Dawn Staley would be the perfect coach for the Charlotte Hornets

South Carolina manager Don Staley celebrates after leading her team to the second national championship in April.

South Carolina manager Don Staley celebrates after leading her team to the second national championship in April.

AP

Searching for Charlotte Hornets training is a mess. The team fired James Borrego on April 22, Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson left him at the altar last week and now rudderless for two months.

But there’s a solution to all of that, and it’s only 90 miles off the road in Colombia:

Fajr Staley.

Staley, who twice won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in South Carolina and Bushell gold medals in international play, would be an inspiring choice to lead the Hornets as their head coach.

Staley, 52, is a world-class former captain and goalkeeper and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. She has deep connections with Charlotte, having starred in the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting in the early 2000s when that team was still around. And she wins wherever she goes. For the Hornets who have not played in the playoffs for six years, this is significant.

You’re not hiring advertising, although that doesn’t hurt the cause. And in terms of getting national attention for a franchise he’s still struggling to get, Michael Jordan couldn’t make a better choice outside of hiring himself. He won’t — Jordan was meeting with veteran NBA head coach Mike D’Antoni on Tuesday, ESPN reports — but he should. When Staley did the Charlotte daily double in April by playing the Charlotte FC and Charlotte Hornets game on the same day, the applause she received was deafening across both stadiums.

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The University of South Carolina head coach, Don Staley, has been at the school since 2008, winning two national titles. Tracy Glantz tglantz@thestate.com

Let’s make the obvious: a woman will be a head coach in the NBA one day.

Most people were betting it would be Becky Hammon, who was the San Antonio Spurs’ assistant coach for eight years and gave unsuccessful interviews at several major coaching jobs in the NBA. But Hammon recently took over as the WNBA head coach in Las Vegas, and my money is on Staley being the one to break that barrier.

Dawn is tough, Philly,” said former WNBA teammate Charlotte Smith. This is true. Only 5ft 6, Staley has dominated larger opponents for years on the court – first at the University of Virginia, then at the professional level and while winning three Olympic gold medals as a player (in 1996, 2000 and 2004). Her character in both Temple and South Carolina has taken on her character – hard-nosed, talented and intelligent.

NBA coaches are pulled in a lot of different directions, but Staley’s time management skills are ridiculously good. While she was still point guard at Charlotte Sting in 2004, she also played for the US Olympic team and coached Temple. Not as an assistant to fetch name recognition – like Coach.

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Dawn Staley poses for photos with fans on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, during a celebration honoring the USC women’s basketball team for winning their second national championship. Tracy Glantz tglantz@thestate.com

I covered those Olympics for the Charlotte Observer, and I remember Staley being chosen by 530 US Olympians to be the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies. Can you imagine the respect you would need to be picked up for something like this?

She later told me, “I was really nervous, but I’m definitely proud to have had the honor of doing it.” “It was exhilarating.”

Staley is also a professional in handling difficult situations. I covered the Sting match in 2004, right before those Olympics in Greece, and then Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was honoring Staley on “Olympian Sendoff” night. Three times in a row in a speech to thousands of fans, McCrory spoiled her name, calling her “Dawn Stanley.”

“It’s old! It’s old! Several fans started shouting at the third.

But Staley handled the situation gracefully, simply hugging McCrory and not mentioning the uttered error.

“I saved him from embarrassment,” she later said.

It could save the Charlotte Hornets some embarrassment, too.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four on the Carolina Panthers. Fowler won the Thomas Wolff Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing and received 18 APSE National Awards. Hosted by The Observer’s 8-part podcast, Carruth, which Sports Illustrated named “Podcast of the Year” for 2018.
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