Staley, Dawn

views updated May 29 2018

Dawn Staley


American basketball player

From humble beginnings in a North Philadelphia housing project, Dawn Staley dedicated herself to being one of the best female basketball players. Among her numerous honors, are USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, National Player of the Year, and NCAA Region Most Outstanding Player. Staley was a member of the first women's Dream Team in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, winning gold both times. While playing for the Charlotte Sting, she was hired as coach for the Temple Owls. In 1996, Staley created the Dawn Staley Foundation to offer girls in her old neighborhood of Philadelphia an After School Project that focused on academics and athletics.

Up from the Projects, Onto the Basketball Court

Growing up in a housing project in North Philadelphia, Dawn Staley played basketball at Dobbins Technical High School. In 1988, USA Today named the 5 foot 5 inch young woman national high school player of the year, the only player under 6 feet to win. She also managed to led Dobbins to three consecutive Philadelphia Public League championships.

Staley began her 1989-92 collegiate career when Temple associate head coach Shawn Campbell recruited her to play at the University of Virginia for the Caveliers. As a freshman, she became a starter for the team, averaging 18.5 points per game, and helped the team to a 110-21 record. This propelled the Caveliers to four appearances in the NCAA Tournament, which led to three consecutive Final Four. In her four years as a starter, she personally scored 2,135 points.

Staley earned an astonishing array of awards and honors during her college years, including 10 Player of the

Year awards. Among her titles were ACC Rookie of the Year, then ACC Player of the Year for 1991 and 1992, National Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four All-Tournament, and Kodak All-American for three consecutive years. In just the 1991-92 season alone, she received the Naismith Trophy for outstanding woman collegiate player, Sport Illustrated Player of the Year, Honda Broderick Cup for outstanding college athlete of the year, and USBWA Player of the Year.

Her basketball record reflects her honorary achievements. She holds the ACC mark for career assists with 729, and captured two ACC regular season and three ACC All-Tournament titles. She holds the NCAA record of 454 steals, which now ranks sixth all-time among NCAA Division I leaders, and was named outstanding player in the 1991 NCAA tournament, even though Virginia lost in the finals to Tennessee.

After college, Staley began her professional career in 1992 playing with a team in Spain, and continued to travel the world playing in France, Italy, and Brazil. After returning to the US in 1994, she competed for the US National Team in the Goodwill Games, earning MVP for averaging 9.3 points per game and a team high 5.8 assists per game. She also played in the 1994 World Championships.

Giving Back to the Community

With a desire to return her good fortune to her community back home in Philadelphia, Staley created the Dawn Staley Foundation. The foundation offers under-privileged girls programs that develop leadership, teamwork, and social skills. The organization also fosters civic pride, mentoring, and self-confidence. Staley's work for the foundation has earned her the 1998 American Red Cross Spectrum Award for her contributions to her community and the 1999 WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. The year she started the foundation, a seven-story mural of Staley was painted on the side of a building in Philadelphia overlooking her neighborhood.

For US professional teams, Staley began playing in the 1996-97 season with the American Basketball League's Richmond Rage and helped the team to a 1997 runner-up finish. In 1998, she became a member of the USA World Championship Team, which won a gold medal, finishing with a perfect 9-0 record and earning the team USA Basketball Team of the Year.

The following year, Staley switched to the WNBA and joined the Charlotte Sting. That year the team placed second in the WNBA Eastern Conference and went to the finals. Staley ranked third in the league with 190 assists, and set a franchise record 13 assists vs. Washington. Also in 1999, she played in the USA Basketball Women's Winter European Tour Team, which compiled a 4-1 record, and went on to help capture the 1999 US Olympic Cup and USA Basketball International Invitational titles. Her continuing achievements earned her the 1999 WNBA Sportsmanship Award.

Staley at the Olympics

Staley took pride in being a member of women's basketball team in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The US team compiled a perfect 60-0 record to win the gold medal. During the game, she held the USA Olympic single-game record with 9 free throws. Before the games, she participated in the Olympic Torch Relay, running the torch up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.

Repeating her team's Olympic success, now as a member of the first women's Dream Team of professional players representing the US, she helped earn another gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She hit a perfect 12-of-12 free throws to tie for first for US single-competition free throw percentage.

In addition to the Olympics, Staley played a full season in 2000 at point guard with the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. The team registered an 8-0 record, averaged 4.0 points per game and achieved a team high 3.6 assists per game.

Staley as Coach

Although never having coached a game, Staley agreed to become women's coach at Temple University for the Owls in April 2000. At first denying the offer, she was persuaded by Olympic teammate Teresa Edwards . At that point, Temple had not seen a winning season in more than 10 years. Staley managed to achieve an impressive 10-6 start the first season. Even the fans took notice. Previously averaging 518 fans per game, 1,754 people attended for Staley's regular-season coaching debut.

