LONDON OLYMPICS: S.C. TIES

Staley proudly carries memory

Honor to march with U.S. flag at Athens games rivals her three gold medals

pobley@thestate.comJuly 27, 2012 

Cocky, head coach Dawn Staley and La'Keisha Sutton listen to Aleighsa Welch emcee for the women's team during the USC Gamecock basketball teams preview event for the Carolina Alumni. The men's and women's team signed autographs and were introduced individually to the crowd. The band and cheerleaders were also on hand.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

There are the gold medals — three of them — that speak to Dawn Staley’s most cherished Olympic memories.

But there also is a picture on the wall behind the desk at her office in the USC basketball practice facility that speaks to a more emotional moment for her at the Games.

In the picture, Staley walks in front of the Team USA contingent carrying the nation’s flag. It’s an honor voted upon by the USA delegation and one bestowed upon her for the 2004 Athens Games, her final Olympic appearance.

“It’s something,” Staley said. “It’s not a goal of anybody’s but it’s something that is bestowed upon you that kind of hits you like a body blow you’re not prepared for. It’s something.”

It’s also a touch nerve-wracking. The flag itself is light and a harness aids in keeping it upright. On the surface, the instructions are simple. But there’s always that nagging worry about flubbing the big moment.

Dropping the flag did cross Staley’s mind.

“It did,” she said with a laugh. “They give you instructions — you have to be sure it’s straight up, you can’t tilt it or anything — but I thought I was going to be amongst all the athletes but I actually went out before our delegation. So it was kind of scary that way.”

Also, there is the waiting issue. Since teams are announced in alphabetical order, that meant a three-hour wait to hear “United States.”

“Everyone was pretty hyped up after three hours,” she said. “Then you go out there … you don’t know if they’re going to boo or cheer you, so you have to keep walking, keep smiling and keep straight.”

Staley said she has plenty of Olympic memories to last a lifetime, so there has been no hankering to skip over to London this time around.

“No, I’m fine right here,” she said. “I’m happy I don’t have to deal with credentials or security.”

That said, she’ll be watching.

“I think it’s a fun time. I like to see how people fare at the moment they need to,” she said. “That’s all sports. Basketball’s my thing, but I like watching the other sports.”

In the mean time, summer duties beckon. She remains on the recruiting trail.

“We’re recruiting and trying to put together this national championship recruiting class … classes,” she said, correcting herself. “It’s a process, but that’s what I’m trying to do, so I’m going to put that out there.”

Notes

While the men’s team has the opportunity to practice two hours per week during July, that new rule doesn’t yet extend to the women. Staley said she is hopeful that changes soon. … Staley said all returning players and signees are on campus and participating in voluntary workouts. … The schedule is still being finalized and should be out shortly.

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