Staley: Success on court borrowed from life lessons

By Laura

CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) -- She's one of the most decorated athletes in women's basketball history. As a player, Dawn Staley was a complete success.

She went from being the number-one high school recruit in America to a successful student-athlete at the University of Virginia. She then became a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

Now, as a college basketball coach, she has amassed some 239 wins with two different collegiate basketball programs. In her 12-year tenure as an NCAA coach, plenty of that success has been enjoyed with the Lady Gamecocks.

Often times it's hard for a player to translate their skills into a productive program, but Coach Staley has completely revamped the USC women's basketball team into a SEC powerhouse.

But what's her secret to success?

"You have to trick them," she said with a bit of a chuckle. "We try to make everything competitive from the academic piece, to drills, to things off the floor, playing cards. You have to work when no one else is looking. You have to sacrifice."

She also credits her success to not just the talent on the team, but her players' ability to put their talent together, playing as a team and not just individuals.

"We had great balance of team chemistry with great leadership, and I think our players that are seniors this particular year, they grew as people. Once you grow as people, you'll see the bigger picture," Staley said.

But it hasn't always been that way. The 2008 season had coach Staley, the players, and the fans alike, a bit concerned.

"The first year was kind of disastrous in terms of our record," Staley said. "I thought we played hard, and we played well. We were just a couple plays short of being a special team."

From a disastrous 2008 season to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in the 2012 NCAA tournament, Coach Staley has figured out the recipe for success. She explained she borrows from her own life lessons.

"I have been an odds beater all my life. I grew up in the projects of North Philadelphia. No one thought that I would be an Olympian. No one thought I would be a college graduate. No one thought that I could be a successful college coach."

And here she is, a couple decades later doing everything most thought she couldn't do, but all the things she knew she could do all along.