Dawn Staley, the South Carolina women’s basketball coach and three-time Olympic gold medalist, just keeps finding plenty to celebrate in Tennessee. Her latest is heading up the 2012 class of inductees into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Staley led the Gamecocks to their first-ever road win over Tennessee in Knoxville in February. She was back Friday ready to be inducted along with the rest of the 2012 class: broadcaster Robin Roberts, All Americans Nikki McCray, Pamela McGee and Inge Nissen and coach Nancy Fahey.
”I was very happy because I think it’s a tremendous honor,” Staley said. ”But on the flip side of that, I’m thinking, `I’ve got to put a cocktail dress on and give a speech.’ I was kind of mixed with it. I enjoy the recognition but it’s at the cost of getting up and giving a speech and saying something profound.”
Staley played for the Cavaliers from 1989-92, guiding Virginia to three Final Four appearances. She remains the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to have more than 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, 700 assists and 400 steals.
She also played eight seasons in the WNBA with the Charlotte Sting and later the Houston Comets. She was a five-time WNBA All-Star and was named to the league’s All-Decade team.
Staley finished her fourth season as coach of South Carolina in March after eight seasons at Temple.
`When you’ve been removed from the game now (as a player) for six years, you kind of reflect on what you’ve done,” Staley said. ”You always want to leave a legacy and I just felt like this is one of the highest honors you could ever receive for a lot of reasons. One, your body of work and what you’ve given to the game, your contributions to the game. Two, you look at the company you’re going in with and you’ve got to come up with you did something right.”
Roberts didn’t even know she could be inducted despite playing college basketball at Southeastern Louisiana. She is going in as a contributor.
”When I was first told, I thought they wanted me to emcee the event. I did,” Roberts said. ”I emceed the first one so I thought they wanted me to do it again because I did a good job. They were like, `No, no no.’ You’re actually being inducted.’ I didn’t know I was eligible. That tells you it wasn’t on my radar screen.
”I wasn’t thinking about it at all, but when they told me that, it took me a moment. I had to digest it. I can now sign HOF ’12.”
McCray was a two-time All American at Tennessee during her college career from and a three-time WNBA All-Star. She now is an assistant coach under Staley at South Carolina. She said being inducted didn’t sink in until she arrived at the Hall of Fame on Friday, located close to where she played in college.
”It’s very humbling and I’m very excited about my family and all the support I’ve had throughout my career. It’s just an exciting time for me and for them,” McCray said. ”When you think of women’s basketball, you think of Pat Summitt, you think of Tennessee so I think it’s very fitting that it’s here in Knoxville.”
Nissen was an All-American at Old Dominion in 1980 and helped guide the Lady Monarchs to AIAW national championships in 1979 and 1980. Friday was her first time visiting the hall.
”It certainly makes you feel appreciated,” Nissen said. ”I’ve loved seeing the building and everything they’ve done for women’s basketball. It was never one of my goals. I just tried to become the best player I could be. This is just a crowning moment. It’s very nice to be included with all these accomplished people, coaches, players and referees that are in this hall. It’s wonderful.”
McGhee was ranks second all-time at Southern California in rebounds and fourth in points. She was an All-American in 1984 and was a on the Trojan’s 1983 and ’84 national championship teams.
Fahey is the coach of Washington University in Saint Louis. She’s the only Division III coach to win five national championships, including four straight from 1998-2001. She’s ”shocked and humbled for the honor.
”It’s a team sport so I really look at this as a team recognition,” Fahey. ”To be in this class, it’s an amazing feeling. I have to admit, the closer you get to it, as we got done with our season, it started hitting me even bigger. I’m a little bit in awe.”