Career Statistics

CHA: Charlotte Sting.


1970Born in Philadelphia May 4
1988Played on Dobbins Technical High School basketball team
1990-92Final Four Tournament
1990-92Member of ACC All-Tournament Team
1994Member of gold medal-winning US National Team in the Goodwill Games
1994Played in World Championships
1996Began playing with ABL team Richmond Rage
1996Created Dawn Staley Foundation
1996Member of US women's basketball team for Atlanta Olympics, won gold
1998Member of gold-winning USA World Championship Team
1999WNBA's Charlotte Sting
2000Member of Olympic team in Sydney
2000Named women's coach for Temple Owls
2001Named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team
2001First woman in US professional basketball to record 1,000 career assists
2002Named to the USA Basketball World Championship Team
2002Signed 5-year extension to coach Temple

After Temple won the Philadelphia Big Five Championship and its first-ever Atlantic 10 Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth, Staley was named 2001-02 Big Five Coach of the Year. In October 2002, she signed a five-year contract extension to coach Temple. The agreement includes the NCAA tournament.

While she coached, Staley still played for the Charlotte Sting, which went to the WNBA Championship finals. There she averaged 9.3 points per game and a league third best 5.6 assists per game. She also played in the 2001 WNBA All-Star Games, racking up 4 points and 3 assists in 15 minutes for the East Team. In 2002, she was named to the USA Basketball World Championship Team.

Dawn Staley earned awards and recognition on the basketball court as well as in her community. She achieved Olympic gold, national championships, and numerous player of the year and MVP awards as a basketball star. The skilled player easily made the transition to coach to teach a new generation of young players. Assisting others to achieve their dreams, she founded the Dawn Staley Foundation, and an after school projects and scholarship programs that help economically underprivileged girls become self-confident young women. The foundation's mission is to create a future of hope for at-risk youth by providing opportunities which help them realize their dreams and become productive and responsible citizens. The creation and support of educational and sports programs which challenge minds, build character, and help youth to develop to their fullest potential academically, socially, and physically is the essence of the foundation. To achieve its mission, the foundation supports a variety of programs in North Philadelphia.

Awards and Accomplishments

1988Named USA Today National High School Player of the Year
1989ACC Rookie of the Year
1990-92Kodak All-American
1990-92NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player (East and Midwest region)
1991World University Games gold medal
1991Named National Player of the Year
1991Named most outstanding player of the Final Four
1991Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
1991Honda Broderick Cup as the outstanding college athlete of the year
1991-92State Player of the Year
1991-92ACC Player of the Year
1991-92ACC Mary Garber Award (Female Athlete of the Year)
1991-92Naismith Trophy as the nation's outstanding woman collegiate player
1991-92NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team most outstanding player
1991-92USBWA Player of the Year
1992Named National Player of the Year
1992R. William Jones Cup gold medal
1993World Championship Qualifying Tournament gold medal
1994Goodwill Games gold medal and MVP
1994World Championship bronze medal
1994Named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year
1996Olympic gold medal in Atlanta
1998World Championship gold medal, team named USA Basketball Team of the Year
1998American Red Cross Spectrum Award
1999US Olympic Cup gold medal
1999WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
1999WNBA Sportsmanship Award
1999US Olympic Cup title
1999USA Basketball International Invitational title
2000Olympic Games gold medal
2001-02Big Five Coach of the Year

The Dawn Staley After School Project provides a multi-faceted program designed to empower young women with the necessary education and life skills to become responsible and proactive community leaders through academics, sport activity, and community out-reach. Staley is noted for her work ethic, dedication, and commitment to both basketball and to young people.



Hickok, Ralph. Who's Who of Sports Champions. Boston, MA; Houghton Mifflin, 1995.


Crothers, Tim. "Dawn of a New Era." Sports Illustrated 94 (January 29, 2001): 104.


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Women's National Basketball Association, (December 15, 2002).

Sketch by Lorraine Savage

Staley, Dawn

views updated May 29 2018

Dawn Staley


Basketball player, coach, organization executive

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.

At a Glance …

Born on May 4, 1970, in Philadelphia, PA. Education: University of Virginia, BA, rhetoric and communications, 1992.

Career: 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–.

Selected memberships: USA Basketball Executive Committee.

Selected awards: 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.

Addresses: Office—Dawn Staley Foundation, 3502 Scotts Lane, 15-B, Philadelphia, PA 19129. Web—



Denver Post, July 22, 1996, p. CC1.

