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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | BASKETBALL

Staley Leads a Double Life as Pro Player, College Coach

September 29, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Imagine if, say, Jason Kidd was a Division I coach when he wasn't playing professional basketball.

That's what Dawn Staley is--backup point guard for the U.S. women's basketball team, WNBA player for the Charlotte Sting, and the women's coach at Temple, after getting the job in April.

"I didn't want to just retire from basketball because I think there's plenty of basketball left in me," said Staley, 30, a Philadelphia basketball icon who played at Virginia after being named USA Today's national player of the year at Philadelphia's Dobbins Tech High in 1988.

Last spring, Temple saw the opportunity to grab a star and did: Staley is so beloved in Philadelphia she carried the Olympic torch up the "Rocky" steps at the Museum of Art in 1996.

"When I took the job at Temple, I wanted to be able to continue to play," Staley said. "They agreed to it."

She'll have to scramble--practice starts two weeks after the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and her first game as coach is Nov. 17 against Lehigh.

Staley has been practicing her new craft in Sydney by watching Coach Nell Fortner on the bench as she shares time with Teresa Edwards for the defending gold medalists, who faced South Korea in a semifinal game today. The gold and bronze medal games are Saturday.

"I think I pay attention more to what our opponents are doing and try to make adjustments in my mind, as a coach," said Staley, who plays behind Edwards but leads the team in assists with four a game.

She probably also leads the team in second-guessing, just for practice.

"I think, 'What would I do if I was in Nell's position?' " Staley said. "And I'm more aware of pregame talks and postgame talks."

Staley's schedule means her assistants have to carry the load, and she made a savvy choice when she picked Shawn Campbell, formerly the associate head coach to Debbie Ryan at Virginia, as her top assistant.

Staley trusts Campbell because she played for him in college, when Virginia reached the Final Four three times and Staley was twice the national player of the year.

Campbell also has to be a good recruiter because the even tougher part of Staley's double is coming up next summer, when she's playing in the WNBA during the heart of the player-evaluation season.

"During the times we get a break, a day off, I can fly in to some camps and just sit in the gym all day," Staley said. "I don't have a problem with that, as long as I'm off my feet.

"But when I'm with USA Basketball, I like to give them my undivided attention. When I'm with Temple, it's going to be the same way."

At least Staley will never have to squabble with the men's team for practice times.

Coach John Chaney is famous for his dawn practices.

The women? They'll just have Dawn practices.

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