Kiley to lead women's wheelchair team

Dave Kiley never backs down from a challenge.

For most of the last four decades, Kiley has been winning gold medals, national championships and MVP trophies. And he has been inducted into the hall of fame for what he has done on the basketball court.

He has done it all from a wheelchair.

Kiley, 57, lost the ability to walk when he was 19. His inner-tube veered off course in the snow and hit a tree.

But that tragic moment changed Kiley's life in a good way.

"A lot of people expect you to wish you were still walking," Kiley said. "But looking back, I wouldn't want to change anything. I think all of this has made me who I am."

The Mooresville resident has done more for wheelchair basketball than nearly anyone in the sport's history. Now he hopes to add to his unprecedented list of achievements as the newly appointed head coach of the U.S. Women's Wheelchair basketball squad.

That quest begins in July when the U.S. Women's team opens play at the 2010 World Championships in Birmingham, England.

"This is a new me," said Kiley, who was voted in 2008 the most valuable player in the first 50 years of wheelchair basketball by the International Wheelchair Basketball Association. "I could easily have slipped away after my playing career and been happy. But this is another challenge and now I'm chasing titles as a coach. I think it keeps me feeling young."

Kiley brought his team to the Charlotte area for the first time ever earlier this month, as the team held their last training camp before the World Championships at Agape Christian Academy near downtown Mooresville.

The 12-member team, representing 10 states, went through three rigorous days of training before the trip to England.

"I've been so excited about this (training) being in my own backyard," said Kiley, whose team ranges in age from 17 to several women in their 30s. "Many of the girls had never been to North Carolina, and I think the whole community contributed to this being a success."

That success starts with co-captains and two-time defending gold medalists' Christina Ripp and Stephanie Wheeler. It also includes 17-year old, Caitlin McDermott, a rising senior at Ardrey Kell High School. But no matter what age, the women hope to win the World Championships, something they have never done.

"For us, it's that one missing piece that will complete our careers," Wheeler said. "I have two Paralympic gold medals, but I want a World Championship gold medal just as bad."

Kiley hopes to draw on his experience and passion as a player to help his team understand what is at stake.

"This is what every kid in this sports dreams about - the opportunity to play for their country," Kiley said. "To these girls, this is just as serious and important as it is to all of the Olympic athletes. This is their chance to win gold for their country."