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San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 2004, p. D11.

Sports Illustrated, November 19, 1990, p. 112; January 29, 2001, p. 104; September 6, 2004, p. 44.

Sports Illustrated for Kids, December 1997, p. 40; January 1, 2005, p. 52.

USA Today, December 7, 2004, p. C1.


"About Dawn Staley," Dawn Staley Foundation, (April 8, 2006).

"Dawn Staley," USA Basketball, (April 8, 2006).

"Dawn Staley," Women's National Basketball Association, (April 8, 2006).

Staley, Dawn

views updated May 21 2018


(b. 4 May 1970 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), professional basketball point guard and two-time Olympic gold medalist; head coach of the Temple University women's basketball team.

Staley was one of five children born to Clarence Staley and Estelle Staley and grew up in the Raymond Rosen projects of Philadelphia. She began her career on a court "on the corner of Twenty-fifth and Diamond," often playing with her brothers. At Dobbins Vocational Technical High School, Staley led the Lady Mustangs and as a senior was awarded National Player of the Year. Her high school career scoring average was 33.1 points per game.

As a collegiate basketball star at University of Virginia, Staley led the Lady Cavaliers to four National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournaments, three NCAA Final Four appearances, and three Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament titles. Standing at just five feet, five inches tall, she achieved a college-career scoring average of 18.5 points per game. She won the Naismith Award in 1991 and 1992, making her one of only three other women—Cheryl Miller, Clarissa Davis, and Chamique Holdsclaw—to win the award multiple times. She was named National Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992, and was a three-time Kodak All-American and a two-time All-American. She was also named most outstanding player of the 1991 Final Four. Staley's number 24 jersey was retired on 20 April 1993, making her one of just three Virginia Cavaliers who have had their numbers retired.

Prior to the WNBA and the ABL, Dawn began her professional career in Segovia, Spain, during the 1992–1993 season. She spent the 1993–1994 season playing with four different teams in Italy, France, Brazil, and Spain, then played in Tarbes, France, in the 1994–1995 season. During the 1997 and 1998 seasons, she played for the Richmond Rage of the American Basketball League (ABL) and was selected as an All-ABL player. After the ABL folded, Staley was signed by the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) on 31 August 1998 and joined the Charlotte (North Carolina) Sting in 1999. In 1999 she received the WNBA Sportsmanship Award. As a starting guard with the Sting, Staley averaged thirteen points per game during her first three seasons. At the end of the 2001 season, she ranked third in the WNBA in assists per game.

In 1994 Staley joined the U.S. Women's National Team to increase her strength and conditioning for the 1996 Olympics. She played on gold medal–winning U.S. Women's National Teams during the 1994 Goodwill Games, the 1998 World Championship, the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup, and the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games. The 1998 USA Women's World Championship Team was named the USA Basketball Team of the Year due in large part to Staley's all time World Championship assist record of fifty-two. Her travel and preparations for the 2000 Olympic games were chronicled in monthly installments of Sports Illustrated for Women.

On 12 April 2000 Staley replaced Kristen Foley as head coach of the Lady Owls at Temple University in Philadelphia. During her first season, the team posted their first winning season since 1989–1990 with eighteen wins and nine losses. The success of the Temple Owls under the leadership of Coach Staley earned them a third seed in the 2001 Atlantic Ten Conference championships.

Staley is a successful community activist in her home-town of Philadelphia, where she established the Dawn Staley Foundation. Her philanthropic activities with the foundation, which include after-school care and tutorials in academics and basketball, have garnered recognition from the American Red Cross, which in 1998 awarded Staley its Cross Spectrum Award, which celebrates women who have made outstanding contributions to their communities. She was also presented with the 1999 WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for the good work and community outreach sponsored through the Dawn Staley Foundation.

From her humble beginnings in the Philadelphia projects to basketball stardom, from collegiate coaching to inner-city activism, Staley has never stopped reaching for excellence. Her life is a testimony to her will to succeed. In 1996 a seven-story mural of Staley was painted on the side of a building at the corner of Eighth and Market Streets in Philadelphia overlooking her neighborhood to celebrate her accomplishments as the hometown favorite.

For more information on Staley, see Morgan G. Brenner, College Basketball's National Championship: The Complete Record of Every Tournament Ever Played, vol. 13 (1998), and Sara Corbett, Venus to the Hoop: A Gold Medal Year in Women's Basketball (1997). See also articles in Sports Illustrated (July 2000), Hoop (June 2001), and the Orlando Sentinel (16 July 2001). A profile of Staley is on the official WNBA website at <>.

Faye Hall Jackson