Earlier this offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers fired Terry Stotts and embarked on their first head coaching search in nearly a decade. They eventually hired Chauncey Billups in controversial fashion, but before they made that decision they interviewed a number of candidates including Dawn Staley.
Fresh off her return from Tokyo, where she was the head coach of the United States women’s basketball team as they won a historic seventh straight gold medal, Staley joined WNBA stars A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier on Just Women’s Sports’ podcast, “Tea with A and Phee.” At one point in the show she discussed her experience with the Trail Blazers:
“I had never had an ounce of me that wanted to coach in the WNBA or NBA, until somebody sought me out, like the Portland Trail Blazers.”
“When you’re being sought out, you have to vet it a little bit to see if they’re really serious about it. I thought they treated me like a real candidate. Whether or not they seriously considered me, I felt like it wasn’t a fluke. So I agreed to do it.”
“There was a Zoom and there were like four or five people around and they were just firing questions…they said ‘You don’t really have to know [the X’s and O’s] as much right now. We want to know how you would deal with star players. How would you deal with players who didn’t play? How would you deal with behavior?’…That is most of the job.”
“It was really a great experience, I took a lot of notes because if another female is ever in that position, I got the notes, and I’m going to give them everything that they asked me — how I answered it, what they said.”
In addition to her work on the international level, Staley has been the women’s basketball head coach at South Carolina since 2008. During that time, she’s turned the program into a national power, won the 2017 NCAA title and developed numerous WNBA lottery picks in the process.
With her success at the collegiate and international level, Staley has become one of the most well regarded coaches around. It’s little surprise that NBA teams are finally taking notice. Though she didn’t get this job, it’s good to hear that Staley felt it was a genuine interview and not just a team trying to look progressive by interviewing a woman.
When jobs open up in the future, Staley is going to be in the mix, and, if she wants to leave college, will have a good chance to be the first woman to be hired as an NBA head coach.