By Mike Jensen (Philadelphia Inquirer)
By Chris Trainor (Free Times)
While her coaching career is blossoming, Staley is still recognized for her body of work as a one of the most decorated participants in United States women's basketball history. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame solidified her legacy with her enshrinement into the Hall as part of the Class of 2013. The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia established the Dawn Staley Award recognizing the nation's top guard in women's Division I basketball in 2013 as well. Staley was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012 and was one of the final nominees for induction to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame the same year. In the summer of 2011, the WNBA recognized her as one of the league's "Top 15," honoring the most influential players in the league's history.
At the helm of the Gamecocks over the last six seasons, Staley has been named National Coach of the Year (2014, Basketball Times), Naismith National Coach of the Year Finalist (2014), SEC Coach of the Year (2014, Coaches and AP) and BCA Female Coach of the Year (2012). She has coached an All-American, 12 All-SEC selections, five SEC All-Freshman team selections, an SEC Player of the Year, an SEC Sixth Player of the Year, an SEC Defensive Player of the Year and two SEC Freshmen of the Year. South Carolina's 29 wins in 2013-14 were one shy of the overall school record, breaking the best mark since joining the SEC of 25 set in 2011-12 and tied in 2012-13. The Gamecocks have won more SEC games than the season before in each of Staley's last five seasons, and her 52 SEC victories are more than any other Gamecock coach and account for 44.8 percent of the program's total 116 league wins. She has helped the Gamecocks to three of the program's four top-four finishes in the SEC, including the first regular-season championship in 2013-14.Her 97 overall wins in the last four seasons marks the most successful four-year stretch in program history.
After a humbling beginning to Staley's South Carolina tenure in 2008-09 (10-18, 2-12 SEC), the Gamecocks posted three wins over nationally ranked teams in 2009-10 and lifted their SEC record to 7-9, the largest one-season percentage jump for the program since the 2005-06 group turned a 2-12 mark the previous season into a 7-7 league slate. Staley's postseason debut with South Carolina came the next season as the Gamecocks played into the second round of the 2011 WNIT. The berth was small consolation to a young team that, in late February, had been on track to earn an NCAA Tournament berth after defeating a pair of nationally ranked league opponents and finishing fifth in the SEC.
The tide shifted significantly in 2011-12, as the Gamecocks proved they were odds-beaters in the image of their head coach. Staley rallied a team that had lost its top two scorers to transfer and injury to a 14-2 record through the first week in January. South Carolina sprinted to the end of the season, showing it had learned its lesson of the previous season by closing the regular season with 20 wins with four of those coming over nationally ranked opponents, including the program's first ever win at Tennessee. The Gamecocks pushed their way into the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time in school history, which all but confirmed their place in the NCAA Tournament, where they were unfazed by the pressure of taking down a higher-seeded team on its home court en route to the first Sweet 16 appearance of Staley's coaching career. Ranked No. 25 at season's end, it was the first of three straight seasons with a final national ranking and the program's first since 2002-03. The effort earned Staley Female Coach of the Year honors from Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA).
Staley's 2012-13 team posted a series of new milestones for the program in the SEC era - second-best overall winning percentage (25-8, .758), a school-record 11 SEC victories and the highest final ranking (17 by the Associated Press) the 2002-03 team finished 16th. A loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament suddenly felt unacceptable for the program, and the 2013-14 team immediately set about righting that wrong. Despite their youth - no four-year student-athletes on the roster - the Gamecocks took a 12-1 record into SEC action and proceeded to win its first SEC regular-season championship, which the they celebrated with over 10,000 fans at each of their final two home games of the season. South Carolina had surpassed its win total of the previous to seasons before the regular-season had even finished and spent four weeks ranked among the top five teams in the nation (AP), peaking at No. 4 to match the program's highest ranking since Jan. 10, 1982. The Gamecocks dominated the league postseason awards, as Staley's first SEC Coach of the Year recognition joined a chorus of others - the second sophomore to earn SEC Player of the Year honors in league history and the first SEC Freshman of the Year to also earn another of the highest individual honors with SEC Co-Sixth Player of the Year. The team experienced yet another program first when it earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Gamecocks advanced to the Sweet 16 before their historic season ended - a new standard clearly set for the future.
In her first coaching position, Staley helped Temple reach the postseason seven times in her eight seasons on the bench, including six NCAA Tournament appearances. The Owls posted 20 or more wins in a season six times, collected the first A-10 Tournament title in school history in Staley's second season (2002) and captured the program's first national ranking. The Owls became just the second team in A-10 history to collect three straight conference tournament titles, winning the event in 2004, 2005 and 2006, as well.
With a 172-80 record, Staley left Temple as the winningest coach in its women's basketball history and was the fastest to reach 100 victories. En route to that .683 winning percentage, Staley earned WBCA Region 1 Coach of the Year honors in 2005, was twice named A-10 Coach of the Year (2004, 2005), and guided the team to a share of the regular-season A-10 title in 2007-08. She built that success on a foundation of discipline and caring.
Staley has carried that coaching philosophy to USA Basketball, where her presence on the coaching staff has become as ubiquitous as it was on the court for nearly a decade beginning in 1994. In 2014, she had dual roles with the organization, serving as the head coach of the 2014 USA U18 National Team, which she led to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas Championship, and as an assistant coach of the 2014 USA World Championship Team - helping the U.S. reel in another gold medal.
