top of page

The Dawning Of South Carolina's Dynasty

There are so many historically great coaches in college basketball, both in the men's and women's game. Someone making a name for herself by establishing a winning program is South Carolina Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley. She has coached the Gamecocks women's basketball program for 16 years, bringing success in many forms. Staley is a student-turned master of the game, using her WNBA experience in her coaching. Having led them to a fourth straight Final Four appearance, her legacy as one of the greatest coaches in history is only further cemented.

Staley's greatness started as a player, as a point guard for the University Of Virginia. She led the Cavaliers to three consecutive Final Four's, one national championship game, and won National Player Of The Year twice. Staley then went to the WNBA, where she was drafted to the Charlotte Sting in 1999. She spent 8 seasons in the league, playing for both the Sting and the Houston Comets. Staley is a six-time All-Star and a member of the WNBA 10th Anniversary and 15th Anniversary team's. Her playing experience has prepared her as a coach, and she got her first shot in the college ranks.

Staley coached the Temple Owls from 2000-2008, leading them to a 28-4 record and the NCAA second round in 2004. After 2008, she filled the vacancy left by South Carolina, where she would change the program forever. Staley has led the Lady Gamecocks to their first Final Four in 2014-15, then in 2016-17. Unlike her first appearance, they won the National Championship in 2016-17, defeating Mississippi State 67-55. While South Carolina appeared like a "one year wonder", Staley kept on proving they can be successful behind her leadership. In 2020, the Gamecocks were well on their way to another National Championship, however, the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staley coached them to a 32-1 record, finishing as the number 1 team in the AP polls yet again. In 2022 she climbed the mountain tops of college basketball once again and won her second National Championship, defeating UCONN 64-49. Her star player, Aliyah Boston, was also the National Player of the year, and another example of why Staley is so successful. While coaching women's basketball, there are so many players that played for her then followed in her footsteps to the WNBA.

Staley has a unique goal that is bigger than winning games and championships, and it centers around her players. She focuses on producing players that can thrive at the next level. After leaving South Carolina, Boston was drafted by the Indiana Fever and won Rookie of the Year, carrying Staley's coaching to the pro level. Reigning Finals MVP A'ja Wilson is another example of Staley's ability to prepare her players for the next level. Since leaving the Gamecocks, Wilson has won WNBA MVP twice, and is a reigning back-to-back champion with the Las Vegas Aces. Staley has also coached Tiffany Mitchell, Allisha Gray, Laeticia Amihere, Destanni Henderson, and Zia Cooke, who have all earned their place in the league one way or another. South Carolina has become not only a place to produce winners, but also a pipeline for professional players. This season, Staley is working with a new starting five, but that isn't stopping her from re-tooling in a new era.

In the era of the transfer portal and NIL, it can be different to land players than the traditional recruiting route. However, Staley built her roster into title contenders with existing players, incoming freshmen, and the transfer portal. Replacing Boston in the post is another pro ready player, Kamilla Cardoso. She has improved the most this season averaging 14.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Te-Hina Pao Pao chose to transfer to South Carolina from Oregon, and has improved tremendously due to Staley's coaching. She has improved tremendously averaging 10.9 points, 3.7 assists, and shooting 46.3% from three-point land. The Gamecocks have a sophomore class led by Chloe Kitts, Ashlyn Watkins, and Raven Johnson, who all play a big part in their success. MiLaysia Fulwiley highlights the freshman class, and she has excelled coming off the bench. Staley has impacted these players like she has every previous year, and it shows with their 36-0 record. Her success has been nationally recognized as she was awarded her third straight Naismith Coach of the Year award. She has proven that despite tough competition her team will rise up to the challenge and play for one another. The toughest of tests however, will be when the best four teams in March battle in Cleveland, Ohio.

As the Final Four commences, Iowa, UCONN, NC State and South Carolina will meet to battle for a National Championship. As the competition for the Gamecocks gets tougher, Staley will get her squad ready to complete their perfect season and establish South Carolina's dynasty.


bottom of page