Photo Courtesy of Nell Redmond/AP

Women’s basketball has been in the spotlight as of late, and rightfully so. There are players like Caitlin Clark (who even made an appearance on Saturday Night Live), Kamilla Cardoso and even a young player like JuJu Watkins putting the world on notice. There are teams accomplishing great things like South Carolina, who went undefeated this season and won their third championship.

South Carolina became the 10th undefeated champion in Division I women’s basketball history. The last team to do this was UConn in 2015-16. The South Carolina Gamecocks have lost only three games since 2021, and on top of the exceptional talent that comes and goes on the roster, they have an exceptional coach that accomplished great things in her own playing career. That coach is Dawn Staley.

Dawn Staley is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. She is a member of the 2013 class. Staley accomplished great things in her playing career, and some of her accolades date back to her college days. Staley attended the University of Virginia. During that time, she was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and a two-time Naismith College Player of the Year. Virginia managed to make three Final Fours and a championship game during her stint. After graduating college (as she finished with a degree in Rhetoric and Communication Studies), Staley played professionally overseas, including a team called Tarbes Gespe Bigorre. After that, she played in the American Basketball League before making the WNBA. In 1999, Staley was the ninth pick of the draft. She was selected by the Charlotte Sting and played for them until 2005 when they traded her to the Houston Comets. Her season with the Comets was her last, as she announced her retirement prior to the season.

During her WNBA career, Staley was a six-time WNBA All-Star, and she is now a member of the WNBA 10th Anniversary Team and the WNBA 15th Anniversary Team.

Staley’s coaching career began during her playing career. She was approached about a coaching job at Temple University, and she declined after saying she had no interest in coaching. However, when she was told (by friends) that it would be impossible to continue her playing career and coach at the same time. She took on that challenge. She coached Temple from 2000 to 2008. She managed to lead her team to six NCAA appearances in that time. Her record with Temple was 172-80. She went on to take the South Carolina coaching job shortly after, and in her first season with the Gamecocks, they went 10-18. The Gamecocks continued to improve under Staley (going from 14-15 the next season to 18-15 in her third season). They made three Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four before winning their first championship in 2017. Since their first win, South Carolina has remained an elite team and won two more championships (2022 and 2024). Staley now has a record of 440–106 with South Carolina.

Staley has made an impact as a coach. She coached WNBA stars such as A’Ja Wilson and Aliyah Boston, and both players remain close to her.

“Everyone knows in this room, Coach Staley is like my second mom. So for her to come out – and she texted me, she was like, ‘I’m coming to this one’ – she didn’t surprise me this time. It was just a true moment and I knew I had to find her.” Wilson said after winning her second WNBA championship,

“She has really molded me into the player that I am today. She spent countless hours just telling me what I need to do at the pro level. I thought that relationship was kind of going to disappear as I got to a pro [level] but we’ve still stayed together. … It was just truly a special moment. It was a moment that, that’s gonna be forever, something that I tell my kids about.”

Boston did a postgame interview with Staley after they beat North Carolina State in the Final Four and Staley gave her praise.

“This is a proud moment to be just on the other side of this mic. Proud of your professionalism, proud that you know the game so much that you are representing at the highest level, that is good to you.” Staley said.

Staley continues to add to her legacy. On top of the championships, she is one of the highest paid women’s basketball coaches. Kim Mulkey of Louisiana State University is first with $3.26 million and Staley is tied with Geno Auriemma (of UConn) at $3.1 million. As Staley continues her coaching journey, great things are bound to happen.

#WomensBasketball #RisingStars #UndefeatedChampions #SouthCarolinaGamecocks #DawnStaley

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Senior Editor, Digital Manager, Blogger, has been nominated for awards several times as Publisher and Author over the years. Has been with company for almost three years and is a current native St. Louisan.

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