ROGERS PARK — The "legendary" Sheryl Swoopes, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, joined Loyola University to lead its women's basketball team in her first professional coaching gig.
Swoopes stood in front of TV cameras and her new team of young women at a Monday press conference on Loyola's campus to officially announce the move.
"I can't guarantee everything, but I can promise you this: I'm going to give you everything that I have — every single day," Swoopes said to the Ramblers. "Everything I've done and accomplished as a player, it's now time to pass that on to you."
Swoopes said she had contacted Loyola two weeks ago to inquire about the open coaching position following the resignation last month of former head coach Eric Simpson.
Loyola moved fast to offer her the position.
"Sheryl is a born winner," said Loyola's director of athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun. "Losing is not in her vocabulary."
Swoopes, 42, said she had still been debating whether to continue playing following a season with the Tulsa Shock in 2011, the last season she played professional basketball.
"If someone would have approached me three years ago," she said, "my answer would have been no."
But now, she said she's pursuing a "lifelong dream.
"Without a doubt, this is where God wants me," she said.
For Loyola's women's basketball team, the announcement that Swoopes, who's often referred to as the Michael Jordan of women's basketball, was a shock.
Loyola forward Troy Hambric, 20, said she and other team members have always looked to Swoopes as a role model while learning to play the game.
"I think she's going to be a great addition to our team," she said. "To have a legendary coach and player is just amazing."
Swoopes said that although she hasn't played the game in a year, she's ready to pass on years of basketball knowledge and lead a "very good defensive team."
In the past four seasons, the Ramblers finished higher than fifth place just once, with a 57-66 (.463) record. In the 2012-13 season, the team finished with 17-15 record and their first-ever appearance in the title game of the Horizon League championship, according to the team.
Loyola announced last week it had accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference, whose members include Indian State University and Illinois State University.
Swoopes is a four-time WNBA champion, NCAA champion and the first player to be named WNBA Most Valuable Player three times.
Swoopes was also the first woman to have a Nike basketball shoe — Air Swoopes — named after her.