Inside the minds of WNBA players

This is Our Game: Dawn Staley

Houston's Dawn Staley
J. Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
As one of the faces of women's basketball for more than a decade, new Houston Comets guard Dawn Staley has carried the flag, both literally and figuratively, for a sport and helped to make it as popular as it is today. She had an extraordinarily successful college career at the University of Virginia where she was named the Player of the Year more than once, she played professionally overseas in Europe before returning to the United States and six and a half seasons with the Charlotte Sting. Now, as she enters the twilight of her playing career and is just coming into her own as the head coach of the Temple University program, she has been given a new chance to win her first WNBA championship with the Houston Comets.

Q. What is your motivation when don't feel like working out, running that extra mile, or waking up early?
"Any challenge. From playing to coaching, when someone tells me that I can't do it, I'm doing it. I'm doing it. Any challenge that I'm faced with is really what drives me. This season was challenging for me, but I stayed optimistic. (With Charlotte), the ball wasn't necessarily falling in our favor, but I think you have to stay positive. You have to have like minds in that area. It's easy to dwell on the negatives, but I was a part of a WNBA team that started 1-10 and went to the Finals. I'm still a firm believer as well as living proof that anything can happen in our short season."

Q. Was there a time in your life when you thought about giving up the game?
"My first year overseas, I lost my love for basketball. I don't know. It was different than what I was used to. I wasn't given the information I needed. I want to thrive, I want you to teach me. I want you to break basketball down for me, and my first year over there, we were imitating the NBA. We had to score the points, and I don't see basketball that way. I see basketball as a cohesion that a team must have. Everyone must do their part. So if you are a scorer, you score the basketball. I wasn't known as a scorer. I'm someone that does what they need to do to win. When it's not presented to me that way, I didn't see it as a challenge, but it was a challenge. Maybe they needed me to show them a different way. And ultimately I did, but I didn't like being in that position, being so young."

Q. How did you re-discover the love of the game?
"But I wanted to be an Olympian, so playing overseas was the way to get that experience. This was between 1992 and 1994.I sacrificed that part of it because that was what they said I didn't have in 1992 that I needed to be an Olympian. You go through periods like that as a player. you lose the love somewhat. But that can help you gain it back stronger. And that's what happened to me. I was determined to be an Olympian. I just wanted to be a one-time Olympian, but I look at it now as a three-time Olympian, and it's very sweet. It is incredible to think that a piece of nylon going around your neck is so meaningful, but it's not the medal that you can touch and feel that makes it what it is. It is the entire experience of representing your country. It's what it stands for more than the tangible gold medal."

Q. What are some other goals you've set for yourselves off the court that you are interested in or pursuing?
"I love coaching. As long as it is fulfilling for me to help young people to see the game in a way that will help them have longevity in this sport, I'm going to do it. They are accepting to the challenges that I pose. I'll probably do it for a very long time. Would I coach men? Sure. I don't really see gender in basketball. It's simply basketball. They bounce it like we bounce it. They have attitudes like we have attitudes. Basketball is not all about the X's and O's. It's about instilling confidence in individuals. If you can get them to believe in what you are doing on a daily basis, you can draw up any play off the top of your head and it will be successful."

Q. Would you ever consider coaching in the WNBA at any point?
"I haven't thought about coaching in the WNBA because I don't know if that is my passion. My passion is with the younger people, people that you can make a true impression on in the college game. And I'll want people to know that if someone graduated from Temple University and plays in the WNBA, they know what kind of player they are getting. They are going to get a dedicated player, a player that doesn't cut corners, a player that respects and understands the game in a way that you can fall in love with as a coach."