South Carolina’s women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley becomes first Black coach to win three Division 1 basketball titles

BY Preta Peace Namasaba April 9, 2024 2:17 PM EDT
Dawn Staley. Photo credit: South Carolina Women's Basketball

South Carolina’s women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley has made history as the first Black coach – male or female – to win three Division 1 basketball titles. This remarkable feat comes after the  University of South Carolina defeated The University of Iowa, 87-75 in the NCAA Championship game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland on Sunday. The victory added to her two previous national championship wins in 2017 and 2022.

“Black women holding it down. Holding it down, taking it to another level, and it’s quite remarkable,” Staley said about the significance of having five Black women at the desk for the biggest games in college basketball.

Staley is just the fifth coach overall to win at least three titles. Under her leadership, the South Carolina Gamecocks have finished the 2023-24 season with a perfect 38-0 record, becoming the 10th team in women’s basketball history to achieve an undefeated season. Staley was named Naismith Coach of the Year for the fourth time in five years ahead of the Final Four. It was her third year in a row winning the award.

The South Carolina squad dubbed the 2024 tournament a “revenge tour.” Their win against Iowa allowed them to avenge their defeat in the Final Four last year. against the Hawkeyes. Staley has turned South Carolina into a college basketball powerhouse since she took over as head coach in 2008. The institution has won all its three national titles during her tenure.

“They held each other accountable, they encouraged each other. All of them, each and every one of them took their turn in making an impact on any given night for our team to be successful, and they did it in a way where they lifted up each other. And that is truly, truly an organic chemistry that you couldn’t pay real money to produce. This team would not be denied this year. I am incredibly proud of them,” Staley said about her squad.

Staley’s managerial success follows a decent playing history. She was named the national high school player of the year during her final season in high school. She went on to achieve success at the University of Virginia, where she led her team to three Final Fours and a national title game. She was a two-time NCAA women’s basketball player of the year and ACC female athlete of the year. After college, Staley played professional basketball in France, Italy, Brazil, and Spain before joining the American Basketball League (ABL) and then the WNBA.

In 1994, she was named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year. Stanley won several gold medals with Team USA. She went on to achieve massive success as a coach of the Temple Owls and now the South Carolina Gamecocks.

“I felt a great deal of pressure to win because I’m a Black coach. Because if we don’t win, then you bring in so many other — just scrutiny. Like you can’t coach, you had enough to get it done but yet you failed. You feel all of that and you feel it probably 10 times more than anyone else because we’re at this platform,” Staley said when she won the national championship in 2022.