Breaking Barriers: Dawn Staley – Just last week, Dawn Staley and her South Carolina Gamecocks became the first team ever to defeat Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer, and Kim Mulkey in the same season. Breakthroughs like this are nothing new to Staley. It’s fair to say she’s been breaking barriers all her life. Breaking records, gathering awards, accolades, and “firsts” have been commonplace since she was named National High School Player of the Year in her senior year at Murrell Dobbins Tech in Philadelphia.
Breaking Barriers: Dawn Staley – Player
Staley’s University of Virginia days meant four NCAA Tournaments with three Final Fours and one National Championship game. She was named ACC Athlete of the Year and the Naismith College Player of the Year twice. Though her records have since been broken, she ended her college career as UVA’s top scoring and assist leader, as well as top in career steals. It is no surprise that her number, 24, is retired at UVA.
Staley jumped immediately to professional ball after college. She played overseas before entering the ABL and then the WNBA. For the ABL Richmond Rage, she led the team to the finals in 1997 and was named to the All-ABL first team. After being selected 9th in the WNBA Draft in 1999, Staley played for the Charlotte Sting and then the Houston Comets. She lead both teams to play-off seasons.
Throughout her career, Staley also played a large part on the USA Women’s National Team. From the Junior Team to the World University Games to the Olympics, her presence never went unnoticed. In 1994 and 2004 she was named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year. In three Olympic appearances, Team USA came home with three gold medals. In the 2004 Games, Staley was selected to carry the United States flag in the Opening Ceremonies. In 2008 and 2016 she came home with golds as an assistant coach. As a head coach in the 2020 Games, she came home with one more. That made her the first person to win Olympic basketball gold as a player and head coach.
Breaking Barriers: Dawn Staley – Coach
As if all of that wasn’t enough, in 2000-01, while still playing in the WNBA, Staley took on the head coaching position at Temple University. She took her team to the WNIT in her first season, and in her next three, they qualified for the NCAA tournament. In the 04-05 season with the Owls, Staley became the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in women’s basketball. In 2008, she left Temple with a 172-80 record, six NCAA appearances, three conference championships, and four Atlantic 10 titles.
Staley retired from the WNBA after the 2006 season. In 2011, she was voted by fans as one of the Top 15 players in the 15 year history of the league. She was inducted into the HOF in 2012. In 2020 she became the first former Naismith Player of the Year recipient to earn the Naismith Coach of the Year award.
In May of 2008 Staley took on the head coaching job at South Carolina and began building a program that has become nearly untouchable. They are regularly ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll. The team has reached the NCAA tournament nine times and the Final Four three times. In 2017 they brought home the championship.
Recently, Staley sent a piece of that championship net to every black woman head coach in the country. She hoped to inspire them just as Carolyn Peck did her with a piece of the 1999 net. Staley included a note to each coach that included this sentiment, “So, I pick ALL of you to receive this piece of our 2017 National Championship net in the hope that making our goal tangible will inspire you as it did me, to keep pushing forward and us all to keep supporting each other in our journeys.”
In 2021, Staley became the highest paid black head coach in women’s basketball, an indication that colleges are beginning to invest in women’s programs at a more equitable level. Dawn Staley is a legend. Owning a piece of her legacy in the form of a trading card can’t be anything but a good investment.
Breaking Barriers: Dawn Staley – More Resources
- BasketballReference.com – Dawn Staley
- Beckett Card Catalog – Dawn Staley WNBA Cards
- Dawn Staley on Twitter
- Dawn Staley on Instagram
Breaking Barriers: Dawn Staley – Image Gallery
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