A decorated life in sport all began for Dawn Staley when she was named the national high school player of the year during her final season at Murrell Dobbins Technical High School in Philadelphia. Fast forward several decades and she is still at the top of her game, bringing the Gamecocks women’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina with her.
Staley has been selected to receive the 2015 C. Vivian Stringer Coaching Award by the United States Sports Academy in recognition of her outstanding coaching career and her unwavering commitment to her team. This honor is named in recognition of the head coach of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team and is annually presented to individuals like Staley who have experienced outstanding achievements as a coach for female teams.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist has been the head coach of the Gamecocks for a total of seven years, but it was clear early on that the team would rise to the top with their foundation of hard work, defensive effort, and “team first” mentality. This season, the Gamecocks were ranked number one in the country, making Staley the second woman ever to have both played on and coached a number-one ranked team.
Staley not only led the Gamecocks to the top of the national rankings but also led them to their first ever NCAA Final Four appearance. After three consecutive 25 plus-win seasons, the Gamecocks dominated with 34 wins during the 2014-2015 season, which included their second consecutive SEC regular-season championship and second straight number one seed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament. While at South Carolina, Staley has accrued a 155-74 record and has led the team to four 20-win seasons and four straight NCAA Tournaments.
Before going to South Carolina, Staley won gold medals while playing for Team USA in the 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, and 2004 Athens Olympics. After playing in another professional league for two seasons,, Staley joined the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1999, signing with the Charlotte Sting, for whom she played for six years. She also played two seasons with the Houston Comets before retiring from playing following the 2006 season. Prior to her Olympic and WNBA career, Staley led the University of Virginia to four NCAA Tournaments, three Final Fours, and one National Championship game earning national Player of the Year awards in both 1991 and 1992.
In 2013, Staley and two partners founded INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization that seeks to change the negative impact on poverty in children primarily through the donation of shoes. Working with other organizations around the state of South Carolina, INNERSOLE distributes hundreds of shoes to children in need. In 2014, the organization began an initiative to tie improvement in academics, attendance, behavior and physical fitness to the reward of special shoe donations.
Receiving the C. Vivian Stringer Award is not the first honor for Staley and will likely not be her last. In 2014 and 2015 she was honored as the SEC Coach of the Year. She was also honored as Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
Women’s basketball has dominated the C. Vivian Stringer Coaching Award for the past four years with previous recipients Ann “Muffet” McGraw from Notre Dame in 2014, Sylvia Hatchell from the University of North Carolina in 2013, and Kim Mulkey from Baylor University in 2012.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.