Gregg Popovich and Dawn Staley Share 2021 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year Award
Colorado Springs, Colorado (Dec. 15, 2021) – In recognition of their leadership of gold-medal winning USA Basketball Teams in 2021, Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) and Dawn Staley (South Carolina) were named as co-recipients of the 2021 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year award.
This is the first such honor for Popovich, and the third time Staley has been honored as a USA Basketball National Coach of the Year (2015-shared and 2018).
Since 1996, USA Basketball has awarded its National Coach of the Year honor to a USA Basketball head coach who during the year of the award made a significant impact on the success of individual athlete and team performance at the highest levels of competition in a manner consistent with the highest ethical, professional and moral standards.
“USA Basketball is proud to celebrate Gregg Popovich and Dawn Staley for their incredible leadership and success while guiding USA teams this past summer,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO. “Both coaches dedicated a lot of their time to USA Basketball and the national teams, and that commitment resulted in two Olympic gold medals for the USA this past summer, as well as Dawn leading the USA to gold at the FIBA AmeriCup for Women.”
With Popovich at the helm, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team claimed a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games with a 5-1 record, while under Staley’s guidance, the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team captured a seventh-straight Olympic gold medal with a 6-0 record.
Staley also led the USA women at the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup, where the USA went 6-0 to claim the gold medal and earn the U.S. women their spot in the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments.
The U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team shot 49.9% from the field, 39.0% from 3-point and 78.0% from the free throw line and averaged 99.0 points per game, which was second-best in the 12-team tournament.
“Participating in USA Basketball this past cycle has been an unforgettable experience, and I am grateful for the confidence shown in me,” said Popovich, who in 2004 was an assistant coach for the bronze-medal winning U.S. Olympic Basketball Team. “To compete alongside the Women’s Team under the guidance of Dawn Staley was inspiring and impactful.”
The U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team averaged a tournament-leading 84.7 ppg. and shot 50.4% from the field, 35.1% from 3-point and 79.4% from the free throw line. Staley became the first Black woman to serve as head coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team. Overall, she has been a part of six Olympic teams, including three as a player (1996, 2000, 2004) and two as an assistant coach (2008, 2016).
“It's an honor to be recognized by USA Basketball and even more so to share this award with Gregg Popovich,” said Staley. “I got the best of both worlds this year with the AmeriCup team of college players and the Olympic team, who both came in with a team-first mentality that was fun to coach and help them to gold medals.
“Leading an Olympic team on the cusp of history was a responsibility I took to heart, and I appreciate the players who embraced the way we wanted to play and did what they had to in order to continue that Olympic win streak.”
Popovich and the USA Men’s National Team began training camp ahead of the Olympics on July 6, however, due to three team members competing in the NBA playoffs and the withdraw of two other team members, Popovich did not have his 12-member roster together until less than 24 hours before the USA’s first game.
He also coached the USA to a 2-2 record during exhibition play from July 10-18.
“What stood out with Coach Pop was his preparation, his attention to detail, how great he is with people,” said U.S. forward Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets/Texas/Washington, D.C.), who was named by FIBA as the men’s Olympic tournament MVP. “He put everything in perspective, and every day we worked towards our goal, which was to win the gold medal, and he made sure everybody was on the same page. So he's the ultimate leader, and it was an honor to play for him.”
Staley led a USA National Team training camp in February 2021, and ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, she and the USA opened training camp on July 12 in Las Vegas, where the USA recorded a 1-2 exhibition record.
“I think with Dawn, obviously, what makes her unique is that she does have the player’s perspective of all of this,” U.S. guard Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Syosset, N.Y.) said ahead of the Olympics, which saw her collect a record-tying fifth-straight Olympic gold medal. “She’s experienced it. She knows what it is like. I think she definitely brings her own personality to things and her own identity to things.”
With the 2021 USA AmeriCup Team, Staley led a team of collegiate athletes to a gold medal and 6-0 record against seasoned veterans at the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup from June 11-19 in Puerto Rico. The USA defeated opponents by an average of 35.2 points per game and earned a berth into the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament.