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Can USA Gymnastics be trusted with CEO hire?

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 2/19/2019 Christine Brennan
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USA Gymnastics has done it again. For the third time in less than two years, the beleaguered national governing body has hired a president and CEO.

Now the question is: will she last?

My goodness, let’s hope so. The previous president and CEO, Mary Bono, made it just four days.

Enter Li Li Leung, a former competitive gymnast who is the NBA’s vice president for global partnerships. She was named Tuesday morning as USA Gymnastics’ new leader, a position that has to be the most challenging job in all of sports.

Newcomer: USA Gymnastics names Li Li Leung new president and CEO

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"It breaks my heart to see the state that the sport is in today,” Leung told reporters on two conference calls throughout the day. “It compelled me to step forward. We can do better for the community and the sport. … This is much more than a job. This is a personal calling.”

Presuming everything goes as planned, Leung will be the person directing the organization through a jaw-dropping minefield of problems.

With the next Olympic Games now less than a year and a half away, USA Gymnastics has lost all of its sponsors and declared bankruptcy. It also is facing decertification from the U.S. Olympic Committee and numerous lawsuits from the survivors of Larry Nassar’s horrors.

And someone actually took this job? Talk about your sports upsets.

The down side of this job is, well, everything. The up side is simple: there’s nowhere to go but up. If Leung succeeds, she will have rescued a high-profile national organization from the darkest place any U.S. governing body has ever been. One can only imagine the job offers she will have then.

But first, there’s the not insignificant task of lifting what is arguably America’s most popular Olympic sport out of the ashes.

Leung said she has spoken with USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, who has been closely monitoring the mess at USA Gymnastics since she took over the USOC in August.

The first order of business for both is to resolve the USOC’s effort to decertify USA Gymnastics. It’s hard to imagine Leung leaving a high-profile job at the NBA without some sort of assurance that she would be leading the actual gymnastics national governing body. Were USA Gymnastics to be decertified, Leung would be president and CEO of nothing.

“Both sides are committed to work closely to resolve decertification,” Leung said, adding she was “very positive” things would be worked out.

In a statement, Hirshland expressed hope and optimism at Leung’s hiring.

“American gymnasts deserve the support of a world-class organization and securing top-level management is one of the most important aspects of USA Gymnastics’ way forward,” she said. “Li Li Leung is an accomplished professional, a former gymnast herself, and committed to transforming the culture of the sport. I’m very hopeful that Li Li’s combination of experience and desire to lead will be a positive force for change in the lives of gymnasts all over the country.”

It’s day one and everyone is saying the right things. Optimism reigns. But when an organization is on its fourth president and CEO in 23 months, the first reaction to any news like this, even something so promising, should be muted and cautionary.

Simply put, let’s wait and see.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can USA Gymnastics be trusted with CEO hire?

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