Dawn Staley takes Hall of Fame honor in stride

USC coach will hit recruiting trail with new accolade

Special to The StateSeptember 9, 2013 

Dawn Staley added another five-star recruit to her next class on Friday.

DWAYNE MCLEMORE — dmclemore@thestate.com

The whirlwind weekend — and summer — for Dawn Staley has come to an end.

She was back in town Monday afternoon wearing a T-shirt and talking to local media after spending the weekend in shiny dresses, high heels and giving speeches as part of her induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Staley is the 15th woman to be inducted into the 337-member hall.

Earlier this summer, she took a trip to several African nations with former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, as part of the Clinton Foundation.

So what is the first thing to do since her life was returning to normal?

“I have to go recruiting today,” Staley said. “I know we have a huge recruiting class to sign, so that’s in the forefront at the moment. Hopefully, our recruits saw the speech because it came from the heart. It came from a place from which I hope they play basketball. I have to hit the ground running and get some commitments.”

Staley had her Hall of Fame trophy in tow, a golden basketball at the top with her name on the base. She plans to place it in her office alongside the accolades that helped earn her the honor of being selected to the Hall of Fame in the first place.

She hopes this latest addition to the trophy case will be another enticement for recruits to give USC a look. In her acceptance speech on Sunday, she mentioned winning a national championship.

“A national championship. I said it. I put it out there,” Staley said.

Staley has earned so many honors for her playing career, it’s almost impossible to rank them. She was the national player of the year in high school at Philadelphia’s Dobbins Tech. She played in three Final Fours and twice was a national player of the year at Virginia before winning Olympic gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

In Athens Greece in 2004, Staley had the honor of being the flag-bearer for the United States Olympic team. She was around to help start women’s professional basketball both the ABL and WNBA. But being elected to the Hall of Fame is not something she ever gave thought too.

“The things I thought about as a youngster was the things I saw on television,” Staley said. “I didn’t see any Hall-of-Fame ceremonies. I only saw when (women) played the National Championship game and I saw the Olympics. Those were two things that were dangled in front of me. Those are the things I wanted to accomplish. Thankfully, along the way I was able to do that and people did say I was Hall-of-Famer but that didn’t resonate with me. When it finally came true, I look at my body of work and appreciate what I’ve done. I worked extremely hard and I’ve had people to help me along the way. You really can’t do that without that combination.”

Staley was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Rick Pitino, Gary Payton, Bernard King, Jerry Tarkanian and former Francis Marion and current North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell in this year’s 12-person class.

She admitted being nervous to be giving a speech in front of so many great players. But she also welcomed the chance to share her story with people.

“Anytime you’re able to share something like this with the people that have supported you or are currently supporting you is a great thing,” Staley said. “I’m one that really appreciates all the people that have been in my life that have supported me throughout my career. I think any successful person really credits the people that helped them along the way. I’m no different. I’ve had people in my life that has molded me into who I am today.”

Staley also hopes her speech and accolades allows her to reach higher-profile recruits as she is entering her sixth season coaching at USC. The Gamecocks have won 25 games each of the past two seasons and made consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002-03.

“I’m going to be the same, but it adds instant credibility,” Staley said of her newest accolade. “I hope this honor protects the game of woman’s basketball. I hope little girls will be able to approach the game like I approached the game. I didn’t cut corners. It was a process for me. I was just living out my passion. I think if you live our passion and you love something — whatever it is — you will find your way to successes that you never imaged or believed.”

Watch Staley's Hall of Fame acceptance speech

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