Despite her seven years at the helm of the Temple women’s basketball team, Dawn Staley is the rookie on the U.S. senior national women’s basketball team coaching staff.
The 37-year-old, three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner is the youngest member of a staff that includes Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan, Texas coach Gail Goestenkors and Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault.
“I take it all in,” said Staley, who is one of Donovan’s three assistant coaches. “I like to hear how coaches strategize and what’s important to them.”
The U.S. senior national women’s basketball team held two practices in Staley’s backyard, the Liacouras Center, last week. The team will compete in the FIBA Americas Championship for Women, which starts on Sept. 26 in Valdivia, Chile.
In July, Staley coached the U.S. women’s team to a gold medal at the Pan American games. Unlike that squad, which consisted entirely of college players, the U.S. national team’s roster includes a mix of players from both the collegiate and professional ranks.
A couple of players, including Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets and Washington Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, competed with and against Staley in the WNBA.
“It’s everything I expected it to be,” Milton-Jones said about how it feels to be coached by Staley. “Dawn is a class act. She’s always been professional whether it was as a player or now as a coach. She’s someone that I always keep on my speed dial.”
Younger players on the team who grew up watching Staley now have an opportunity to meet the five-time WNBA All-Star.
“She’s an icon of women’s basketball,” said Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins. “She’s just huge.”
Wiggins, 20, said she first noticed Staley when she played on the 1996 U.S. women’s basketball team that took home gold in Atlanta.
“I heard about her work ethic, how she would dribble the ball everywhere,” Wiggins said.
After watching her in practice, Wiggins said Staley, who retired from the WNBA in 2006 after seven seasons in the league, is still able to hold her own on a basketball court.
But Milton-Jones said Staley doesn’t need to put on her player hat too often with this team.
“She hasn’t had to do that – yet,” Milton-Jones said. “This is more of an instructional type of setting.”
Staley doesn’t need to lace up her sneakers anymore because she is already established herself as great coach, Wiggins said.
“The way she inspires players is just unique,” she said. “The respect that she receives from her players must help her a lot when she’s coaching. We’re all big fans of her coaching ability.”
“She’s great at communicating with players both, young and old, experience or no experience,” Milton-Jones said. “She’s like a chameleon in a sense.”
Staley said she never gets tired of representing America in international competition, whether its as a player or as a coach.
“USA Basketball is a platform for how I like to see the game of basketball played,” Staley said. “There is an emphasis on the team game in international competition. There is not a whole lot of individual play or selfishness. It’s every player working together as a unit to accomplish one common goal.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.