Dawn Staley has only ever missed two Olympics since the first time she was called to join USA Basketball in 1989.
For 32 years and six Olympic cycles, Staley — a 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee — was a staple for Team USA. After she helped Team USA to a record seventh-consecutive Olympic gold medal, she announced she would step down as the team’s head coach.
“Certainly, I know the start of this winning, occurred before [these players], but they finished it off,” Staley said in a press conference after the women’s national team beat Japan, 90-75, capping another successful Olympic run. “I mean they took the torch and they took it to another level and they just are putting so much pressure on the next coach and the next players to perform at a high level.
“I’ll say this too, I’m done, as well,” Staley said as Sue Bird — who was named to her first Olympic team in Staley’s last as an athlete — reached over to give her a congratulatory shoulder squeeze. ”Who else is gonna sit on this podium in 2024 without them? I’m not.”
Staley’s Olympic record includes: three golds as an athlete in 1996 (Atlanta), 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Athens); two golds as an assistant coach in 2008 (Beijing) and 2016 (Rio); and now a gold medal as Team USA’s head coach for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
And for the record, she only missed the 1992 Games in Barcelona after USAB told her she was too short and inexperienced in international competition to make the cut.
Staley, 51, took the helm of the women’s national team in March of 2017 after former USAB coach Geno Auriemma stepped down from his seven-year tenure. She made headlines not just for being named the new head coach in a long tenure with USAB, but for also being the first Black woman to lead the team.
And she finished her head coaching tenure with a 45-0 record.
“Giving God all the Glory for his ever loving favor @usabasketball got the GOLD once again! On the 7th day we didn’t rest because we couldn’t,” Staley tweeted after the gold medal game.
Staley said she would recommend USAB assistant coach Cheryl Reeve — the four-time WNBA champion head coach of the Minneseota Lynx — as the new HC of Team USA.
“Cheryl’s been around for a long time and she has been an assistant coach with this team for a long time,” Staley said. “She can handle this position quite well and she’ll demand and command respect from the players.
“What she can bring to the table is unmatched. So she’d get my nod, for sure.’’
As for Staley, she’s still the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina — which she’s led three SEC titles and 14 NCAA Tournament runs, including a championship in 2017.
“Our country has a lot of great coaches that can get the job done,” Staley said Sunday. “Me, being a part of I believe six, that’s enough. I’m full, I’m full.
“But it’s something that I’ll miss as well, because it’s not duplicated in any other form in team basketball.”
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Head coach Dawn Staley of Team United States reacts against France during the first half of a Women's Basketball Preliminary Round Group B game on day 10 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on Monday, August 2, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/TNS)