PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Dawn Staley entered the ancient auditorium at Murrell Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia Thursday afternoon escorted by cheerleaders, athletes and a drum line. It was a fitting welcome home tribute to an alum who has made it to the very top without forgetting her roots.
Mayor Jim Kenney was among a parade of dignitaries heaping praise on Staley (Class of '88).
"She has done more for basketball--not just women's basketball, but all basketball-- than anyone who's ever played the game," said Kenney, as the crowd roared in agreement.
Hyperbole? Maybe not.
Staley took her game from 25th and Diamond to Dobbins where as a senior she was named National High School Player of the Year. At the University of Virginia, she was twice named national player of the year.
Staley turned pro and was an eight-time All-Star and a three-time Olympic gold-medal winner as a player.
She turned to coaching, first taking the Temple Owls program to new heights, then leading the University of South Carolina to its-- and her-- first national title.
The assembly was marred by a malfunctioning microphone, which made it hard to understand some of the tributes.
Former Temple coach John Chaney drew laughs when he joked that when Staley wins her next title, "She's going to get some new mics for us here."
Then it was Staleys turn at that balky mic. In a few short minutes, she left the kids with life lessons good for use on or off the basketball court.
"We have got to learn how to win by losing. By losing. Everything in life isn't about winning. It's about learning."
Throughout the festivities-- in fact, ever since South Carolina's national title celebration-- Staley has worn around her neck the net cut down from the basket that night. She calls it her net-lace.
"It symbolizes reaching back," she told reporters afterward. "I want everyone to see it and feel a part of it and hopefully take a piece of it and use it to drive them to be successful."