Dawn Staley’s Farewell Tour
After seven successful seasons in the WNBA, Dawn Staley recently made public her desire to retire as a player. The Houston Comets 5-6 point guard also is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is the head coach of Temple University's women's basketball team and will also serve as a 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team assistant coach. Staley is averaging 5.1 points and 3.5 assists four weeks into her final season.
M.W.: So you've decided that this year is going to be the last go-around for you in the WNBA. What factors contributed or led to that decision for you. How long have you been thinking of it?
D.S.: "Probably last year. Last year was taxing year for me because Charlotte was kind of losing, and it pulls at you. You know, it really pulls at you. I'm 36 years old, and that's also a factor. I want to be on my own time. I'm tired of going by somebody else's itinerary, and its time for me to just concentrate on one thing. That's going to be coaching rather than strapping myself so thin all the time. I've done that for the past six years and I want some "me" time.
And also, the offseason workouts are getting harder. I fought it every time I had to go lift, or get on that treadmill and run, or go out for individual workouts. I just fought it. I didn't want to do it, but I had to do it.."
M.W.: So you're certain you know 100 percent for sure that you're done?
D.S.: "100 percent, I'm done."
M.W.: I feel like when I talk to T-Spoon and some other players who are now not on the court that when summer comes around they get the urge to like, you know, maybe…
D.S.: "I'm done, I'm done. I never voiced it before, but it was in the back of my mind. I never said publicly that I was going to retire, but this certainly is it."
M.W.: So now in your last year, you're getting to play with some old friends. What's it like being with them again? You get to play with Sheryl and Tina... it's a fun group, right?
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D.S.: "It truly is a fun group. I knew going to Houston I would have a lot of fun just being with Coach Chancellor, Sheryl and Tina and just knowing what their expectations are. I didn't want there to be any surprises. I knew the younger players that were there could contribute and would listen. I knew the team camaraderie would be there. You have some other players in Michelle Snow, Dominique Canty, Tamecka Dixon, so I knew we had all the right ingredients to be a good basketball on the court and off the court."
M.W.: Coming in, did you see your role changing having been a leader and one of the best players on the team in Charlotte? Now you come in with a team full of stars and All-Stars and MVP's. What were your expectations?
D.S.: "For me, I've always taken the back seat to the superstars - to the Lisa Leslies, to the Yolanda Griffiths, all of them. I've always taken the back seat to that because I'm not into that. I know my role is integral to a team. I know just being a point guard and making sure that everyone is happy is key. And nobody can really take that away. I get more joy out of that part of it, out of knowing I can bring a team together. I know how to push and how to pull. I also know how to talk and how to get the best out of people. And that's not always a glamorous job. That's not always a superstar's job, but certainly I enjoy the behind-the-scenes more so than the out front."
M.W.:What do you think you'd be doing right now if there was no WNBA? Obviously it's opened a lot of doors for you. Do you think you'd still have the same opportunities? Do you think you'd still be coaching at the college level, is that something that would have still appealed to you?
D.S.: "I don't think so. I don't know what I would be doing. I would be involved with the sport in some way; but I don't think it would have been coaching. I think the fact that I was able to play and coach helped develop my coaching, and my love and my fulfillment that I get from coaching. And I'm getting my playing days out of my system. A lot of people ask me that question, they stump me all the time because I couldn't see life without basketball."
M.W.: So when you're on the court, you don't have that coaching hat on, but do you ever find yourself in a situation where you just want to yell out at someone or tell them what to do because that's in your nature for the other eight months out of the year?
D.S.: "It is. It's my nature just to teach, help and simplify basketball, that's my mentality. To not make the game so hard. It's really an easy game once you understand how to play it, and that's what I want to leave to other players. I want to simplify the game and players understand the game so they can have fruitful careers."
M.W.: In this sort of farewell tour that you're doing, every time you go to a WNBA city, do you think about this as the last time you're playing in this arena, or will it not really hit you yet until the last couple of weeks.
D.S.: "It does hit me mostly when I play the east coast teams because I played them so many times. Washington had a lot of people coming from UVA and they've always followed me. I've always enjoyed playing here playing in the Garden. I've always enjoyed the atmosphere in New York. This is the gym that I'll probably miss the most. I don't know if we won a whole lot of games here, but certainly the spirit of being on the east coast, the New York fans and all of that, it's amazing. They appreciate good basketball, but they'll cut your throat for a Liberty win."
M.W.: Your role with USA basketball obviously allows you to stay in touch with and interact with the players that you've been playing with. Do you think ultimately you would like to coach at the professional level in the WNBA?
D.S.: "I say no. I've said no for a long time, but my experience with USA basketball has changed my perspective a little bit. You can ask the very best players to do something and they make you look good. You know, it makes basketball easy. You can run alley-oops and back door cuts without a problem, and if its not there they can create a play. That's not always available to you as a college coach. You can always count on more experienced players to make you look good as a coach. I'm intrigued with the talent level, I really am, just to see basketball played the way its supposed to be played. Your teaching can be done on each level, but the results aren't always there on each level .You get results when you got Lisa Leslie or Alana Beard and players like that who can get them done.
M.W.: In the past ten, fifteen years you've been playing basketball at this level the game has changed so much. Where do you see it going 15 years from now? You'll still be an integral part of it, just not on the floor.
D.S.: "The game is now quicker. I see the game being played above the rim by women. I really think we're moving toward that and that's going to be appealing to the masses. We've played beneath the rim for so long and now you're going to have people dunking."
M.W.: Does that change the way you're going to have to coach? Does that change your style, the way you organize plays, and play defense?
D.S.: "You're going to be able to do more. I think its going to make coaches think about the game a little different. I have an advantage because I've played the game, so I see it developing. But maybe some other coaches may want to stick with playing below the rim, but they're going to have to change with the times. We older players are things of the past."