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Jessica Hunt | | March 31, 2017

Dawn Staley readies to compete against former mentor

  South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is in her first Final Four as a coach.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley notes she is “o-fer” in games against Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. Staley lost twice to VanDerveer’s teams as a point guard at Virginia in the 1990 and 1992 Final Fours and five times as a coach.

“I’m part of the 1,000 wins that she has,” Staley said. “I’m one of the defeated teams in that total win category. I mean, she’s a hard win. She’s been in these situations a number of times, and she definitely uses her experience against us.”

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Staley has also been on the other side — as part of VanDerveer's winning teams. Staley was a member of the 1996 Olympic team coached by VanDerveer that won a gold medal in Atlanta, an experience Staley describes as a dream coming true.

“Tara has taught me so much about the game as a player that I still use the foundation of how I approach games from the days in which she taught me as an Olympian, the times we spent together.”

Staley will now coach the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, succeeding UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Staley played on the 2000 and 2004 gold-medal teams and was an assistant coach on the 2008 and 2016 teams.

“I think she’s just a great role model for the young women coming up,” VanDerveer said. “I mean, she’s carried our country’s flag. She’s everything you could look for in a coach and a friend. It’s just a great story. I just want her to keep it going.”

Staley will once again get an opportunity against VanDerveer as South Carolina faces Stanford in the first Final Four game Friday night. Staley’s history with the opposing coach has influenced the way she has developed her own personal coaching philosophy.   

“I feel like from my experiences with her, she taught me how to approach the game, how to approach pressure situations, and how to execute while being under that amount of pressure,” Staley said.

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Staley notes one of the challenges of facing this Cardinal team is the “moving parts” that make it difficult to guard and the opportunity for any one of its players to step up.

“Stanford is very disciplined. They are a team in which they do a great job of reading defenses and offenses," she said. "They make you go a little deeper in what you’re trying to accomplish. They make you go through options, you know, three, four and five instead of one and two. … They’ll be a challenge for us, but we also have seen a lot of basketball.”

Although Staley has a history of competing with and against VanDerveer, Stanford’s coach does not know what her former player will use against her on Friday. What she does know is that Staley will be ready.

“I mean, Dawn is her own woman, her own coach,” Van Derveer said. "I just think if she learned anything from me, great. I don't know that I could say what it was. I know she's going to be really prepared and their team will play really hard.” 

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