Dawn Staley is paving the way for Black women coaches in college basketball, Deadspin reports.
In 2017, South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley made history as one of two Black women to coach a national championship team, marking South Carolina’s first women’s basketball national championship. In 2021, she did it again, making history alongside Arizona Wildcats Adia Barnes, the two becoming the first Black women to simultaneously lead their teams to the NCAA Women’s Final Four tournament. By the end of that same year, Staley smashed the glass ceiling, becoming the highest-paid Black women’s basketball head coach, signing a seven-year $22.4 million extension with the University of South Carolina.
Now Staley has racked up another win, becoming the first Black coach, male or female, to win two Division I NCAA Tournaments. She joins iconic Black coaches like John Thompson (Georgetown), Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Tubby Smith (Kentucky), Carolyn Peck (Purdue), and Kevin Ollie (UConn), who have all had a chance to cut the net after that last victory game.
Staley spoke about the pressure to win and how good it feels to lead the Gamecocks to a championship win again.
“I felt a great deal of pressure to win because I’m a Black coach. Because if we don’t win, you bring in…just scrutiny. Like, ‘You can’t coach; you had enough to get it done, yet you failed. ‘ You feel all of that, and you feel it probably ten times more than anyone else because we’re at this platform. It makes me emotional. It does. Because I am their hope. I am the person that they strive [to be because of] where I sit, winning national championships. That’s what they want to do,” said Staley.
In addition to her collegiate wins, Staley has also coached the Olympic team to a gold medal, been a contender for the Portland Trail Blazers head coaching vacancy, and done something amazing at a Southern school best known for football. Since Staley came to the University of South Carolina in 2008, she has set the bar high, creating an outstanding resume for herself, including ten tournament appearances, 9 Sweet 16s, 5 Elite Eights, 4 Final Four trips, and two national titles.
Staley is now leading the pack, holding more titles than any other Black coach and utilizing her platform to inspire other Black professionals. In 2015, Peck cut the championship net, giving Staley a piece of the net. That inspired her to keep it going when she won in 2017, sending fragments of her net to other Black women coaches across the nation. So now Staley is sending pieces of this year’s nest to another group – Black journalists.
“I just think just moving forward, like the net is going to represent something, something in our game, something that will advance our game. I’ve been thinking, some of our Black male coaches, they don’t get the opportunity, and I’m also going to – I’m going to take it a step further, some of our Black journalists don’t get an opportunity to elevate. So we’re going to try to cut this net up, give them a piece of it, and just hope that it will be something that they can utilize to advance in the area that their heart desires to in their field,” said Staley.