Dawn Staley has played a major role in building the dynasty that is the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team. Since the bronze-medal game of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, Team USA has reeled off 49 straight victories without a defeat, and Staley has been a player or assistant coach for 40 of those games.
Now Staley will have the opportunity to advance the winning streak to 57 games and an unprecedented seventh consecutive Olympic title. Her selection as the successor to Geno Auriemma was announced Friday during a news conference at the University of South Carolina, where Staley has served as head coach since 2008.
"Clearly we want to win and compete, but we also want to build a culture," said USA Basketball Chairman General Martin Dempsey. "That culture includes a culture of discipline, a culture of leadership, a culture of respect for the game. Dawn has been involved with that for most of her adult life."
One of the most decorated women’s players in USA Basketball history, Staley led Team USA to gold medals at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games, where she was the Opening Ceremony flag bearer.
Staley becomes just the second Olympic champion to lead the U.S. women, behind Anne Donovan, a 1984 and 1988 gold medalist who led Team USA at the Beijing 2008 Games.
"I am incredibly humbled to be the head coach of our U.S. national team," said Staley. "It means a great deal to me to represent my country and to wear the red, white and blue. Any time something happens to me that is huge, I always try to answer the question 'why' and 'how.' The answers to these questions are very easy in this situation. The 'why' is God has shown me favor throughout my career and my life, and this is right in line with what he has shown me. The 'how' is easy as well: Growing up in the projects of north Philly, where I learned strength and perseverance, the hard work and dedication to an incredible sport that I love, would carry me through whatever life would throw at me."
A Philadelphia native, Staley was a three-time all-American at the University of Virginia, earning the 1991 Honda-Broderick Cup presented to the NCAA Female Athlete of the Year.
After a successful professional playing career, she began her coaching career in 2000 at Temple University, guiding the team to post-season appearances in seven of her eight seasons, including five consecutive and six total NCAA tournaments. She recorded her 100th victory in her fifth season, achieving the milestone faster than any other women’s basketball coach.
After compiling a 172-80 record in eight seasons at Temple, Staley moved to the University of South Carolina. After back-to-back sub-.500 seasons, she turned the program around during the 2010-11 season with an 18-15 record and a WNIT berth. Five straight NCAA tournament berths followed, including three trips to the Sweet Sixteen and a Final Four appearance in 2015.
Her current team, ranked No. 4 in the nation, delivered a fourth straight Southeastern Conference regular season title, won the SEC tournament for the third consecutive year and anticipates a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in as many years.
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Staley joined the USA Basketball staff in 2006, serving as an assistant to Donovan at the 2008 Games. After taking a break during the 2012 quadrennium, she rejoined the staff and helped Auriemma guide the team to victory last summer.
She has led Team USA squads to gold as head coach at the 2007 Pan American Games, the 2014 FIBA Americas Championship and the 2015 FIBA Women’s U19 World Championship. USA Basketball named her co-national coach of the year in 2015, making her the first person to receive player and coach of the year honors from the organization after earning player honors in 1994 and 2004.
Her first major tournament as head coach will be the 2018 FIBA World Cup Sept. 22-30 in Spain. By virtue of its gold in Rio, Team USA joined host Spain as the first two teams in the tournament. The balance of the 16-team field will be determined in qualifying tournaments between June and September of this year.