The rumors were out there.
Several high-profile colleges – including Texas and Florida – would need to find a new women’s basketball coach during the offseason and Dawn Staley’s name was being thrown into the mix of candidates who could potentially fill one of those openings.
Staley’s contract with Temple was set to expire in July. But, in the end, both sides weren’t going to wait until the middle of the summer to hammer out a deal that would keep the Philadelphia-native on North Broad Street.Nine days after the Owls’ season ended with a loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament, Staley reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension to remain the women’s basketball coach, Director of Athletics Bill Bradshaw announced Thursday.
The deal will keep Staley at Temple until the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season.
Details outside the extension’s length were not disclosed.
Junior Lady Comfort, who was aware that Staley’s contract with Temple was ending, said, “I never thought about her leaving.”
“It never crossed my mind,” Comfort said. “I’ve always thought that she would be at Temple forever. I’ve always thought that she would be an Owl.”
Comfort said she was more surprised about the length of the extension.
“I didn’t think the renewal was going to be for six years,” she said. “But I’m glad, because six years is a long time and she deserves it. And I know she’s probably happy about it too.”
Staley, 37, has compiled a 151-67 record during her seven seasons as the Owls’ coach. She has led the Owls to four Atlantic Ten Conference Championships and five NCAA Tournament appearances. The two-time A-10 Coach of the Year has also led Temple to four consecutive Big 5 titles and a current 14-game winning streak in the city series.
“Dawn has made Temple one of the top women’s basketball programs in the nation, and she has done it the right way,” Temple President Ann Weaver Hart said.
Staley has coached the last three A-10 Players of the Year, in current WNBA forward Candice Dupree (2005, 2006) and outgoing senior Kamesha Hairston (2007). A 1988 graduate of Philadelphia’s Murrell
Dobbins Tech, Staley is considered one of the greatest players in women’s basketball
history. She earned back-to-back National
Player of the Year awards at Virginia and was named to five WNBA All-Star teams, in addition to being selected for the league’s All-Decade Team.
Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist
for Team USA, carried the American flag at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 games in Athens.
“Dawn Staley has excelled in every aspect of her life – as a student-athlete, as a professional player, as an Olympian and here at Temple as a head coach,” Bradshaw said in a statement.”She has inspired young women throughout her life, and given back to the community through the Dawn Staley Foundation.
“She is a Philadelphia icon and provides
Temple women’s basketball with an image commensurate with the University’s mission of access to excellence.”
Staley talked about the image of Temple
women’s basketball, which has received more national recognition in recent years, during an off-day press conference after the Owls beat Nebraska in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Anytime you see Temple highlighted in the media, I think we’ve come a long way and I am very proud to see that,” Staley said. “The players that we’ve had in the past have afforded us the opportunity to be here in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time. Our program has really taken some steps in the right direction.”
Comfort, the A-10 Most Improved Player
of the Year, said she attributes her growth on and off the basketball court to Staley.
“She’s done so much for me,” Comfort
said. “I look up to her as a mentor, as a coach and as a friend. She means a lot to me and to women’s basketball.” If Staley had decided to leave Temple, Comfort said she would’ve been “pretty upset.”
“Obviously, I wouldn’t be happy about it at all,” Comfort said. “I might’ve tried to follow her.”Instead, Comfort and the Owls can rest easy. Staley isn’t going to leave home any time soon.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.