There has been plenty of chatter about the Trail Blazers potential head coaching candidates.
With former NBA and WNBA players reportedly in the mix to be interviewed, Blazers fans have been doing their homework on the potential replacements for Terry Stotts.
One coach some may not be as familiar with is Dawn Staley.
But she may fit the exact needs of the Blazers better than some on the list.
Earlier this month as Portland began its preparation for what the team was looking for in its next coach, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said he wants a coach who will focus on improving the team's defense.
But he is also looking for a coach that will hold players accountable.
“Somebody who is going to hold people accountable on both ends of the floor,” Olshey said in a team's press conference on June 7.
Enter Dawn Staley.
For those who don’t know, Staley, she is a hard-nosed coach, who has learned how to not care about what people think of her.
And that very trait was spotlighted in the latest edition of GQ the magazine.
Staley, 51, recently lost her brother to COVID-19 as GQ author Tyler R. Tynes illustrates after spending several days with Dawn.
Staley also explained how she’s been perceived as a head coach at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have told their coach about the things players from other teams say: They can’t believe how strict she is; they couldn’t play under such a disciplinarian (Dawn likes to restrict the team’s social media usage before games and often takes their phones). “I have a reputation out there that I'm hard to play for,” she says. She thinks about this for a moment and then chuckles slightly. “Some people don't like it,” she says. But her words say something different than her face. It’s clear she doesn’t really care.
And why should she? Dawn’s voice holds a specific weight over the sporting congregation. She is the lone Black woman at the top of college basketball, with the accolades and accomplishments to say whatever she wants and an army of supporters willing to fight for her. She is a symbol of what’s possible for Black women in basketball. And there is a need, a genuine, righteous necessity that she remains steadfast: Not for herself, but for the young women she’s here to mentor. They need to be able to see that someone like them, unflinching and unbothered, can be where she is. The burden is immense, and yet, Dawn faces it without blinking, dreaming the lives of her ancestors, shouting like Sojourner with the ferocity to say “ain’t I a woman?” and turn her world upside down with her own hands.
“Everybody else is saying what this Black woman is doing and they ain't comfortable,” Dawn says. “They're not comfortable with that. The conversations are around color because of our success. I mean, why, really? So you feel it. Not only do you feel it every day, but you feel it when you're a success, too. It's mind boggling to me. But again, I'm good with it. I'm good with [people] bringing race into it because it needs to be known. It needs to be highlighted because when so many of our young, Black ladies are in this game, being the head coach is something that they wanna do and if you don't see somebody in that position, it makes it hard. It's saying that Black people can't be successful in those places. So I'm gonna keep on keeping on.”
Staley has led the Gamecocks to six SEC Championships in the last seven years.
Here are just a few of Staley's accolades:
- Six-time WNBA All-Star from 2001-06
- Chosen to the WNBA's Top 15 Players of All-Time in 2011
- Two-time Naismith College Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992
- Two-Time ACC Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992
- As far as coaching goes, she led the Gamecocks to a 2017 NCAA National Championship, in her 12 seasons at the helm of South Carolina, the Gamecocks have been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 151 consecutive weeks, including 80 weeks in the top 5
- NCAA Tournament Champion in 2017
- Six-time SEC Tournament Champion
- Four-time SEC Coach of the Year (2014-16, 2020)
- Naismith Coach of the Year in 2020
- AP National Coach of the Year in 2020
And, she could be just what the Blazers need.
As Staley gets set to coach Team USA in the upcoming Olympics, it could be a perfect time for Staley and Portland’s six-time All-Star and face of the franchise Damian Lillard to build their player-coach rapport.