Philadelphia basketball phenomenon Dawn Staley will be coming to Temple as the new coach of the women’s basketball team, Temple athletic director Dave O’Brien announced in a press conference at the Liacouras Center yesterday afternoon.
The position, vacated by former coach Kristen Foley, opened when Foley resigned after the team’s 10-18 season.
“When Temple University was looking for someone to lead their women’s program, their first option was the best athlete, but the best athlete was busy,” Staley said at the beginning of her first public address in her new job. “Their second option was the best scholar, but the best scholar was busy.
“And their last choice was the best looking. I said, ‘What the heck, I can’t turn them down three times.'”
Thus began the Dawn Staley era at Temple.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to come back and coach in my hometown,” she said. “I set high goals for myself as a player… and that will become part of my coaching style.”
Staley mentioned an Atlantic 10 championship, an NCAA Tournament berth and even an NCAA Tournament championship as early aspirations for her Temple women’s basketball program.
Staley, 29, currently plays in the WNBA with the Charlotte Sting. She started her playing days in Philadelphia as a high school star with Dobbins Tech. After high school she went to the University of Virginia where she was named a Kodak All-American three times.
As a player at Virginia from 1989 to 1992, she led the Cavaliers to the Final Four in 1990, 1991 and 1992. She is the NCAA record-holder for career steals and was named National Player of the year in both 1991 and 1992.
A member of the U.S. national team, she also played for the Philadelphia Rage of the American Basketball League, a franchise which played its home games at the arena then known as the Apollo of Temple.
The women’s league went bankrupt after three seasons and bowed to the WNBA. Staley now plays for the WNBA.
Staley brings huge name recognition — especially within the City of Brotherly Love, where a mural on Market Street pays homage to her — to Temple’s ailing program. That recognition will help keep the city’s girls’ high school basketball talent here, though a recent trend has hoops stars shipping out to healthier programs like Rutgers and Penn State.
With the facilities at Temple, the addition of Staley could be a great combination leading to sustained success, something the women’s basketball program hasn’t known for a long time.
Other WNBA players have become college coaches as well. Jennifer Rizzotti of the Houston Comets, for example, coaches the University of Hartford. She was a player with the Connecticut Huskies in college.
Staley is unwilling to give up playing pro basketball. Because of the WNBA’s summer scheduling, coaching would not be out of the question for Staley. But then there is her ambition to continue to play with the national team.
She played on the 1996 women’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. Staley will also compete in the Sydney games this fall. The Olympics go from September 16-30, just before practice starts for the Temple basketball team.