A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Women’s Basketball Superstar Dawn Staley Calls it a Career at Season’s End
WASHINGTON, D.C.–“…And on her farewell tour in the WNBA, at guard, 5 foot 6 from Virginia …Dawn Staley”. The ovation that followed that announcement at Verizon Center when the visiting Houston Comets came to town to face the Washington Mystics was well deserved, and long overdue. Perhaps overshadowed by her teammate Sheryl Swoopes, the league’s reining MVP, or model/hoop goddess Lisa Leslie with the L.A. Sparks, when the greatest players in women’s basketball are named, Dawn Staley is not only in the conversation, but near the top of that list.
A virtual sparkplug of energy and command on the court, Staley is calling it a career at the close of the 2006 WNBA season. Selected by the Charlotte Sting 9th overall in the 1999 WNBA Draft, Staley spent seven seasons with the Sting before being traded to Houston this year for Adrienne Goodson, Kristen Rasmussen, and Houston’s 1st round pick in the 2006 draft.
Staley ranks among the all-time WNBA career leaders in total assists and assists per game, with 1,204 total career assists to start the 2006 season. Staley is a four time WNBA All-Star, having been selected to the team in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005. She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist with the Women’s U.S. Team in 1996, 2000, and 2004. At the Summer Olympics in 2004, Staley lead the U.S. delegation into Olympic Stadium in Athens Greece, having been chosen as our country’s flag bearer.
During her college career at Virginia, Staley was named national player of the year in 1991 and 1992, went to three final fours, and one NCAA Championship game. Staley still holds the ACC record for career assists with 729 and the NCAA record for career steals with 454. In 2000, she launched the Dawn Staley Foundation, designed to help inner city youth in Philadelphia. After a stellar career in the sport, what made Staley decide that this would be her final season?
“I don’t think there was any one thing. It’s just really time for me to do some other things with my life. I’ve given basketball a lot. Now I just want to enjoy being on my time in the summers and sit back and watch some good basketball. The thing I’ll miss most is the competition, being able to affect the game through my play, and not necessarily coaching”, said Staley.
Named the head coach of the Temple University Owls in 2000, Staley has taken her team to one NIT Tournament, and four NCAA Tournaments, helping them capture their first ever national ranking, and was named the A-10 coach of the year in 2004 and 2005.
Van Chancellor, who serves as both head coach and general manager of the Houston Comets, and has coached such stars as Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, and Tina Thompson, loves having Dawn Staley on his team. Also the coach of the 2004 USA women’s Olympic team, Chancellor is as familiar as anyone with what Staley brings to the court. The WNBA’s winningest coach with a record of 193-95 to start the season and a three-time WNBA coach of the year, Chancellor has high praise for his newest star as she continues to light up WNBA courts for one final season.
“When you think about gold medals, college games, the WNBA, the class person that she is and how she conducts herself, I don’t know of anyone, and that’s talking about the all-time greats, that’s talking about every great player that’s ever played, I don’t know that there’s anyone that’s contributed any more to women’s basketball, maybe than Pat Summit. That might be the only person I can think of. As a player, she’s played on every level. Now, she’s contributing as a coach. I just don’t know of anyone that’s contributed any more, and she’s such a joy for me to coach”, said Chancellor.
Poised and confident, Staley isn’t concerned about her legacy in a sport she has given so much to, or the future of the WNBA.
“I think I’ve been a great teammate. I’ve been one that beat the odds. That’s (my legacy in the game) not really for me to define. It’s for others that hopefully, I’ve touched throughout my playing days. As for the decline in attendance, I think it would be alarming, but I think any start up business will ebb and flow. I think that with the talent that’s coming into the league, you’ll see it (the attendance) go back up. I think the younger players, they’re going to be able to play above the rim, and that’s coming. I think that’s what the public wants to see, and they’ll shortly get that”, added Staley.
Washington Mystics star Alana Beard echoes Chancellor’s sentiments about Staley and her impact on women’s basketball.
“You can’t even put into words what Dawn Staley has meant to this game. Her intensity, her tenacity, her leadership on the floor, is unbelievable. When I’m playing against her, I’m taking notes from her when I’m playing, because I hear her talking to her teammates and she gets them focused, she gets them into the game, and that’s what you look at. That’s the type of person you want to look up to and learn from. I was very privileged to have the opportunity to train with her as a coach with the USA team. I took so much from her. She’s just a great person as well as a great player, so it’s a lot of fun being around her”, said Beard.
Does Staley’s have any advice to young women athletes looking to her as a role model?
“I would just like to tell them that a disciplined person can do anything”.