In a coaching tenure with USA Basketball that began in 2006, Staley has thrived both in the head chair and as an assistant. Her first coaching role on a national team level was with the 2006 USA World Championship Team, and, following that team's success, she was asked to stay with the team through the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The U.S. won its fourth-straight Olympic gold medal - all with Staley involved in some capacity - that year. In between those two events, she helped the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship in Chile. While she worked with the Senior National Team, Staley also took on a head coaching role for the 2007 USA Pan American Games Team, leading the college players to a perfect 5-0 record and a gold medal against more veteran international squads. Prior to her most recent appointment, Staley was named the USA Select Team Court Coach with her former college head coach Debbie Ryan in the summer of 2010.
As a player, success came early in Staley's career, beginning with being named USA Today's National High School Player of the year in 1988 as a senior at Dobbins Tech. She went on to a four-year career at the University of Virginia that featured three trips to the NCAA Final Four, including a championship game appearance in 1991 after which she was named Most Outstanding Player. A two-time National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) and three-time Kodak All-American (1990, 1991, 1992), Staley was the ACC Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992 and the league's Rookie of the Year in 1989. Finishing her career as the only player in ACC history to record more than 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, 700 assists and 400 steals, Staley is one of three players at Virginia to have her jersey retired. She was named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary Women's Basketball Team in 2002 and earned a spot on ESPN.com's "Top Players of the Past 25 Years." In April 2008, she was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
On the international scene, Staley made her first appearance in a USA Basketball uniform as a member of the 1989 Junior World Championship Team and 15 years later played her final international game after helping the organization to a 196-10 record. Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 highlight her collection of 10 gold medals and one bronze on the world stage.
Staley was also on two FIBA World Championship gold-medal teams (1998, 2002). Twice named USA Basketball's Female Athlete of the Year (1994, 2004), Staley counts carrying the U.S. flag in front of the United States delegation in the 2004 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony among her most gratifying moments on the international stage.
Following the 1996 Olympic Games, Staley joined the Richmond Rage of the ABL, one of two women's basketball professional leagues started in the wake of USA Basketball's success on the world stage. After two all-star seasons with the organization, she switched leagues, signing with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting in 1999. Including the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Houston Comets, Staley played in the WNBA All-Star game five times and was the first player in league history to represent both the East and West teams during her career. A member of the WNBA's All-Decade Team, as selected by a panel of national and WNBA-market media as well as the league's players and coaches, Staley twice earned the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (1999, 2006) and won the WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award in 1999. Following her retirement from the league, the WNBA began awarding the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award in 2007, honoring the player who best exemplifies the characteristics of a leader in the community in which she works or lives.
Staley lives that mantra daily not only through individual appearances and in encouraging her teams to pursue community services opportunities, but also through co-founding INNERSOLE. After creating The Dawn Staley Foundation in Philadelphia, which was aimed at giving inner-city children positive input through after-school programs, Staley was eager to find a way to fill a need in her new hometown. She continued to invest time with various projects in Columbia, but found that she craved one hallmark initiative that could provide sustained assistance and create lasting change in one of your favorite constituencies - children. In July 2013, Staley found that in the creation of INNERSOLE, which aims to provide new sneakers to children who are homeless and children who are in need. Remembering the feeling of confidence and pride she felt as a child whenever she wore new sneakers, Staley initially launched the organization via social media, and her broad network of friends, fans and colleagues immediately leapt into action. Shoes poured in from all around the country, and a movement was born.
Local and national organizations have recognized Staley's commitment to giving back, most recently in 2013 when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley tabbing her to receive the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor from the governor bestowed on those who have displayed significant achievement and service to the state. Staley has twice been presented the Wanamaker Award (1997, 2005), presented annually to the athlete, team or organization that has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and to the team or sport in which he/she excels. She is the only individual woman to ever win the award and joins Joe Frazier and Steve Carlton as the only individuals to capture the honor twice. In 2007, the Rotary Club of Tulsa named Staley its female recipient of the Henry P. Iba Citizenship Award, which is presented annually to the male and female athlete who has excelled in both their sport and their service to others.
Staley was honored by the University of Virginia Women's Center in 2006 with the Center's Distinguished Alumna Award, which honors a female graduate of the University who has demonstrated excellence, leadership and extraordinary commitment to her field and who has used her talents as a positive force for change. The University further recognized Staley's standing in the community when it asked her to give the valedictory address at the 2009 Valedictory Exercises.
The Staley CapsuleCoaching Experience 293-151 (.660) - 14 seasons
South Carolina, head coach 2008-present
121-71 (.630) - six seasons
Three NCAA Tournament appearances, 2012 (Sweet 16), 2013, 2014 (Sweet 16)
One Women's NIT appearance
SEC Regular-Season Championship, 2014
Naismith National Coach of the Year Finalist, 2014
Basketball Times National Coach of the Year, 2014
WBCA Region 3 Coach of the Year, 2014
SEC Coach of the Year, 2014
BCA Female Coach of the Year, 2012
Temple University, head coach, 2000-08
172-80 (.683) - eight seasons
Six seasons of 20 or more wins
Four Atlantic 10 Tournament titles
Six NCAA Tournament appearances, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
One Women's NIT appearance, 2001
WBCA Region 1 Coach of the Year, 2005
Two-time Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year, 2004, 2005
USA Basketball, U18 National Team head coach, 2014
FIBA U18 Americas Championship gold medal, 2014
USA Basketball, Select Team Court Coach, Summer 2010
USA Basketball, senior national team assistant coach, 2006-08, 2014
FIBA World Championship gold medal, 2014
Beijing Olympics gold medal, 2008
FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, 2007
FIBA World Championship bronze medal, 2006