‘Not Bringing In Some Cracker Jack Box Off The Street’ | Keyshawn Johnson Says Dawn Staley Is Best Candidate For Charlotte Hornets Coach Opening

Dawn Staley has accomplished everything there is to accomplish as a women’s basketball coach, so it would make sense that she would be in consideration to break the NBA coaching gender barrier by being hired to replace Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford.

She lives 90 miles down the road in Columbia. She’s got deep Charlotte roots and she’s ready for the next level.

Clifford, 62, stepped down from the head job Wednesday, effective at the end of the season later this month. He said he no longer had the “certain energy level that you need to be able to have a chance to coach effectively in this league.”

Dawn Staley Candidate For NBA Job?

Well Staley lacks no energy and at 53 years old she still has the fight and ambition to coach effectively in any league. 

Staley’s name has been a rumored candidate for the job. It was assumed that former San Antonio Spurs assistant and current LA Vegas WNBA Championship coach Becky Hammons would be the first woman to assume a head coach position with a men’s NBA team. 

Hammon had the support of players and five-time NBA Champion Gregg Popovich, who said two years ago that she was ready. 

Hammon’s shot never came, so in 2021 she went to the WNBA and proceed to win back-to-back championships with the Las Vegas Aces. 

Keyshawn Johnson Wants Dawn Staley to Coach Charlotte Hornets

Former NFL player Keyshawn Johnson says Staley would be the perfect candidate for the young Hornets team. 

“I wanted her at USC to coach our men’s team,” Johnson said on Undisputed on Monday morning. “When our guy left and went to SMU. First thing I said was, ‘they got to go get Dawn Staley.” 

Keyshawn admits that he didn’t know Staley was raking in that kind of bag for coaching women’s basketball. She’s currently tied for second behind LSU’s Kate Mulkey at $3.1 million per season and each season her salary increases $100,000. Staley’s national championship run this season earned her another $680,000 in bonuses.

So, she is not hurting financially, and it would take a very convincing number to get Staley to leave the nondescript SEC program she built into a juggernaut. Especially with two of the Top 5 prep prospects in the country joining her undefeated squad next season. 

Johnson, however, feels like the prestige and importance of being the first should be a big enough attraction for Staley, who has built her career on shattering glass ceilings and striving for perfection. He also feels that she has the cachet to demand the respect required to manage and positively manipulate a roster of millionaire ballers. 

“Now I didnt know that they would make that kind of money as a coach in college basketball, “Johnson said. “Money aside, I think not only is she qualified,” said Keyshawn as he read off the laundry list of accolades Staley has acquired throughout her illustrious career as a player and coach. 

“I can go on and on about the accolades, but here’s why I would want to do it if I was Dawn Staley,” Keyshawn reasoned. “Because now I’m changing the landscape. I’m not only a woman, but I’m also a woman of color and I have an opportunity to go be the first female NBA head coach, because I can always go back to college if I choose too like everybody else. You take that job and say I want to do it because I’m the first to ever do it.” 

Keyshawn Johnson Didn’t Want GM Job Because He Wouldn’t Be First Black

Keyshawn compares Staley’s situation to when he retired from the NFL after a fruitful career and, to co-host Skip Bayless’ surprise, says he was considering an opportunity to become a general manager. 

“There were talks of me becoming a general manager,” Keyshawn said, provoking a chuckle and a look of disbelief from co-host Skip Bayless. “I looked at it many times over, but I wasn’t going to be the first. Ozzie Newsome had already accomplished that and many people thereafter, so it didn’t intrigue me. I didn’t want to go through everything you have to go through in the general manager role.”

Women in sports are no longer so far separated from the men’s game that nobody would consider them qualified to coach men. At this point, it’s about getting an opportunity. The Hornets, once LaMelo Ball returns from his ankle issues, will return to being a young, exciting team. Maybe a new coach, with some new energy would benefit the franchise that Michael Jordan once owned. 

“Dawn Staley would set just another whole standard of the way to do things,” Keyshawn said.  “Yeah, girl go get that. Go get it. Players are going to listen to her. You’re not bringing in some cracker jack box from off the street. And you know she can coach, regardless of if it’s a female or men’s game, X’s and O’s are the same.”

With women’s college basketball setting record numbers for viewers, now would be the time for Staley, who’s coming off her third straight Naismith coach of the Year award and has won 74 of her last 75 games, to seize the moment if the opportunity presents itself. 

Several outlets have called for Staley to get a shot but there’s been no response or acknowledgement from the Charlotte Hornets organization or the NBA regarding the Hornets’ coaching search.

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