Archive | Women’s Final Four RSS feed for this section

Dawn Staley Carves Her Own Basketball Legacy Coaching in Her First Final Four

3 Apr
Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career.

South Carolina Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career. She will be making her first appearance as a coach in the 2015 Final Four when her Gamecocks take on Notre Dame in Sunday’s national semifinal contest in Tampa.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When we think of iconic figures in Philadelphia basketball, we almost always point to male basketball players like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson, three guys that would be atop a roundball Mount Rushmore if it existed here.

But, there’s one more person you need to add to that list of Philadelphia basketball royalty and her name is Dawn Staley.

Staley, who will be taking her University of South Carolina women’s basketball squad to the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida, has done just about everything in basketball and is just as worthy as her legendary male counterparts.

When Staley’s South Carolina women’s squad takes the floor against Notre Dame in Tampa, it’ll be her first trip to the national semifinals as a head coach and her first visit since her collegiate days when she was leading the Virginia Cavaliers to three straight Final Four appearances.

Transforming a once dormant Gamecocks women’s basketball program into a national powerhouse is a testament to her North Philly roots and a rock-hard determination to succeed in the face of enormous odds, something she reflected on during a conference call with Final Four coaches earlier this week.

“I’m most proud of being able to cut the bottom of a milk crate out, nail it to a piece of wood, and put it on that electrical pole,” said Staley, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. “And I used to really‑‑ I perfected a bank shot off of a wooden basket in a crate.

“So I know I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life and my basketball career, but that’s truly hard.  I won a lot of horse games on the streets of Philly learning how to perfect the bank shot under those circumstances.”

It was that competitive fire that helped her turn a struggling Temple’s women’s basketball program into a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic-10. From 2000 to 2008, Staley’s teams won 172 games and captured four A-10 titles and made six NCAA Tournament appearances.

Quite a few of her players from those Owls teams have gone to play well at the professional level in this country and internationally. Most notably, Candice Dupree who helped lead the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA title.

Coming to South Carolina and coaching in a tough Southeastern Conference that includes perennial powerhouse Tennessee, winners of seven national championships, was an even tougher task for Staley than reviving Temple’s program.

In her first year, Staley’s squad won just 10 games. Four years later, the Gamecocks went to the Sweet 16.

But Staley said it wasn’t easy. She needed to get talent good enough to make South Carolina into a national powerhouse. Some of that talent is homegrown from the state of South Carolina.

One of those best players is junior guard Tiffany Mitchell, a two-time SEC Player-of-the-Year who is averaging 14 points per game and she landed a Parade national high school player of the year in 6-foot-5-inch freshman A’ja Wilson, who is averaging 13 points per game.

“It takes talent.  It takes great people, and it takes a commitment, a commitment of discipline,” Staley said.  “So once we got those things in place, our program started to move in the right direction.  We didn’t always have that.  Seven years ago, we didn’t have that.”

For all the times Staley has been a part of winning traditions as both a player and a coach at the collegiate level, she has yet to win a national championship. As a player, she came close in 1991 when her Virginia squad he experienced a heartbreaking overtime loss to Tennessee.

Staley said if South Carolina wins the women’s national championship this weekend, the trophy is not just for her, but for all the people who shaped her playing and coaching career along the way including former Temple head coach John Chaney.

“So I take all of those people who helped me along the way and who also experienced that awful feeling of not‑‑ you know, that void of not winning a National Championship,” Staley said. “Hopefully, the cards are in our favor this year, and hopefully I’ll be able for all of those people who played an integral role in my life.”

 

 

 

Advertisements

Women of Power: Hoops Legends Staley and Cooper-Dyke Coach Game They Play–Superbly

17 Feb

By Scott Talley 

For the Chris Murray Report 

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

It is often said that great players don’t make great coaches.  Apparently this adage was never communicated to Dawn Staley or Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

Staley, one of the most decorated players in women’s basketball history is now head basketball coach of the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks.  At first glance, it would appear impossible for Staley to match her athletic resume, which includes being a two-time National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) while starring at point guard for the University of Virginia, playing on three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams, and 2013 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  However, the Philadelphia native is well on her way to achieving coaching greatness.

The Lady Gamecocks entered the 2013-14 campaign on the heels of two consecutive 25-win seasons, including a stellar record of 25 wins and only eight losses last season.  And with March approaching, Staley’s nationally ranked team is a virtual lock to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, also known as the “Big Dance.

This season, the Gamecocks are 23-2 overall and are first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-1 recording including Sunday’s road win over No. 19 LSU.

Staley arrived at South Carolina in 2008 to turn around the Lady Gamecocks’ basketball fortunes after a highly successful run as head coach of Temple University, where she posted a 172-80 record in eight seasons, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.

 

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women's basketball.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women’s basketball.

Like Staley, Cooper-Dyke was often the center of attention during a spectacular playing career.  The fiery guard’s highlight reel included playing on two NCAA championship teams at the University of Southern California, winning an Olympic gold medal, leading the Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA titles, and 2010 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a head college basketball coach, Cooper-Dyke also has mirrored Staley by turning losing programs into winners, including success stories at Prairie View A&M, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Texas Southern.   When former Los Angeles Lakers standout Michael Cooper was unable to get the job done as head coach of the University of Southern California’s women’s team, Cooper-Dyke received a call from her alma mater.

Upon accepting the job she said:  “I’m very excited to coach every one of these USC players.  I’m excited about the talent we have.  I’m excited to teach and learn and motivate and really see them blossom into the players they can truly become.”

True to her words, after only a few months on the job, Cooper-Dyke’s Women of Troy are showing signs of returning to national prominence, including a home-and-home sweep of rival UCLA this season.

Under Cooper-Dyke’s leadership, USC is 16-10 overall and 9-5 in Pacific-12 Conference play and are in a three-way tie for second in the conference.

Since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982, basketball has remained the most popular women’s sport and in recent years the talent has grown by leaps and bounds.  The sport’s continued rise will no doubt be fueled by coaches like Cooper-Dyke and Staley, who are committed to helping young women be successful on and off the court.

As Staley said during her Hall of Fame induction speech:  “I knew I had made the right decision to coach when I started to care more about my players than the win, and I really like wins…”

Scott Talley is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Detroit, Michigan. 

 

 

It’s Time For Men to Respect and Support Women’s Basketball

10 Apr

http://espn.go.com/espnw/commentary/9133781/brittney-griner-nba-offer-false-promise

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Baylor's Britany Griner will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft and could be the league's most compelling figure.

Baylor’s Britany Griner will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft and could be the league’s most compelling figure.

When the University of Maryland Lady Terrapins defeated the Duke Lady Blue Devils in an overtime thriller for the NCAA’s women’s national basketball title in 2006, it was one of the greatest games of all time, not just in women’s hoops, but in the history of college basketball.

Freshman point guard Kristi Toliver’s miracle three-pointer over Duke’s 6-foot-7 forward Alison Bales in the final seconds to send the game to overtime enabled the Terrapins to come back from a 13-point deficit at halftime.  Freshman Marissa Coleman would sink a pair of free-throws in overtime to pull off an improbable upset.

A day after the game, I was in the Sixers press dining room having dinner with some of the beat writers when I brought up what a great game that Maryland-Duke national championship game was last night.

“You actually watch women’s basketball,” one of the guys said.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the response. I’ve been a sports writer for a while so I shouldn’t have been.

I mean, hey, in a mostly white, mostly male sports journalism industry, why should women’s basketball get any notice? My guess is that the only reason that women’s tennis gets any notice is that it’s played in really, really short skirts.

But while sexism rears its ugly head most in the world of sports journalism, it’s not the only place it hangs out. In a country where great strides have been made in the area of gender equality,we still have quite a way to go.

Recently, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines when he sent a Twitter message to 6-foot-8 Baylor All-American Brittney Griner offering a tryout with his team.

It was widely reported in the sports media that it was nothing more than a publicity stunt by Cuban, who is our modern-day Bill Veeck for his penchant for making himself the story.

Of course, you heard all the reasons why Griner couldn’t play with the fellas in the NBA. The athleticism, the speed, the size would be too much for the 6-foot-8 Griner. I can accept that because Griner is a back to the basket player in the low post and not just because she’s a woman.

Besides, 6-foot-8 forwards are a dime a dozen in the NBA and most of them are swing guards or small forwards. If Griner was a good ball-handler and had that kind of game, I might be inclined to say that she may have shot at possibly making a team.

But all that said, I agree with ESPN columnist Jemele Hill who says that she’d like to see Griner make an impact on the WNBA and become one of the best players in the women’s game while also boosting the profile of a league that’s trying to make a name for itself.

Recently, the WNBA and ESPN announced a huge television deal that runs through 2022. The league has revamped its logo and wants to market current college stars like Griner and Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne as the future faces of the league.

Like Hill and her ESPN colleague Kate Fagan, I believe that the whole of idea Griner trying to play in the NBA is another way of marginalizing women as athletes.

Neither Griner nor the current stars of the WNBA like Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, or Candace Parker need men to validate them as great basketball players. But they are deserving of their respect.

As much as the WNBA and ESPN will do to market their sport, I think the real issue that there is still a huge resistance among men in sports media and society in general to take women’s sports seriously.

The only time you hear any serious discussion of women’s sports on sports talk radio is to hear the loud mouths justify why they don’t watch or to say something disparaging about one of the athletes.

That was the case in 2007 when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes.”

What bothered me about that situation was that C. Vivian Stringer’s Scarlet Knight squad had completed a remarkable run through the NCAA Tournament and reached the national championship game when nobody expected them to be there.

But it’s not just media coverage. Women’s college basketball teams, even in some of the most successful programs, don’t draw the kind of crowds that their male counterparts do. Is it marketing on the part of the university? Or is it because the players don’t have that look that appeals to our male sexual fantasies like an Anna Kournikova?

To me, it’s not market forces or anything couched in some pseudo scientific survey done by a Harvard research team, it’s just that we men still can’t get past our sexism to appreciate the athleticism of female athletes. After all, sports are supposed to be the domain of men.

While I respect ESPN’s efforts for broadcasting the WNBA and women’s college basketball, we will not have true gender equity in sports until we can stand around the nation’s water coolers and rave about Brittney Griner’s exploits on the court in the same way we do LeBron James’s.