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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Staley Lives Her Dream as a Player, Coach

January 31, 2001|EARL GUSTKEY

First of all, would you stop with the questions about her knees?

There is a belief throughout women's basketball that 30-year-old Dawn Staley is day-to-day with her knees. This is because she walks like someone with sore knees. And she has had so many of those surgeries.

She worries more, she says, about her players' knees than her own.

The number of active basketball players, male or female, coaching at the NCAA Division I level makes for a short list--it's Staley at Temple and Jen Rizzotti at Hartford.

Temple is 11-7, Hartford 10-6.

Staley, who learned to play basketball at the Raymond Rosen Projects five minutes from the Temple campus in Philadelphia, says she didn't appreciate until now the time and work involved in planning a day of coaching.

"When you're a player and a coach is talking during practice or in a timeout, you can block out a lot of it because either it doesn't apply to you or you already know it," she said Tuesday, from Cleveland, where she was on a short recruiting trip.

"But I realize now a coach has to spell out everything and get it all down on paper, in practice planning. So the time required to coach in a major program--that's surprised me."

She was already a Philadelphia icon during her Dobbins Tech high school years. She moved on to Virginia in 1988 because, as she says, "Virginia started recruiting me in the seventh grade."

The speedy, 5-foot-5 point guard was twice the national player of the year and three times led Virginia to the Final Four. At the Sydney Olympics, she was the point guard for the U.S. gold-medal team.

And what about those knees? She started all 32 games for the WNBA's Charlotte Sting in 2000 and finished 10th in the league in minutes played and third in assists.

"I'm going to play next summer," she said. "My knees are fine. With the Olympic team, I didn't miss a single practice."

Temple's choice of Staley last April was a natural. And she left them laughing at her news conference.

"[Temple administrators] were looking for the best athlete, but the best athlete was busy," she said.

"Their second option was the best scholar, and the best scholar was busy. And the last was the best looking. And I thought: 'What the heck, I can't turn 'em down three times.' "

Her goal, she says, is to turn Temple into a nationally respected program. The Owls were 10-18 last season and 0-4 against Philadelphia schools. Don't be shocked to see her in the bleachers at Southern California prep games.

"I decided to take this job when they gave me a budget to turn this thing around," she said. "They told me they wanted me to turn the program around as quickly as I can and they gave me a budget that will take me anywhere in the country to recruit the players we need."

A salary estimated at $100,000 helped.

When she leaves Temple in May for the Sting's training camp, she'll step into another life.

"When I'm at Temple, Temple gets all that I have," she said. "Then the Sting gets all of me in the summer."

Staley was hired by Temple Athletic Director Dave O'Brien, who during the interview asked Staley if she could lead a team.

"I'm the point guard on the greatest women's team in the world [the Olympic team]," she replied.

"Yes, I can lead."

Next week: Jen Rizzotti at Hartford.

NOTES

Tennessee will add to its considerable NCAA Division I attendance total Thursday at its ESPN rematch with Connecticut at Knoxville. The Lady Vols lead the nation with 15,381 spectators a game. Connecticut is second with 12,534. Texas Tech (12,335) and Iowa State (11,306) are also in five digits. Top-ranked Notre Dame is 18th, 3,960. The only two Western schools in the top 20 are New Mexico (sixth, 7,805) and Oregon (14th, 4,799). . . . Texas A&M Coach Peggie Gillom is comparing her freshman point guard, Toccara Williams, to a couple of former teammates of some renown--Teresa Edwards and Staley. Says Gillom: "She's one of the best point guards I've ever been around--she does exactly what I want her to do." Williams averages seven assists and less than four turnovers.

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