After Dawn Staley and the United States women’s basketball team won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics last month, she did cartwheels around the court.
Before she did that she stole a flag from men’s Olympic basketball star Vince Carter and draped it over herself as she was about to get her second Olympic gold medal.
That was long ago and far away, on Sept. 30, all the way across the globe, down under in Australia.
The next day, Staley, Temple’s new women’s basketball coach, was on a plane coming back to Philadelphia.
Philly always has been Staley’s hometown. She grew up in the Raymond Rosen projects near Temple and was a fan of Temple’s basketball program during her childhood. Her love of basketball helped her become one of the best high school players in Philadelphia history at Dobbins Tech. She carried on at the University of Virginia and now in the WNBA with the Charlotte Sting.
Her true love may be playing the game, but now she gets to coach it. Staley took over for Kristen Foley after last season’s 10-18 finish.
Being an Olympic athlete, Staley has something that the players on the team can look up to. There’s also something they can touch in the gold medal Staley brought home.
“Everyone doesn’t get an opportunity to see a gold medal in their lifetime,” Staley said. “It’s more, since we play the same sport, a surprise for them. I don’t know if any of them have dreams to be an Olympian, but they look at is as if they’re a part of it.”
The gold medal, says Staley, symbolizes hard work and how it leads to great things.
As a coach, that’s the mentality that Staley is bringing to North Broad. When she met with players after she was given the job, she told them to work out over the summer and come to practice prepared.
The players had no idea what was in store for them when practice started on Oct. 14.
Instead of afternoon practices and players prancing around and relaxing, Staley started things off with 6 a.m. practices and running–lots of running.
“It builds character,” Staley said. “I don’t know if they (ever) ran as much as they ran in the last few weeks.”
Players, some who hadn’t conditioned themselves in the off-season, have been forced to push themselves to the max. If men’s coach John Chaney’s practices have become synonymous with the term ‘early morning’–Chaney is known for his daily 6 a.m. practices–Staley’s have become synonymous with running.
“The most important thing with them running is I didn’t see anybody giving up,” Staley said. “Nobody’s stopping. They see what we (the coaches) see.”
Staley has the team running so that she can implement her new game plan for the Owls. Instead of a half-court offense like the team used last season, Staley is hoping to open things up and go full-court.
“Right now they’re just trying to find their way,” Staley said. “It’s a new system; we have a different approach to the game. Nobody has the feel of the system yet.”
Staley has learned, through years of being coached as one of the very best female point guard in the world, that some things make her mad and tired. These things have led to her success.
“These are things I draw on when I’m coaching,” Staley said. “What are the things that made me mad, tired, exhausted. Is this necessary? As I see it for them, I think it is necessary.”
Staley also has begun to instill a sense of charity in her new team. Staley has her own foundation in Philadelphia which gives inner-city kids positive things to do, like after-school programs, summer basketball leagues and fund-raising activities.
A few weeks ago, Staley and the team made an appearance at one of these events. Some players on the team spent four hours at the event volunteering for the community.
“At this point in my life I’m affecting kids’ lives on a daily basis,” Staley said. “I want to see them as better people and better players.”
**Temple’s season starts with an exhibition game against a team from Norway on Nov. 8 at the Liacouras Center. Check out a full preview of the Temple women’s basketball next week in the Temple News.