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Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


Dawn Staley Named Russell Athletic/WBCA Region 3 Coach of the Year

One of eight finalists now eligible to receive the Pat Summitt Trophy for the National Coach of the Year

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley received the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA NCAA Division I Region 3 Coach of the Year, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced today. She and the other seven regional winners are now finalists for the inaugural Pat Summitt Trophy to be presented to the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year, which will be announced on Mon., Apr. 7. Staley is the first South Carolina coach to earn the award.

Staley is leading the Gamecocks in one of the best seasons in school history as South Carolina claimed both its first SEC regular-season championship and first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed. The team’s 29 wins this season are the second more in school history, and the Gamecocks will play in their second NCAA Sweet 16 in the last three seasons. Ranked as high as fourth in the nation this season – the highest mark since Jan. 1982, South Carolina has enjoyed 13 weeks among the nation’s top 10, including four ranked among the top five.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley took the reins of the University of South Carolina women’s basketball program on May 10, 2008, instantly raising the Gamecocks’ presence in both the Southeastern Conference and the national stage. In the last two seasons, the Gamecocks have started to meet those expectations, posting back-to-back 25-win seasons and reaching the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade (2011-12). It was Staley’s first Sweet 16 spot as a head coach after competing in three Final Fours as a player. In 13 years as a head coach, Staley has amassed a 264-144 record, including her 92-64 slate in five seasons at South Carolina. She has led her teams to eight 20-win seasons and a total of 10 postseason appearances (two WNIT).

While her career has turned to coaching, Staley continues to be 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 five seasons, Staley has coached nine All-SEC selections, four SEC All-Freshman team selections, an SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an Associated Press SEC Rookie of the Year. South Carolina’s back-to-back 25-win seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13) tied the school record for highest win total since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season. The Gamecocks have won more SEC games than the season before in each of Staley’s last four seasons, and her 82 overall wins in the last four seasons marks the most successful four-year stretch in the SEC era. She has helped the Gamecocks to two of the program’s three top-four finishes in the SEC.

Staley’s 2012-13 team posted a 25-8 record for the fourth-best winning percentage (.758) in school history, second highest in the SEC era. The season’s 11 SEC wins are a school record, and that team’s final ranking of 17 by the Associated Press was the program’s highest since closing out the 2002-03 season at No. 16. The Gamecocks’ run into the 2012 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and their 25 wins earned Staley Female Coach of the Year honors from Black Coaches and Administrators. In her second season at South Carolina, Staley saw her team lift its SEC record from 2-12 to 7-9, the largest one-season percentage jump for the Gamecocks since the 2005-06 group turned a 2-12 mark the previous season into a 7-7 league slate. Staley’s team continued that trend with an 8-8 SEC record in 2010-11, which put them in a tie for fifth in the league. In 2009-10, South Carolina posted three wins over nationally-ranked teams for the first time since the 2002-03 season, during which the Gamecocks were also ranked for most of the campaign.

In her first coaching position, she 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.

“A lot of people think that X’s and O’s are the biggest part of coaching, but it’s actually very little,” Staley said. “It’s about relationships and discipline. I truly believe that the disciplined person can do anything, so I try to set up a platform on which student-athletes can be disciplined. With that, I want to build a family atmosphere that includes both the staff and the student-athletes. Once those things are in place, the basketball part becomes very easy because everyone wants to win for each other. We want to work for one another; we want to prepare people to be successful.”

Staley carried that philosophy to USA Basketball as well where she was a member of the women’s staff from February 2006 through the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where the United States won its fourth-straight Olympic gold medal. She helped the team to a gold medal at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship in Chile to qualify for the 2008 Olympics after the team won bronze at the FIBA World Championship in 2006. Staley served as the head coach at the 2007 Pan American Games where the U.S. won its first gold medal since 1987 and served as an assistant coach for the silver medal winning team in the Good Luck Beijing Tournament, held in Beijing, China in April 2008. Staley also served as the USA Select Team Court Coach with her former head coach Debbie Ryan in the summer of 2010.

