Canada's veteran women's basketball coach would love nothing more than to lead a team out onto the court on sport's greatest stage.
But when Allison McNeill was asked recently what an appearance in the London Olympics would mean to her, she was quick to say that the Games are virtually nothing about her and everything about her players.
"The longer you coach and the more you're around and you see how hard they work, it's not as important to me as it is for them to go," McNeill said. "I want them to go so badly."
The Canadian women open the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament Monday in Ankara, Turkey, in their quest for their first Olympic berth since the 2000 Sydney Games.
Teresa Gabriele of Mission, B.C., is the only holdover from Canada's Sydney squad that finished 10th. Kim Smith of Mission and Chelsea Aubry of Kitchener, Ont., both made their national team debuts a year later. All three endured the heartbreak of failing to qualify for the 2004 and 2008 Games.
"For someone like Teresa and Chelsea and Kim, they've been to two world championships, they stuck through some games where we were just getting hammered, and they've trained so hard and they sort of set the tone of how we would be professional," McNeill said.
No. 11 Canada must finish top-five to earn a spot in London, and is the fourth-ranked team in the tournament. The Canadians face 19th-ranked Mali on Monday, then No. 8 France on Tuesday, and needs only to finish top-two to make the quarter-finals. The quarter-final winners earn an Olympic berth, and the quarter-final losers play off for a fifth spot.
Thus, two victories would secure Canada a ticket to London.
The squad's theme for its Olympic mission is "Win the day," which they came up with the help of sports psychologist Roger Friesen and is written across the back of their practice shirts.
"We have to focus on that day, that game, that execution," McNeill said. "It takes a lot of practice to stay in the moment.
"When we got the draw, we saw we have to win two days, so our thing was to win the day. If we win every day in practice, we bring our best every day, and we play our best, we can do it. I think it's given them a focus."
McNeill has seen her players grow up over the last decade, and believes the team finally has the experience it needs for that Olympic appearance that's been a long time coming.
"You can't go somewhere with girls and beat women," McNeill said. "You have to have some experience and finally we're right there. It's so exciting."
Smith, a first-round WNBA draft pick and all-American at the University of Utah, called this Canadian squad the best she's ever played for.
"We finally have a group of older players as well as the really good up-and-comers," said the six-foot-two forward. "I'm excited. These are going to be the biggest games of my career, so there's definitely nerves. But it's really excited nerves, it's not anxious."
Gabriele, who's 32, and the 28-year-old Smith are taking what might be their last shot at the Games. McNeill estimates anywhere from two to six players could retire after this summer.
"I think it's really exciting," said Gabriele, who starred at Simon Fraser University before playing pro in Spain and Austria. "I think this is the best chance we've had to qualify and with a few of us kind of towards the end of our careers, if not at the end of our career, it's a huge opportunity."
The Canadians failed to earn a London berth at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament last fall, but their third-place finish guaranteed them a spot in the last-chance qualifier in Turkey.
Canada's men's team, which also hasn't made an Olympic appearance since 2000, didn't qualify for the last-chance event.
Canada's only team to qualify for London is women's soccer.