On Dawn Staley’s desk sits a bobblehead figurine of Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach John Chaney. Staley almost had a doll of her own.
But it didn’t pass her test.
“I had one but I didn’t like it,” Staley said. “If they’re going to make it poorly, I don’t need one. Of course, it’s got to meet my approval. You’ve got to put a good product out there.”
As the women’s basketball coach, Staley has stuck to her own advice by putting a good product on the floor of the Liacouras Center. In four seasons, Staley’s teams have claimed only two Atlantic Ten championships in school history. The Owls have made two NCAA tournament appearances under Staley’s guidance and have qualified for the Women’s NIT once.
The reason for the program’s mounting success has everything to do with Staley. Her personal accomplishments as a player significantly improved Temple’s ability to recruit. Staley’s coaching record is evidence of this.
Since her arrival in 2000, she has compiled a 76-49 record, making her the second-winningest coach in the program’s 73-year history. Staley had no prior coaching experience.
This kind of success as a coach, not to mention as a player, has earned her the recognition of her coaching peers.
Because of the A-10’s divisional breakdown, Richmond coach Joanne Boyle gets to see Staley in action just once a season. But Boyle’s relationships with several coaches from the U.S. Olympic team have given her an inside look at Staley’s presence on the floor.
“Some of the assistant coaches on the Olympic team said that out of all the players, Dawn was the one that helped pull that team together through veteran leadership,” Boyle said.
“They would tell me that they didn’t even have to coach for the most part,” she added. “Dawn knew what she was doing on the court.
“Apparently, her coaching career in the A-10 hasn’t slowed her down any. She’s still extremely good with the ball in her hands.”
Staley has won three gold medals. Her most recent came in this past summer’s games in Athens, where she was the U.S. flag bearer in the opening ceremonies. In the eight-game Olympic tourney, Staley averaged 4.1 points and nearly three assists per contest. Her assist-to-turnover ratio (3.83) led all participants.
Outside of the Olympics, Staley has posted impressive numbers in the WNBA. In six seasons as the starting point guard of the Charlotte Sting, Staley has never missed a game.
She became the first woman in professional basketball to register 1,000 assists and regularly leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. She’s also been voted to three WNBA All-Star games.
Staley’s prowess as a player has carried over to her coaching career. She works individually with starting point guard Cynthia Jordan and promising freshman Ashley Morris.
Similar to Staley, Jordan handled the ball well in her first season as a starter, leading the A-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio. Morris, like Staley, is a Philadelphia native who had a dominant high school career in the city’s Public League.
Staley said she hopes her instruction will give her two point guards direction in their time on the floor.
“C.J. usually knows what’s going on out there,” Staley said of Jordan. “I’m going to give Ashley everything I have, when it comes to knowledge of the game. Hopefully she can take what I’m teaching her and surpass some of the achievements I’ve had.”
Staley is almost single-handedly raising the level of competition in the A-10. With three playoff appearances in four seasons, Staley’s teams are putting Temple in the national spotlight.
In this week’s ESPN’s Top 25 poll, the Owls received three votes from a panel of coaches, placing them 40th nationally.
Linda Bruno, the A-10 Commissioner, couldn’t be more satisfied with how well Staley has acclimated herself to coaching.
“Who wouldn’t want to play for her?” Bruno asked. “There are some things that are just intangible. The fact that she’s a great player and is still playing and had the Olympic experience is just an incredible thing. I just don’t know how she does it all.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.