“USA basketball has always been like utopia for me because it creates an environment where it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done personally in your career,” Staley said. “You set all of that aside for one common goal, and that is to win a gold medal. To be part of the coaching staff there now feels like the natural progression for me. I’ve given a lot to USA Basketball, and USA Basketball has given a lot back to me. I would do anything to ensure that our country is successful, because other countries are catching up. It’s in my blood to be part of USA Basketball.”

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’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.

“When I was standing on the podium receiving my gold medal, I got a vision of young people who are less driven, who think that their opportunities to succeed are bleak,” Staley said. “I try to equate it to the things I’ve gone through growing up in the housing projects of Philadelphia. I want those young people to feel what I’m feeling, because it’s an incredible feeling to be able to realize your dream. There is no better feeling in the world than to accomplish something you worked so hard for and the people told you that you couldn’t do just because of the color of your skin or the place you grew up or maybe just bad luck.”

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.

“Being asked to carry the flag into the opening ceremony caught me off guard,” Staley admitted. “It’s not something I ever dreamt of or aspired to do, but it was so meaningful. It was such a prestigious thing to be able to do. I believe that if you live right and try to do the right things, things will happen to you that will catch you off guard but that are so gratifying for you. Being chosen to carry the flag for the whole United States team is one of those moments in the story of my life.”

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 through individual appearances, the work of the Dawn Staley Foundation and in encouraging her teams to pursue community services opportunities. A spokesperson for the American Health Association, Staley directs a bulk of her service commitments through The Dawn Staley Foundation, which is aimed at giving inner-city children positive input. In the after-school programs sponsored by the foundation, participants experience a three-hour focus on academics and athletics at the Hank Gathers Recreation Center. The foundation also organizes summer leagues as well as fund-raising activities.

“It is important for me to give back because I have been given so much,” Staley said. “I am blessed, and I want to share my vision. I want to share my hope with people who are under-privileged and think they can’t be successful with what they have. I was given some God-given talent to play basketball, but I think everyone has God-given talent to do something. It is important to help young people figure out what that is.”

Local and national organizations have recognized her commitment to giving back. She 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 Capsule

Coaching Experience • 264-146 (.644) – 13 seasons
South Carolina, head coach 2008-present
• 92-66 (.582) – five seasons
• Two NCAA Tournament appearances, 2013, 2012 (Sweet 16)
• One Women’s NIT appearance
• 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, Select Team Court Coach, Summer 2010
USA Basketball, senior national team assistant coach, 2006-08
• Beijing Olympics gold medal, 2008
• FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, 2007
• FIBA World Championship bronze medal, 2006
Playing Experience
Houston Comets, WNBA, 2005-06
• Two-time All Star, 2005, 2006
• WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, 2006
Charlotte Sting, WNBA, 1999-2005
• Three-time All-Star, 2001, 2002, 2003
• WNBA All-Decade Team
• WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, 1999
• WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, 1999
Richmond/Philadelphia Rage, ABL, 1997-98
• Two-time All-Star, 1997, 1998
Various international teams, 1992-94
USA Basketball, 1994-2004
• Three-time Olympic gold medalist, 1996, 2000, 2004
• Two-time USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, 1994, 2004
• Flag bearer for the United States in Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, 2004
• Goodwill Games Most Valuable Player, 1994
University of Virginia, 1989-92
• Three-time Kodak All-American, 1990, 1991, 1992
• Honda-Broderick Cup Award for Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year, 1991
• Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, 1991
• Two-time ACC Player of the Year, 1991, 1992
• NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, 1991
• ACC Rookie of the Year, 1989
• One of three UVa players to have her jersey retired Dobbins Tech, 1985-89
• USA Today National High School Player of the Year, 1988

Other Notables
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2013
Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2012
Named to WNBA’s Top 15 as one of most influential players in league history, 2011
Virginia Sports Hall of Fame inductee, 2008
Two-time Wanamaker Award winner, 1997, 2005
Henry P. Iba Citizenship Award Female recipient, 2007
NCAA Division I “Top Players of the Past 25 Years” selection by
Institute for International Sport “The 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America” selection

Bachelor of arts in rhetoric and communication studies, University of Virginia, 1992

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