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WIS one-on-one exclusive with Dawn Staley ahead of the Olympics

Head coach Dawn Staley, center, coaches during practice for the United States women's...
Head coach Dawn Staley, center, coaches during practice for the United States women's basketball team in preparation for the Olympics, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)(John Locher | AP)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A bump in the road will not chase away the dream to win gold for South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and Team USA. The WNBA All-Star squad toppled Team USA in an exhibition in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday night, 93-85.

“We knew going into the game it would be tough,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley. “It wasn’t as bad as it felt after the game and watching it a few times.”

The focus for Staley remains on forging a team identity and good habits that will lead to thriving at the Olympics in Tokyo.

“We were trying to create some habits that we can utilize for the next month,” Staley added. “Sometimes, when you’re utilizing those habits, you get exposed, especially when they’re not strong habits.”

Lack of prep time up to this point as a unit certainly factored into the outcome.

“I told them it takes time,” Staley said. “We need prep time. I thought we played uncharacteristically. I just felt we have enough in the room to win basketball games.”

“I don’t think other countries will have as much talent that was on the other side of the court that we had to play. They’re different in that they will have a lot more preparation to play. I’m still excited about the possibilities of this team and us getting better at what we do. WNBA All-Stars played tremendously and with a freedom that creates momentum. We played more regimented and trying to create habits for the end result.”

“What I like best is we hurt ourselves and still gave ourselves a chance to win. This team has layers and layers of talent. It’s going to take more than a 75-minute practice. We’re versatile. We can play people in different positions. When we get some preparation time, we will see that develop into something special.”

The UofSC women’s hoops leader pairs up with a former star Gamecock player in A’ja Wilson. Like many other superstars on the USA roster, Wilson will need a little time to understand her role to maximize performance in limited minutes.

“A’ja always has been a team player,” Staley said. “She will continue to be that. She didn’t have enough reps. That’s the way it’s going to be on a team like this. All the players will have to play a lot less than what they play on their respective teams. We have to find a way for them to be efficient and effective in the time that they’re given.”

Staley is ready to lead Team USA to a seventh consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

She was a player on the USA roster that started the streak in 1996. She entered the games with no professional league in the states to fall back on afterward.

“I was singularly focused on winning a gold medal,” Staley recalled. “That was a lifelong dream of mine. I didn’t know what would come out of that.”

What came out of that experience, besides winning gold, were two professional women’s basketball leagues developed in the states. The timing was near perfect for Staley. A divine path and one she follows to this day.

“I’ve been fortunate my path is divinely ordered,” Staley said. “I didn’t have anything to do after the Olympic games. Two professional leagues were created, and then I fell into doing that. I never wanted to be a coach, and then that fell into my lap. In coaching, you feel like you want to coach at the top. Being in situations, other aspirations tend to blossom and give you something to shoot for.”

Now, Staley embraces her first run as the Team USA head coach on the Olympic stage, leading a group of stars seeking a seventh-straight gold medal.

The opening ceremony for the Olympics is July 23rd.

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