And Dawn Staley thought last summer was hectic.
South Carolina’s seventh-year coach visited Africa with President Bill Clinton last summer before winding it up with an induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She had about a month to get her feet back on firm ground, then embarked on a historic SEC championship season, which ended a month ago when her recruiting class was finalized.
Time to pick ’em up again.
Staley was named an assistant coach on Monday for the U.S. national women’s team, where she’ll help nine-time national champion coach Geno Auriemma in selecting and preparing the best players in the world for the FIBA World Championship in late September. Staley’s selection also means she’ll be an assistant coach in the 2016 Olympics, provided that Team USA qualifies.
“It was a complete surprise,” Staley said. “I think any time you get an opportunity to work with USA basketball, and now Geno, it’s a great opportunity for me to learn.”
Staley is already the coach of the Under-18 national women’s team, which holds tryouts a week from Friday in Colorado (one attendee: A’ja Wilson) and plays a tournament from late July to early August for the FIBA Americas championship. If the U.S. finishes in the top four there, it will play in next year’s U-19 World Championship.
In early September, Staley will join Auriemma and fellow assistants Cheryl Reeve and Doug Bruno to begin choosing the top national team. Many players may still be participating in the WNBA playoffs, but the team will be ready by Sept. 27 and the start of the FIBA World Championship in Turkey, which will end the first week of October. After that comes the start of official team practice for USC.
Yes, it’s going to be time-consuming, but Staley is ready for it.
“You find the strength and the willingness to be a part of USA basketball,” Staley said. “It’s been a part of my life for more than half of my life. Any time that impression is left on you and you get an opportunity to participate, you have to do it. It’s something that you don’t mind sacrificing for your country.”
Staley was a three-time gold medalist in the Olympics and has deep ties to USA basketball, making her a natural choice for Auriemma’s staff. Auriemma spoke of Staley’s collegiate coaching history of taking programs at Temple and USC and raising them to championship levels. He said that, combined with her Olympic experience, made her a must-have for the staff.
“The things you look for in a coach are their ability to perform at a real high level,” Auriemma said on a teleconference last week. “If you’re a great player, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good coach. Dawn has proven that she’s an excellent coach. She played at a real high level, she won gold medals, she’s a tremendous coach at the college level. Put the whole body of work together, it’s pretty obvious why she was chosen.”