ABOVE PHOTO: Dawn Staley (Photo: Bill Z. Foster)
For newly crowned NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion Dawn Staley, the sky’s the limit.
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Now that the University of South Carolina head coach and Philadelphia basketball legend Dawn Staley finally has that elusive national championship on her mantel, what mountains are there left for her to climb in a sport she’s long dominated?
In the immediate future, Staley would probably tell you that she’s looking forward to another national championship run with her Lady Gamecocks in 2018. With two pivotal members of her national championship team foregoing their senior seasons in favor of the WNBA draft, that might be a challenge. But the best timing about being the coach of a national championship team, is all of the high-profile new recruits you tend to attract.
In the not too distant future, Staley will be the head coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team; another gold medal there will certainly bolster her Hall-of-Fame career.
But at some point, Staley will have done everything possible in the Women’s game. Could she possibly coach in the Men’s game, particularly in the NBA?
I wouldn’t count her out.
While there are plenty of men coaching women’s basketball at both the collegiate and pro level, there are very few women coaching men’s basketball. Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips once coached the men’s team back in 2003. Former collegiate star and WNBA star Becky Hammond is an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs.
But if there was any woman who would do a good job coaching men at either the collegiate or pro level, and be very good at it, it’s Staley.
During her time at Temple, Staley would often have her team practice with former Coach John Chaney’s men’s team. She would often say that going up against the guys would make her teams stronger, something she knows from experience.
Staley’s path to greatness as a Philadelphia basketball icon was forged on the playgrounds of North Philadelphia, where she developed her basketball skills playing against the guys that included the likes of Bo Kimble and the late Hank Gathers, who were both legendary collegiate stars at Loyola Marymount in California. She was a highly-recruited star at Murrell Dobbins Tech.
Before her South Carolina squad made their run through the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Staley told reporters that she believed a woman could coach men at both the collegiate and pro levels if given the opportunity.
“As you can see our game has some incredible coaches,” Staley said last month before her team’s run for the national championship. “I think it’s about opportunity. When given the opportunity you rise to the occasion. Just because there’s a gender involved doesn’t mean that it detracts from what you have cerebrally.”
Staley, already a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said a coaching gig in the NBA would be a huge challenge for her. If she could turn an NBA franchise around and make it a consistent winner, Staley’s status as a great coach in both men’s and women’s basketball would transform into legendary status.
Considering the personalities around the NBA, coaching the guys in the pros might be a bit of a let down because you don’t have the same level of control in the pros that you do at the collegiate level.
Still, Staley says she’s open to it. Just not right now.
“I want to be the best in my profession,” Staley said. “If that’s crossing gender lines and going to the NBA, why not? I’m here to grow. I want to continue to learn. In order to do that, you’re going to have to crossover at some point.”