Dawn Staley watches her team play at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Saitama, Japan.
All that you have to know about Dawn Staley is that her dog’s name is Champ.
It is a fitting moniker seeing that Staley in 2017 got the Havanese puppy about eight months after coaching the South Carolina women’s basketball team to the school’s first NCAA championship.
But it also goes to Staley’s mindset entering any challenge: The only acceptable result is coming out on top.
Not that her resume needed any padding, Staley added another significant achievement when she guided the U.S. women’s basketball team to the gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 earlier this month.
Plenty goes into preparing any team to make such a run, yet there was more to this endeavor. A lot more. Entering the Tokyo Games, the U.S. had won 49 consecutive Olympic games that included six straight gold medals. On top of that, two of the greatest players to ever don a USA Basketball uniform, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, were poised to win their unprecedented fifth gold medal.
Yeah, there was more than a little pressure for Staley — the first Black coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team — to ensure the U.S. came home with gold.
So while it was surprising to many that Staley said her tenure as the U.S. coach was over after her only trip to the Games as a head coach, it at the same time wasn’t as shocking as it might have seemed.
After all, Tokyo was Staley’s sixth Olympic Games, having won three gold medals as a player (1996, 2000, 2004), then as an assistant coach on the 2008 and 2016 teams that captured gold.
“Me being a part of I believe six, I mean that's enough. I’m full,” Staley said. “But it's something that I’ll miss as well because it’s not duplicated in any other form in team basketball.”