By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Newly-appointed U.S. women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley said on Friday she knows better than to mess with a winning formula that has resulted in a run of six consecutive Olympic gold medals.
The University of South Carolina women’s coach, a three-time Olympic gold medallist player with the U.S. team who was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, said she will not bring in a new coaching philosophy.
“I don’t think it’s any different. I think the players have made sacrifices and commitments to USA basketball, so whatever was said before is going to be the same thing that’s going to be said moving forward,” Staley, 46, told a conference call.
“We have to have the participation of the players in order for us to continue to be successful. So, if it isn’t broken we got to continue to do what’s worked for us.”
Staley, who on Friday was named as the team’s head coach through 2020, succeeds Geno Auriemma, who led the United States to gold medals at the past two Olympics and world championships and will serve as a special advisor.
The new coach was a point guard on U.S. teams that won Olympic gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004. She also served as an assistant on the 2008 and 2016 teams that also won Olympic gold.
Staley has coached the Gamecocks’ women’s team since 2008 and led them to four straight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and three consecutive SEC Tournament crowns.
She takes over a national team in transition as four-times Olympic gold medallist Tamika Catchings has retired while some key players have not committed to playing again.
But that uncertainty is not altering Staley’s approach.
“We’ll cross that road when we get there,” said Staley. “Players haven’t committed yet nor have they told us they are not going to come back and play, so until we are at that crossroad we are going to act as if we are going to have our best players representing the USA.”
The United States and Staley will first look to triumph at the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain where the winning team will receive an automatic berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
If they fall short in Spain the United States can earn an Olympic berth at either the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup or 2020 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)