NEW YORK, July 12, 2006 -- Well, that's not the way you want to go out. For everything Dawn Staley gives to the game of basketball, try as she might, she just couldn't deliver to her conference a WNBA All-Star victory.
Having spent her entire career in Charlotte and being on the losing end of the WNBA's All-Star Game in each of her four previous trips, Staley switched uniforms and conferences for her last go-'round.
|Staley did come out on top in 2006, capturing the three-point shootout title.|
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
But some things just aren't meant to be and Staley will ride off into retirement 0-for-5 in All-Star play.
It's not that she didn't do everything possible to try to lift her team. When you think, it's almost unfathomable how a 36-year-old, 5-6 point guard can pull down seven rebounds -- a number bettered by only her 6-5 Comets teammate Michelle Snow and Connecticut's 7-2 center Margo Dydek -- among the game's best.
But there was Staley, in the twilight of her career, hustling, chasing down loose balls, pushing the pace on offense and trying to create scoring opportunities for her teammates.
Those teammates, however, were ice cold on an otherwise hot day in the Big Apple. The 11 West stars combined to shoot 36 percent from the field and hit only nine of their 30 collective attempts from behind the three-point arc.
It's tough to beat any team on any given night with those kinds of numbers. It's even harder to do so when another 11 of the best women's hoops stars stand on the other end of the court.
And so, Staley moves into the next phase of her sporting life: Retirement, as if there is such a thing for one of the ambassadors of the game.
Staley may be leaving the playing surface, but she's leaving the game in good hands, younger hands -- hands which were, tonight at least, hotter.
"I do believe that the WNBA is in great hands with the talent that's coming into this league, not just this year but also looking into the future," Staley said after the game. "They need to take it to the next level."
The young talent to which Staley refers is the four rookies -- Seimone Augustus, Cappie Pondexter, Sophia Young and Candice Dupree -- who combined to score 30 points in their first-ever All-Star Games. Augustus, the top pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft, led all West scorers with 16 points. Not bad for a rookie.
Likewise, "not bad" was the battle between teacher and student -- Staley and Dupree. Staley's day job will now be what was her a sort of second job in recent years: head coach of Temple University's women's basketball team, where Staley coached the young frontcourt player.
At times during the game, Staley matched up with her former player. Despite giving up nearly a foot in height, Staley gave it her all and stood her ground. But, Dupree was too much for the shorter and, now, slower veteran, spinning around her to get to the hoop or shooting over her. But that, fter all, is what you would expect from somebody who is passing a torch.
Gone are her days of bearing the torch and carrying the flag -- as she did for the United States during the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics. Now Staley will teach others how do do as she once did and could only dreamed of doing.
Her next step: Trying to guide her squad to similar success on the world stage to that which she's experienced. That's a tall order for any player, given Staley's collected three gold medals as a player.
Now, as a coach, Staley joins Sun head coach and leader of this year's East All-Stars, Mike Thibault, as an assistant under Anne Donovan for the 2006 World Championship team.
When that quest is completed, it's back to school in her hometown of Philadelphia, where, at Temple, she'll mold the next Candice Dupree or Dawn Staley -- the WNBA stars of the future.