gather to watch its championship banners be raised in USC’s now-6-year-old basketball arena.

The banners mark the USC women’s basketball NCAA championship teams of 1983 and 1984, the second and third titles won in the NCAA era.

The players on those teams are some of the most storied names in the game: Windham, Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, Pam and Paula McGee.

"It's long overdue," said Donna Heinel, USC's senior women's administrator. "We need them to be recognized for the force that they were during that time."

Linda Sharp, the USC coach for 12 seasons and a Women's Basketball Hall of Famer, said she's had people ask her whether those teams could have competed with the Connecticut and Tennessee championship teams that have dominated the landscape since.

"When I look at every position, with these players in their prime, I think we would have competed against any of them," Sharp said. "I had terrific players in every position, high-quality players and then some depth. Cynthia Cooper was coming off the bench, remember. She was instant offense for us. And nobody else had Cheryl Miller."

The Sunday ceremony, which comes at halftime of a key Pac-12 game against No. 6 Cal, will be a reunion of nine of the players who won those championships, the first in 1983 against Louisiana Tech in Norfolk, Va., the second in 1984 against Tennessee in Los Angeles.

Miller is scheduled to attend, as is Windham, who is working at USC as an occupational therapist, and Paula McGee. Pam McGee is unable to make the trip, and Cooper, the head coach at Texas Southern, can’t get the time away from her team.

Sharp said it was current USC coach Michael Cooper's idea for the anniversary reunion and banner-raising ceremony.

"They had us out here for the 25th anniversary when USC was playing Tennessee and that was really nice, but maybe they were waiting for the 30th for the banner," Sharp said.

Heinel said the anniversary is an important event for USC athletics.

"What they did has gotten a little lost the last couple of years," Heinel said. "Women's basketball is very important to us, and we want to embrace them and what they did."

Windham, the team's tenacious point guard who was the general manager for the Los Angeles Sparks later in her career, said the time has flown by.

"There are days when I feel like I should still be out on the court," Windham said. "It was definitely a special time. I remember watching that first NCAA championship game when I was a senior in high school and I made a note to myself that I was going to play in that game, and I was fortunate enough to do it twice. And to win it is a phenomenal feeling."

One that everyone will get to recapture for a moment Sunday at the Galen Center.

"My fondest memory was that we just had a lot of fun," Sharp said. "It seems like yesterday in a lot of respects. We were playing quality basketball, TV was just starting to get involved. ... I like the fact that we were there at the beginning of all of that."