USA Basketball Women’s National Team Quote Board
Dawn Staley, 2017-20 USA Basketball Women’s National Team head coach
On today’s practice:
It wasn’t a bad day. I thought they came out and played like pros. I think they get a little overzealous in trying to make an impact out there. We have to get our spacing right from an offensive standpoint. I liked the effort defensively. They’re a very competitive group, and I think we’re off to a great start.
What is it like having two of your former players, Allisha Gray and Tiffany Mitchell, out here vying for a spot on the USA team?
It’s great. When our players decide that they want to come to South Carolina, they give us all these goals and dreams that they have to be a part of a goal outside of college, on this level, I’m proud. I’m like a proud mom out here.
How different is it coaching the Gamecocks to being out here and coaching the pros?
How different? It’s one end of the spectrum to the other. These are pros. These are veterans. These are players who get paid to do what they do. So, they don’t take time off. They get in the gym. They work. They work their craft. They understand what needs to be done. They don’t take plays off. Their world is basketball and you can tell by their play out here. With our team, you can tell that they get distracted by other stuff. Obviously, school is a big part of it. But, they also want to enjoy college, and they’re not all in like the pros out here.
Does your international experience as an athlete give you an advantage as a head coach?
Obviously, I played with some of the players out here. I’ve been around them. I think what it is, is that we have a mutual respect for what we’ve done for the game. We have four-time Olympians out here, and they’re vying for their fifth Olympic Games. When you have players who are dedicated like that … I’ve played USA Basketball, coached USA Basketball for over 25 years. So, when you see like minds that continue to come back and give back to be a part of the USA Basketball culture, that’s just mutual respect for each other.
USA court coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx)
On the first practice:
I think, as you would expect, we have 18 players here, and the energy was really, really high, enthusiasm, listening to what’s being asked of them. As the day wore on, we’re getting a little more comfortable with the execution part. Kind of making sure that you are marrying the two – your effort and energy, and the idea that execution goes along with that. We say that towards the end of the day as players go more comfortable. Really good group. I saw a lot of sharing of the basketball, which I think is really important, hustle plays, that sort of thing. Dawn asked them to be yourselves and do what you do, and I thought for the most part we had players that really stuck to that.
On getting everyone back in the same gym:
For sure, especially for me. I haven’t seen a lot of players. I’ve got a couple in market in Minneapolis, but this is that time of year when they usually all are still overseas and you don’t get to see them for a couple of months. So, it’s definitely good to see everybody, touch base. And for USA Basketball, they only have couple of chances together before we get ready for the World Cup. I was valuable, really, really valuable time, and it will be for the next couple of days. You kind of hang onto all the good things and do even better the next camp and build some momentum.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On playing for Dawn Staley and the short training period:
It’s only these three days, and there’s only so much you can communicate or talk about things. So, it would be cool to have that relationship grow even more, but that’s USA Basketball, obviously. It is what it is. It’s definitely unique. It’s cool, because you share something. When you’ve been a teammate, when you’ve played the same position and now you’re a coached player, you just share a connection.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
You missed last fall’s training camp due to advancing to the WNBA Finals. What’s it like being back for you?
It’s nice to be back. Obviously, there are a lot of familiar faces on the court and off the court. It’s always a really great atmosphere, and everyone’s really excited about coach Staley being here and the court coaches are obviously helping us a lot. We are very familiar with coach (Cheryl) Reeve, Dan Hughes and Brian (Agler). I like it because we have a lot of veterans here. It’s kind of refreshing being able to play with the people you usually only play against.
With everyone going after just 12 player spots, how competitive is it out there and are you trying to do anything in particular to make yourself stand out more?
No, just being myself. I don’t believe in doing anything more than what I have to offer, and I think that everybody should take that approach. It kind of gets a little confusing when you want to make the team so bad and you want to really do your best, but I think sometimes if you hold on too tight, you can kind of not really have the grip that you want in terms of the position you’re trying to get. And, quite frankly, I don’t think anyone should think about spots, just come out here and be what USA Basketball is, and that’s playing together, having fun and getting better.
