Dawn Staley life and biography

Dawn Staley picture, image, poster

Dawn Staley biography

Date of birth : 1970-05-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-06-21
Credited as : Basketball player-coach Virginia team, Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, member of USA Basketball Executive Committee

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Dawn Staley (also known as: Dawn Michelle Staley) born May 4, 1970 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States is an American basketball player and coach.

Dawn Staley made a name for herself as a one of the keenest passers in women's basketball. Once, according to Sports Illustrated, she told her high school coach that "I get more pleasure from a pass than from a basket," and she turned into one of the great passers in the women's game. She became a collegiate and professional basketball star, Olympic gold medalist, coach, subject of a seven-story mural, and creator of an after-school program dedicated to improving the lives of girls in her North Philadelphia neighborhood. Put together all the descriptions that might be applied to Dawn Staley, and they add up to a single word: leader.

Staley was born in Philadelphia on May 4, 1970. She grew up in a two-parent household with four older siblings, but the atmosphere of her family's housing project was bleak. "I grew up in a decent environment," she told Douglas S. Looney of Sports Illustrated. But then she added, "Well, not decent. Really, it was bad. But you can learn a lot from a bad environment." To stay out of trouble she started spending time on playgrounds with her three older brothers, and she found she could hold her own on the court with bigger, older boys, delivering lightning-quick passes to her teammates. "My advice to girls is to play against the guys," she told Looney. "That gave me the heart to play against anybody. I'm glad they were rough. Guys seem to be born with basketball skills. Girls have to work to develop those skills." At five feet, six inches, Staley had to overcome more than just being a girl. She was considered small, even for a guard, so she worked hard to make her skills on the court make up for anything she lacked in height.

Staley's talent showed when she took the court for the Dobbins Vo-Tech High School Lady Mustangs. She averaged 33.1 points per game over her three-year high school career, during which time the team lost only one game and took three Philadelphia public high school city championships. Staley was named USA Today's national high school player of the year. After receiving hundreds of letters and phone calls from University of Virginia women's basketball coach Debbie Ryan, Staley enrolled at Virginia. By the time she graduated in 1992, she had led the Virginia team to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and three appearances in the "Final Four" semifinal round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship tournament. In 1991 and 1992 she was the NCAA player of the year.

With no women's professional leagues in operation in the United States, Staley joined a team in Segovia, Spain, for the 1992-93 season. She also played in Italy, Brazil, and France before returning to the United States and joining a USA Basketball team that played in the Goodwill Games and in world basketball championships. Her participation on these teams earned her the honor of being named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year in 1994. The following year, she opted to take a pay cut to $50,000 in order to stay with USA Basketball and join the 1996 U.S. Olympic basketball team. The decision resulted in the first of three gold medals for Staley (she gave her medal to her mother, whom she called the biggest influence in her life). Her Olympic debut also brought her to the attention of American basketball fans for the first time, and she quickly proved to be a fan favorite. She signed an endorsement contract with Nike athletic shoes, which sponsored a seven-story mural of her in downtown Philadelphia. "I had to go out and sneak a peek the night before [the official unveiling]," Staley told Vicki Michaelis of the Denver Post. "I had to take a taxi to go see it."

In the fall after the Olympics, Staley began playing for the Richmond (Virginia) Rage of the new American Basketball League (ABL). The Rage made the finals in the league's championship series in 1997 thanks partly to Staley's double-digit scoring, and she was twice named an ABL all-star. She moved with the Rage to Philadelphia for the 1997-98 season, increasing her popularity in her hometown even more. But the ABL folded in 1998, and Staley was drafted by the Charlotte Sting of the rival Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Joining the Sting in 1999, she averaged 11.5 points per game and ranked third in the league in assists en route to the team's second-place finish in the WNBA Eastern Conference.

Staley was part of the "Dream Team" that won the 2000 Olympic gold medal, and she had another strong season in Charlotte. Other players would have rewarded themselves with vacation time after these accomplishments, but Staley was just getting started. She directed the activities of the Dawn Staley Foundation, which sponsored after-school sports programs at Philadelphia's Hank Gathers Recreation Center--where Staley had gotten her own start. And she made another contribution to athletic life in her hometown when she became head women's basketball coach at Temple University for the 2000-01 season.

The Temple coaching job marked a new maturity in Staley's personality, both on and off the court. As a player at Virginia, she had characterized herself as anti-social and was known for spending time in her room, watching the same movie (Dirty Dancing and later About Last Night) over and over. Before taking the reins at Temple, Staley had never coached anywhere, at any level. Yet now she talked easily with reporters about plans for the team, and, more importantly, she got results. The Temple squad, which hadn't had a winning season since 1989-90, notched a record of 19 wins and 11 losses in Staley's first season as coach. The team went to the NCAA championship tournament in three of her first five years. Staley won several coaching honors, and as of early 2006 Temple was ranked among the top 20 women's basketball teams in the country.

Staley returned for her third Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004. She came home with her third gold medal and a memory of carrying the American flag during the Olympics' opening ceremonies. "The reason I'm here is to help the U.S. win its third straight gold medal and to teach the younger players how to do it again," she told Kelli Anderson of Sports Illustrated. Staley's own professional career was winding down, but even as she was traded to the Houston Comets in 2005 she emerged as a leader in the team's stretch drive. She was signed to the Comets for the 2006 season. Continuing to coach at Temple, she was just beginning a new chapter in her remarkable career of basketball leadership: her name came up as a potential coach of the U.S. Olympic women's team in 2008 or 2012.


Born on May 4, 1970, in Philadelphia, PA Education: University of Virginia, BA, rhetoric and communications, 1992. Memberships: Selected: USA Basketball Executive Committee.


Selected: NCAA National Player of the Year, 1991, 1992; USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, 1994, 2004; Olympic gold medals, 1996, 2000, 2004; All-ABL team, 1997-98; American Red Cross Spectrum Award, 1998; Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, 2001, 2002, 2005; Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Region 1 Coach of the Year, 2005; WNBA All-Star team, three-time member.


Professional basketball guard, teams in Segovia, Spain, 1992-93; in Italy, France, Brazil, and Spain, 1993-94; in Tarbes, France, 1994-95; U.S. Olympic team, player, 1996, 2000, 2004; Richmond Rage, American Basketball League, player, 1996-97; Rage, Philadelphia (team moved), player, 1997-98; Charlotte Sting, Women's National Basketball Association, player, 1999-2005; Dawn Staley Foundation, founder, late 1990s; Temple University, head women's basketball coach, 2000-; Houston Comets, player, 2005-.

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