Lake Norman & Mooresville

Kiley brings experience to national team

Dave Kiley has accomplished nearly all you could possibly do in basketball, winning nine gold medals, eight national championships, six Most Valuable Player awards and being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

While the Mooresville resident has done more for his sport than most anyone in the history of the wheelchair basketball, he hopes to soon add to his unprecedented list of accomplishments as the head coach of the U.S. women's wheelchair basketball squad.

That all begins in earnest one week from today, July 7, when the U.S. women's wheelchair squad begins play at the 2010 World Championships in Birmingham, England.

"This is a new me," said Kiley of becoming the first disabled coach to lead the team. "I could easily 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, 57, brought his team to his own backyard earlier this month, as the team held their last training camp before the World Championships in Mooresville, where Kiley has lived since 1996.

The 12-member team, which includes players from 10 states, went through three rigorous days of training before making final preparations for Worlds.

Kiley has the experience to win it all in any event as he has nine gold medals in various competitions as a player. Now, Kiley's new challenge is to do the same as a coach.

"The best thing about being a coach is that it's equally rewarding when you win and play well," said Kiley, whose main competition at Worlds will be Canada, Germany and Australia. "But it is also equally as brutal and painful when you lose."

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

Kiley's team is led by co-captains and two-time defending Paralympic gold medalists Christina Ripp and Stephanie Wheeler, who hope to lead the team to their first ever World Championship title. "For us, it's that one missing piece that will complete our careers," said Wheeler.

While Kiley's team is ultimately preparing for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, just a month after the Summer Olympic Games are held in the same city, Kiley wants a World Championship just as much.

"I think we are all putting incredible pressure on ourselves to win a World Championship this year because it is something this team has never done," Kiley said.

U.S. team officials have been impressed by their coach - and what he brings to the job.

"Kiley brings an experience we've never had in a head coach," said U.S. team leader, Jeff Downes. "An able-bodied coach can bring a similar passion, but cannot bring the same experiences, but unless you've done it yourself, you don't pick up on all of the subtleties of the game."

But while Kiley's knowledge is unique and groundbreaking for his players, he says that with the talent the American team has, it all comes down to heart and desire as well.

"This is what every kid in this sports dreams about - the opportunity to play for their country," said Kiley.

"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."