Women’s Championship: Dawn Staley, Geno Auriemma, Phil Martelli & Philly Cheesesteaks

I can’t recall the exact day or even the exact year… It could have been 2014, 2015 or 2016… I do remember it was after Geno Auriemma had won one of, what seems like, 39 National Championships. I was hanging out with Auriemma’s homie, then St. Joseph’s Head Coach, Phil Martelli in his office on Hawk Hill.

Dawn Staley during the National Championship game against UConn

“Dawn bout to take this thing over Phil… She’s comin’….”

“Not while Geno’s still in the game Del… He’s got this thing wired…”

Now, I fully understood where Phil was coming from. After all Auriemma had long ago eclipsed Tennessee’s Hall of Fame Coach Pat Summit and ascended to the top of the women’s college basketball mountain where he stood all alone. He was absolutely dominant. He had led UConn to 17 undefeated conference seasons (including eight consecutive). Auriemma’s Huskies had six undefeated overall seasons, with 11 National Championships. He had the most titles in women’s college basketball history, and on eight separate occasions was named national Naismith National Coach of the Year.

At the time, Staley had led the Gamecocks to 3 Sweet 16s and a Final Four. While these were wonderful accomplishments, she was not in the same stratosphere as Auriemma. But I had a feeling. I had been introduced to Staley while she was dominating high school basketball by my friend Dexter Matthews.

“My young girl is the best thing out there…”

Matthews gave our Lincoln University crew and loud and clear heads up while Dawn was in high school. Staley was named the national high school player of the year following her senior season at Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia. From there, she ventured to the University of Virginia. She led Virginia to four NCAA Tournaments, three Final Fours and one National Championship game.

After graduation, Staley played in France, Italy, Brazil and Spain before joining the ABL and then the WNBA. She also won 3 Olympic gold medals and carried the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony of the 2004 games.

While still playing in the WNBA and participating in USA basketball, in 2000 Staley accepted the position of head coach at Temple. In her first season, 2000–01, Temple advanced to the WNIT. In 2001, 2002, and 2004, her teams won the A10 tournament and played in the NCAA tournament. Staley reached the 100-win plateau faster than any coach in women’s basketball.

On May 7, 2008, it was confirmed by Temple University that Staley would leave Temple for the recently vacated coaching position at the University of South Carolina. She left Temple with the best overall record of 172–80, along with six NCAA appearances and four A10 titles.

Staley and Imhotep alum Donta Scott during his official visit to South Carolina

So… When I saw her leading the Gamecocks to the Sweet 16 and eventually the Final Four, I knew should would eventually get a chip. I didn’t know when, but I knew it was coming.

So that day in Phil’s office, I laid down the gauntlet… Each and every time Auriemma and Staley square off, Martelli and I have a standing bet… and it’s a BIG one!

Every game a cheesesteak is on the line…

Last night’s Championship game was no exception…

Today, after capturing her second National championship in 5 years, Staley is sitting on the top of the mountain alongside Auriemma… Martelli and I will be visiting Marvin O’Connor’s Fresh Works located at 2101 Reed St, Philadelphia, PA 19146 in the very near future. Yo Phil… I like mines with American, (NO whiz) mayo, ketchup, fried onions and hot peppers!

Norf got another one!