On Friday March 10th 2017, Dawn Staley, the Hall of Fame Basketballer and Assistant Coach to Team USA at the recent Rio Olympic games was announced as the team’s brand new Head Coach…and the FCN were right in the action of the press conference thanks to FCN USA Media Officer Erica Ayala.
Dawn was announced as the USA Women’s basketball team Head Coach from now until 2020, a period which will include the World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It is a role that Dawn admits to being ‘humbled and honoured’ by and looks forward to the challenges ahead.
“It’s a surreal moment for me but certainly a moment which I’d like to reflect on my career with USA Basketball. I jump at the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue, and to be around this culture of excellence.”
During the press conference, the Chairman of USA Basketball said Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said this about Dawn’s appointment:
“We can’t think of anyone more qualified both in experience as a player and a coach. Dawn is part of the USA basketball culture of team work, discipline and respect.”
Dawn went on to say:
“I was a staff member under Geno Auriemma – who was a superb coach who lead by example and showed me the way in how to be successful at that level. I look forward to the challenges of counting bringing gold medals to USA basketball and I can’t thank my former team mates and coaches for all they have done. And I also thank my former players for giving me many challenges that I know I will face in the next 3 and half years. i am excited to represent USA Basketball in this manner.”
Dawn joins a strong list of previous female Head Coaches for the National Team as 8 out of the last 13 Head Coaches have been female. Names such as Pat Summitt, Kay Yow and Tara Vanderveer all grace the list of successful Head Coaches and all left a legacy in their wake.
When asked how she felt about joining the list of basketball elite, Dawn said:
“I really hadn’t thought about it, I try to go through life keeping my head and moving forward and not really reflecting on what has taken place in the past. The one thing I am conscious of is all of those coaches that have been at the top all won Olympic Gold medals and I am probably the only coach that hasn’t done it yet in the Olympic format, I would certainly love to join the ranks of being a Gold medal winning coach at the olympics.”
Later on in the press conference, Dawn answered a few questions by the media, including our very own Erica.
You recently mentioned your humbled beginnings in Philadelphia when you talked about your path to success; can you talk a little bit about what your appointment means to the young people in Philly who want to play basketball and become a coach themselves?
When I was going up in Philly, we didn’t have a whole lot of sports, but sports where the vehicle to pull us out of our situation and be a ray of hope that dreams do come true. I think this is an incredible honour and I would just like to pass on to the people of Philly some lessons – firstly that you can do anything you want, you just have to apply yourself. I applied myself and got lucky with the people around me who helped me on a path which lead to things like this happening. I can’t think of a better organisation with the culture that USA basketball have to work for. It’s my basketball utopia. For little kids growing up in Philadelphia, I hope I continue to be a hope for them to be successful.
When you first heard the news about you being the new Head Coach; what was your reaction?
I was kind of shocked, I actually wasn’t in a place where I could express my joy! Anytime that I have an opportunity to represent the USA, I jump at it.
How do you see this role allowing you to keep striving for those dreams and goals you have for yourself personally and professionally?
I don’t think it gets any bigger than this, I don’t know what opportunity would be bigger than being head coach of a national team! But i certainly look forward to this challenge, I think we have got to wait and see to make sure that we are successful before we go beyond whats next – my concentration at the moment is the first training camp, once that gets here we can see where that leads us.
What are some of the things you do yourself to navigate through figuring out the challenges as a coach?
For me I go to work and I just try to figure out and resolve problems through quiet time. Sometimes you do have coaches at your disposal, but if you listen to too many different voices you yourself can’t make a decision, so you need a little bit of quiet time. Through those times I figure out what feels good, what hits my heart and go with it.
What do you feel you will be bringing to the table as far as being the Head Coach and what will your message be to the players?
The players have made sacrifices and commitments to USA basketball, so whatever was said before me, it will be the same thing that’s going to be said moving forward. You have to have the participation of the players in order for us to continue to be successful, so if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We will continue to do what has worked for us.
What will be your unique stamp be on the USA Basketball team?
I think what’s really important is to establish trust and working relationships with players. Thats’ the key to achieving success, especially at this level. The players have to know that they have a coach that trusts them, a coach has to know they have players that trust them as well. I am probably a little bit closer to their age than the last few coaches, so maybe bringing in a younger flare to it, but its all the same. The key ingredients is about being successful, don’t change because of the leadership.
FCN USA Media Officer – Erica Ayala
ERICA L. AYALA is a sports writer with bylines at Double G Sports, MyWSports, Excelle Sports and the Female Coaching Network. She has covered events such as the WNBA Draft, the Inaugural National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) Isobel Cup Finals, and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement of Sheryl Swoopes.
As a member of the Elon University softball team, she was selected as a 2006 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar. Erica received her B.A in Political Science, with a minor in African-American Studies in 2008. In 2015, she received the Elon University Top 10 Under 10 Award from the Young Alumni Council.
It is her love for sports and passion for advocacy that has brought Erica to sports writing. As a former athlete, she feels strongly about providing other children, especially girls, the opportunity to excel in athletics. As an advocate, she is drawn to the mission to continue to promote gender equity in the coverage, the funding and the compensation of girls and women in sports.