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Dawn of a new era

Dawn Staley knows a thing or two about being busy. While balancing commitments to both the WNBA and the USA National Team, the former Virginia basketball standout has taken on yet another project. But this one will put her on the sidelines instead of between them.

Staley recently signed on as the new women's basketball coach at Temple. The Philadelphia native welcomes the position as a homecoming of sorts.

Although Staley said she has a lot to learn about the ins and outs of coaching, recruiting and NCAA regulations, she said she primarily will rely on open, honest relationships with her players and recruits.

"I'm going to be as honest as I can. I think people appreciate that," Staley said. "That's the appreciation that over the years, I've learned to cherish."

Staley said she will split her time between Philadelphia and Charlotte, where she plays for the WNBA's Sting in the summer. This fall Staley also has the added task of trying to lead the National Team to gold in the Olympic Games, which will make for an even more rigorous schedule.

"I've always had my plate full, but right now it's pretty overwhelming," Staley said. "I'm still a player, but with a bigger responsibility now as a coach. I'm just trying to keep my head above water.

"It all boils down to me fulfilling my commitments. I have committed at least two more years to the WNBA, as well as my Olympic commitment with the National Team."

Staley said she will consider continuing her WNBA career beyond her two-year commitment and may not focus solely on coaching. But she said she will cross that bridge when she comes to it.

Crossing bridges is nothing new for Staley. After leaving the ABL's Philadelphia Rage, she signed a much-anticipated three-year contract with the WNBA before the 1999 season. In her first year in the league, she was awarded the WNBA Sportsmanship Award. She hopes to instill values such as sportsmanship and dedication into her players as she enters the coaching arena.

"I think coaching is really all about preparation," Staley said. "I always want to be better and add something new to my game to help my team be successful, and I still try to do that as a player."

If past performance is any indication, expect Staley's Owls to prosper under her direction. While at Virginia from 1989-92, Staley led the Cavs to an impressive 110-21 mark, which included three NCAA Final Four appearances and three ACC titles. As Virginia's floor general, Staley won National Player of the Year honors in both her junior and senior years. She is one of only four Cavaliers to have her number retired, an indication of how much she meant to the program.

Debbie Ryan, who coached Staley at Virginia, acknowledges her tremendous potential for coaching given her successes and experiences as a player.

"It was a matter of whether Dawn wanted to coach or not, not whether she'd be asked to," Ryan said. "She has an uncanny ability to see the game from a different angle."

While coaching may be uncharted territory for Staley, don't expect her to shy away from the challenge. She said she will call upon her experiences as a player to assist her in the transition from the hardwood to the bench.

"As the point guard, you are the coach out there," Staley said. "You are the one that motivates and orchestrates your team. I am going to draw on those experiences I had at Virginia. That is motivation in and of itself"