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May 8, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. – The USO and Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) are again sending top NCAA basketball coaches, including USC Head Coach Dave Odom, and sports personalities on a tour to the Persian Gulf region May 23-29, 2006. During the tour, called “Operation Hardwood II,” the participants will coach military basketball teams featuring the best military players who will compete in a championship tournament.

Odom coached a team in the inaugural Operation Hardwood tour last August, with his team of mostly-South Carolina soldiers making it to the semi-finals. Odom will be joined by two other SEC coaches in Mark Gottfried (Alabama, also making his second trip) and Tubby Smith (Kentucky).

“I am excited, humbled and honored to be included in a select group that will travel to Kuwait to visit and personally thank, on behalf of all Americans, those military men and women serving in the Middle East,” said Odom. “Having gone on the initial tour last summer I know how rewarding the experience will be. It’s a great group of coaches and personalities, one that will be make an enjoyable week of sharing and story telling. I am particularly pleased to be one of three Southeastern Conference coaches asked to participate on the tour.”

Fox Sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden is accompanying “Operation Hardwood” on her 8th USO/AFE tour. Support for Operation Hardwood II is being provided by NIKE.

The tour participants include:

  • Dave Odom, University of South Carolina
  • Rick Barnes, University of Texas
  • Jay Bilas, ESPN commentator and former Duke University player
  • Jim Crews, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
  • Mark Gottfried, University of Alabama
  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State University
  • Billy Lange, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.
  • Bobby Lutz, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • Reggie Minton, NCAA
  • Kelvin Sampson, Indiana University
  • Tubby Smith, University of Kentucky
  • Gary Williams, University of Maryland

Six of the participants – Gottfried, Odom, Lutz, Izzo, Sampson and Bilas – are veterans of Operation Hardwood I and were inspired to become involved again on this year’s tour. This tour continues the USO tradition of bringing professional athletes and sports-related events to troops serving far from home. Last year, NBA Legends Artis Gilmore and Darryl Dawkins visited military personnel serving in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Gilmore, Gail Goodrich, Spencer Haywood and Dan Roundfield also brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Troops in Kuwait last May. NBA Legends and players soon will begin a stateside USO tour, visiting military bases and holding festivals for service members and their families. Tours are sponsored by AT&T, Inc., the official telecommunications sponsor of USO entertainment tours.

About the USO
For 65 years, the USO (United Service Organizations) has been providing morale, welfare and recreational services to U.S. military personnel and their families. The USO is a nonprofit, charitable organization, relying on the generosity of the American people to support its programs and services. The USO is supported by Worldwide Strategic Partners AT&T, BAE Systems North America, Clear Channel Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Military Channel, S&K Sales Co. and TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Other corporate donors, including the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-0600), have joined thousands of individual donors to support the USO. For more information on the USO, please visit