Former Temple women's basketball coach Dawn Staley, in her first comments in Philadelphia since taking the coaching job at South Carolina on May 7, said Thursday night that she had received well wishes from friends in her native city but that Temple officials probably were still "a little shocked" by her move.

Staley also endorsed Tonya Cardoza, a longtime friend and Connecticut assistant coach, to succeed her. She added, however, that the Owls could do equally well hiring "some high-power WNBA coach who will bring instant credibility."

"They don't need a no-name," Staley said on the question of what would be required to keep Temple at the level she established in eight years after joining the team without any coaching experience.

She accepted the South Carolina position with an initial five-year, $650,000 deal, abandoning the $500,000 package from Temple last season - the first year of a six-year extension. The Gamecocks also are helping Staley pay her $500,000 buyout.

Staley's comments came after the annual Dawn Staley Foundation black-tie-and-sneakers gala, at the Cescaphe Ballroom in the Northern Liberties section of the city. About 200 people attended.

The former Dobbins Tech star said she would launch a similar community effort in Columbia, S.C., based on the foundation's work in Philadelphia. The organization aids at-risk schoolchildren living in inner-city neighborhoods such as the one she grew up in around the Raymond Rosen housing project in North Philadelphia.

"We'll miss you," Harrison Jay, director of Temple's Community Education Center, said before hosting the live auction.

Kenny Gamble of Gamble-Huff music, and A. Michael Pratt, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, received awards for their community involvement.

Of her move and her impression of Temple's reaction, Staley said: "I'm quite sure if the University of South Carolina came to Bill Bradshaw to be the athletic director, tell me what he would do.

"The same with the president. She left a school to come to Temple. Why? These are life decisions you have to deal with."

(Bradshaw is Temple's athletic director. Ann Weaver Hart is the university's president.)

Staley also discussed Temple's needs in making its next hire, noting "unfinished business" in leaving the Owls before taking them deeper into the NCAA tournament. "We were on the brink of that," she said.

"I think Temple would be going backwards if they didn't hire somebody that could take the program to another level," Staley said. "Obviously, the money's there because they paid me a chunk, so to speak, but that's dedication to the program, making sure you are taking care of the program - not just taking care of the coach.

"I hope the impression that I left at Temple is it's a good job and the administrators are going to do a great job supporting the program."

Cardoza, who played with Staley at Temple, has expressed interest, but the two sides have not been in contact. That could happen in the next few days as the search committee begins work.

"I hope Tonya gets the job, but I don't know if me saying that is going to hurt her chances," Staley said, mindful that coaches leaving for other jobs rarely have influence on their successors.

"Tonya can bring credibility," Staley said, adding that "her resume of being with a national champion, of being an intricate part of bringing in highly talented recruits to UConn - yes, I do think that [her being] a minority plays in our players' favor" in responding to a new coach.

Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg

at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at go.philly.com/womhoops.