Describe the style of coach Dawn Staley is:
Definitely her player perception is shining through. It’s not often that you get to be coached by a Hall of Famer as a player. So, her expertise with her experience as a player and her gold medals, and obviously professionally, it provides a different type of freshness. We’re learning a lot of new things. She has some concepts that not a lot of us are used to, so I think that that’s keeping us alert.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
On Dawn Staley as a coach:
She’s one of the top coaches in the world. The way she gets her teams to play out here at South Carolina, winning a national championship. Knowing Dawn, when I was the 21-year-old kid on the Olympic team and she was my point guard, I just remember she always had a manner of being so confident that you really believed in everything she said. And I think today was the first time that I actually got to see her with her head coaching suit on, and Dawn’s great. Dawn just gets to the point and wants you to play a certain way, and if you do it, you’re going to be successful. Because, she’s obviously proved that. It’s exciting. It’s a new chapter in USA Basketball. It’s a new chapter for a lot of the players here and for here, too. I’m just really lucky to be a part of it.
On the difference between the coaching styles of Dawn Staley and Geno Auriemma?
Stylistically, they’re a little bit different as far as defensive schemes and offensive schemes. But, at the core, when you play with USA Basketball, it’s really about how unselfish can you be? How can you make the next person better? Those are the things that they look for, and I think that’s why we’ve had so much success. Starting with Dawn as the point guard, and now carrying over that mindset as our head coach.
How has Dawn Staley changed women’s college basketball over the past decade?
It’s amazing what she’s done here. If you talk to coaches around the country, especially in college, it’s not easy to change a program’s whole appearance over a decade. Not only that, but putting a banner up in here, filling this place out. There’s a buzz, there’s an energy when you say South Carolina’s women’s basketball. When I was going to school, it wasn’t there. That’s a credit to Dawn and her staff, and ultimately all the players that she’s gotten to come play for her. It’s really amazing what she’s done. No one deserves it more than Dawn, because no one loves the game of basketball more than her.
What was the biggest transition from the collegiate level to the pros and then to the USA National Team level?
The national team is a different mind-set. It’s a different jersey that you put on. You have to find what you do really well, and try and bring that to the table. I think sometimes players get in a mode of trying to do more than they can do. You’re here for a reason already, because you are one of the best in the world. Now, you have to find a way to come out here and blend in with the team and bring out your best ability and skills.
Where does this camp rank in terms of talent among past USA National Teams?
Sue (Bird) and I have been talking about it a lot, you have the older generation, but this younger crop of players, they’re just so dynamic. They’re way ahead of where I was 12 years ago, as far as the things they’re doing on the court, the things that are expected of them, and it’s been fascinating to watch the progression of this team through my lens. You know, being the young kid and now being a little bit older. It’s just really exciting. This young talent is going to do something special from here on out.
Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream)
On the first practice:
I think everyone wanted to just kind of get into things. Obviously, the first day it’s a little different, just getting used to things. But, I think overall we did really well. We are just going to have to adjust, as far as speed and getting our timing right. Defensively, I know we are going to change some things. But, I think overall, it’s a really good group, really high energy. We won’t have to make too many adjustments.
What does it mean to you to be in camp with quite a few of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team veterans?
It’s great. It’s not their first rodeo. They know what it takes to win gold; they’ve done it multiple times. The coaches as well. They’ve been around USA Basketball for a long time. It means a lot to try and learn from them, try to take as much advice as I can, ask questions, those types of things.
Does practice usually start as it did today, jumping right into five-on-zero?
From what I understand, yeah. I think she (Dawn Staley) wants to do those types of things, add in something new every day right before we actually stretch. So then, it’s fresh in our minds, and we can get warm and kind of think on it. And then, once we are full speed, we can already do those things. We don’t have to re-teach.
How does it feel to be out on the court with this group?
It’s always fun to see everybody together like this. We’re all on different teams, whether it’s overseas playing or in the W (WNBA). So, to be able to have this much talent and this much basketball knowledge on the court, it’s fun to play with and it’s really just fun to be a part of.
Is there anyone in particular you are excited to play alongside?
I was excited to Layshia – that’s my point guard in Atlanta. That’s my girl. And then, obviously, just seeing Angel back playing with us was fun. And then the rest of Atlanta. It’s like our whole team is here. We got Tiff (Hayes) here. We got Brittney (Sykes) here. Coaches are here, so it’s really a party. It’s exciting to see my teammates here and to have the chance to be a part of this pool.