Ex-WNBA president first female to lead Olympic hoops

Updated: March 22, 2005, 9:28 PM ET

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Val Ackerman, founding president of the WNBA, became the first female president of USA Basketball on Tuesday.

The announcement was made Tuesday by the USA Basketball Board of Directors.

Ackerman resigned as WNBA president, effective last month.

An attorney and former college and pro player, Ackerman succeeds NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt as USA Basketball president through 2008.

"I am honored and excited to assume this position," Ackerman said. "I look forward to working with the USA Basketball Board of Directors and staff to build on the longstanding success of the organization's competitive programs and to find new ways to continue the growth of the game of basketball."

Ackerman was the driving force behind the creation of the historic 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team program that culminated with a 60-0 record and the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Ackerman was entrusted with the guardianship of the WNBA, which was conceived by NBA commissioner David Stern and fellow league executives in 1996.

During Ackerman's tenure, the WNBA grew from eight to 16 teams before contracting to its current 13; ran the rival ABL out of business; built corporate partnerships with product giants such as Coca-Cola; and gave girls everywhere the same dreams as boys of playing pro sports.

The WNBA has games televised nationally on ABC, ESPN2 and Oxygen. With strong support in New York and Los Angeles and growing interest in Detroit and Seattle, the league has averaged 9,300 fans per game over eight seasons.