Her likeness has been painted on the side of a building in downtown Philadelphia.
That statement shows the level of prominence that local basketball legend Dawn Staley has attained.
Now she will attempt to use that status to propel the Temple women’s basketball team to a winning season as its coach.
After a one-month search that coincided with the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Philadelphia, Temple announced that Staley would be the new coach.
Her coaching credentials are sparse — actually, she doesn’t have any. But she has a well of basketball experience to draw from.
Staley is the point guard on the gold-medal U.S. National team and on the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting. At that position she has become somewhat of an on-the-court coach.
That is one of the main reasons athletic director Dave O’Brien chose Staley as the next coach of the women’s team.
“I had the opportunity to ask a question about leadership and I asked Dawn in a private meeting whether or not she was a leader,” O’Brien said. “She looked at me with a look and I knew at that point that I was in trouble”
“I’m the point guard on the greatest women’s basketball team in the world,” O’ Brien quoted Staley. “I am their leader – yes, I can lead.”
That was all O’Brien seemed to need to decide that the person to coach the Owls was Staley.
Staley is rooted in Philadelphia. She grew up here in the Raymond Rosen projects minutes from Main Campus. She was the star athlete of a Dobbins Tech high school team that won a girl’s city championship.
For college Staley decided on Virginia, a school that had been recruiting her since middle school. While there she was named a Kodak All-American three times and led her team to the Final Four three times as well.
After college she played for the Philadelphia Rage of the American Basketball League. That league collapsed soon after Staley went to the WNBA.
O’Brien also cites the attention around her as a reason Staley will be coming to Temple.
“We were looking for someone with the ability of calling attention to themselves and therefore Temple University,” O’Brien said, “by their own accomplishments, by their personality or by their charisma.”
Staley replaces five-year coach Kristen Foley. Foley was unable to move the program to a winning record in any of her five seasons.
It’s not because of lack of talent. To Foley’s credit she recruited some fine basketball talent. Last season the team had the freshman talent of Regan Apo, Stacey Smalls and Melissa Dunne. Smalls had 92 assists and 6.8 points per game. Apo looked great off the bench until late season illness and Dunne stepped up when Smalls slipped.
The backcourt, which features Smalls, will be rounded out by Melissa Eagles next year as it was this year. Eagles came on strong at the end of this season ending up third on the team in scoring.
The front court is highlighted by Lisa Jackubowicz and Ieesha Turnage. Jackubowicz was first on the team in scoring and rebounds and is only a sophomore. Turnage is a junior.
Gone from this past season’s team will by Kim Martin and Nicole Chaszar. Chaszar led the team in three-pointers.
Martin was considered the team leader. Even when she slipped toward the middle of the season she was still seen at the end of the bench every game leading the team on.
The team will get two big recruits to join its ranks next year. Christina Cruz, a highly-touted Philadelphia high school recruit, and Christina Hamilton from Coatesville.
Cruz was an academic red-shirt this season. Her involvement next year will help the team tremendously.
And the other thing helping the team tremendously will be Staley’s coaching.
“I have very high expectations for this team,” Staley said. “I want to be the very best, how long that takes no one can put a time on.”
The team has one more scholarship to give this off-season. The addition of Staley will add another dimension for recruiting. The team already has the world-class facilities of the Liacouras Center in its repertoire.
“I think right now I have to draw off my reputation in the game and reputation in the sport,” Staley said of her recruiting methods. “We have to produce wins, and that’s what attracts student athletes to a university.”
In a few years this basketball team will have a chance to be at the top of the Philadelphia women’s basketball scene. This past year they went 0-4 in Big Five play. The leader in Philadlephia right now is St. Joe’s. With the addition of Staley and the future maturing of Jackubowicz, Smalls, Eagles and now Cruz, the team is on the up.
“We will set high goals for ourselves,” Staley said. “I set high goals for myself as a player and it doesn’t stop there — it has become part of my life.”
Staley said it will also become part of her coaching style.
Staley will remain a player with in the WNBA and will compete in the Olympics this fall in Australia. The Olympics last through the beginning of fall basketball practice. Because of her career she will need a large supporting cast.
The Temple team still has to resolve its the need for an assistant coach.
Another WNBA star, Jennifer Rizzotti of the Houston Comets, is the coach at the University of Hartford. She knows the importance of assistant coaches.
“I’m sure she’ll surround herself with a strong staff,” Rizzotti told the Inquirer’s Mel Greenberg. “It’s a lot of work, but if you love what you do, it shouldn’t be hard. Besides, you know how point guards love challenges.”
Tonya Cardoza is a former teammate of Staley’s from Virginia. She has been mentioned, according to a Greenberg article in the Inquirer, as a possible assistant for Staley. Currently, she is an assistant with the national-champion University of Conneticut Huskies.
“I plan to talk to a lot of people,” Staley said about finding assistants, “But this has come so fast that I haven’t been able to talk to everyone that I wanted to talk to. I think the key is to bring some assistant coaches in. I know that I have to organize my time and make it work. I’ll have my cake and eat it too.”