For Staley, A Double Take

By Mel Greenberg
Updated: July 1, 2005

Dawn Staley

Dawn Staley

PHILADELPHIA — Temple women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley joined a select group Wednesday when she received her second John Wanamaker Athletic Award.

Staley, 35, is only the third two-time winner of the award, which has been presented since 1961 to the athlete, team or organization that has done the most to reflect credit on Philadelphia and the sports in which they excel.

The other two were former Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton and and former boxing great Joe Frazier.

Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is a point guard for the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting in the summer. Her Dawn Staley Foundation helps inner-city children here.

The Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented the award during a luncheon in the Wanamaker Building’s Crystal Tea Room.

World B. Free, the ambassador of basketball for the 76ers, received the Philadelphia Sports Congress Community Service Award.

Staley, a Dobbins High graduate who grew up in North Philadelphia, received her first Wanamaker Award in 1997.

“Basketball is truly the thing I love the most,” Staley said. “And for some reason, it just keeps rewarding me and I don’t know why.”

Former WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman and NBA commissioner David Stern each praised her in a videotaped message of congratulations.

Staley won Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and last year, when she was the U.S. flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies in Athens.

She returned to Temple in the fall and led the Owls to their first-ever national ranking (they finished 15th) as well as a 25-game winning streak, which was a school and Big Five record.

Temple earned its second consecutive Atlantic Ten Conference title (and third in four years), and won a first-round NCAA tournament game against Louisiana Tech.

The success translated into coach-of-the-year honors for Staley from her peers in the A-10 and Big Five.

A two-time national player of the year at the University of Virginia in the early 1990s, Staley led the Cavaliers to three straight NCAA Women’s Final Fours.

And as fan balloting for next week’s WNBA All-Star Game in Connecticut was ending last Thursday, Staley was the fourth-leading vote-getter for the Eastern Conference team, whose starters are expected to be named tomorrow.

USA Basketball, the sport’s governing body, named her its female athlete of the year in 2004. It also nominated her last week for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s sportswoman of the year award.

Staley is the only individual woman to win the Wanamaker Award.

The Villanova women’s basketball team was cited in 2003 after the Wildcats ended Connecticut’s NCAA-record 70-game win streak in the Big East Conference title game and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m exceptionally and especially honored,” Staley said of her unique status.

The only place where success has been elusive is in the WNBA. Her Charlotte team, which visits Washington tonight, is mired in last place in the East with a 2-10 record.

“You just have to keep working it,” Staley said. “You have to stay encouraged. I think we have the right tools to be a playoff team. We just have to do it every night, and in this league, anything can happen.”

In 2001, Charlotte got off to a 1-10 start but reached the playoffs with an 18-14 record and advanced to the WNBA Finals, in which it was swept, two games to none, by Los Angeles.