Everyone likes a heartwarming homecoming, none more than the tight-knit Philadelphia sports community. So minutes after Dawn Staley guided South Carolina to their second national championship under her watch, Sixers fans were starting to flirt. Maybe Staley – a successful black woman born and raised in Philly – should be on the Sixers’ radar.
Fans of the team were just floating the idea out there on Twitter as an interesting contingency plan should Doc Rivers fail in the playoffs. Philadelphia is desperate for an NBA championship parade down Broad Street, something that hasn’t happened since 1983 with the famed “Fo, Fo, Fo” squad. The Sixers haven’t advanced past the Conference Finals in 22 years, including a disappointing exit in the Conference Semifinals last season.
Rivers might only be in his second year at the helm, but the natives are restless. They have seen his postseason track record – aside from that 2008 championship – and aren’t encouraged by the results. The 60-year-old has quickly earned an unwanted reputation for choking on the biggest stage when his “strategy often turns into hubris” to quote SB Nation.
Enter Staley. She’s Philly through and through, with sterling credentials: two NCAA national championships, three Olympic gold medals (two as a player, one as coach), six-time WNBA All-Star, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Staley would be an interesting name to consider (and stupid to ignore) should Rivers and the Sixers bow out early in the 2021-22 playoffs.
If a team featuring Joel Embiid and James Harden can’t win it all, then Rivers is going to come under intense scrutiny. He already is. Chris Olley wants to “clear the deck for Dawn Staley to lead the parade floats next year.” And Joe Rinaldi is ready to lay “crazy money” on the Sixers if Staley takes the reins.
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Staley Comments on Rumors: ‘I’m a Quick Learn’
There has never been a female head coach in NBA history. Yes, Becky Hammon became the first “acting” head coach when Gregg Popovich was ejected in 2020. She went on to interview for the general manager job with Milwaukee before being hired to lead the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. Hammon poked a huge hole through the gender barrier, but it won’t be fully broken until a woman gets hired to run an NBA franchise.
Staley, who coached Temple prior to South Carolina, seems like the perfect one to do it considering her background. She’s been a champion at every competitive level and has a certain swagger about her. The pride of Dobbins Tech told the New York Times she could handle being an NBA head coach and all the pressure that comes with it.
“I come with a lot of credentials. I surely have the confidence,” Staley told Kurt Streeter. “I surely can stand in front of men and lead them. First-team All-Stars. MVPs. I’m OK with that. I haven’t coached in the league. But you know what? I’m a quick learn. I’m a quick learn.”
Rivers, Sixers Have Unfinished Business
Rivers sounded like a man locked in after Sunday’s 112-108 win over Cleveland. He acknowledged that the Sixers cleared the first hurdle by getting into the postseason tournament. Now the hard work begins. Rivers, like everyone lobbying for Staley, knows anything short of a Finals appearance won’t be good enough.
“You got to do these steps to get to where you want to go,” Rivers said. “The first step is getting in, and we’re in. The second step is whoever we play and being ready for that.”