5 Things You Didn't Know About Dawn Staley

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 7: Head coach Dawn Staley of the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:South Carolina Gamecocks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">South Carolina Gamecocks</a> cuts down the net after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 87-75 at the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game between Iowa and South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. - Photo: Thien-An Truong (Getty Images)

The University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team is celebrating its third NCAA Championship after defeating Iowa 87-75 in the title game. The win is a perfect end to an undefeated season under the leadership of head coach Dawn Staley, who coached an entirely new starting five to a perfect season.

Staley’s win made her the fifth coach to win at least three national championships – part of an elite group that includes UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, LSU’s Kim Mulkey and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer. But Staley isn’t just a great coach. She also had an impressive career as a player, with three Final Fours and one national title game appearance as a player for Virginia, five WNBA All-Star honors with the Charlotte Sting and three Olympic gold medals playing with Team USA.

While we’re still floating on the high of South Carolina’s storybook season, here are five things to know about the team’s incredible coach.

She’s a Philly Girl

Dawn Staley has been a coach at the University of South Carolina since 2008. But the Philly native, who grew up in the Raymond Rosen Projects, represents her city every chance she gets rooting for the local sports teams. You can spot her on the sidelines rocking Eagles gear.

Or hanging out at the Phillies game with Travis and Jason Kelce.

She Loves Her Sneakers

A quick scan of her Instagram account and you’ll see that Coach Staley has a thing for shoes. From Jordans in her team’s colors to colorful Air Force 1s, her sneaker game is tight, and she loves to show them off.

She is Strong in Her Faith

While most people attribute South Carolina’s success to the team’s hard work and strong leadership, Coach Staley makes sure to give most of the credit to a higher power.

After South Carolina’s exciting championship win, Staley took time to thank God for the success her team has had this season.

“We serve an unbelievable God,” she said in a tearful postgame interview.

Staley also uses faith to inspire her players. She has a meal with her team before each game where she shares a “Gameday Devotional” which includes a a team picture and a Bible verse.

She’s Outspoken on Civil Rights Issues

Besides being a champion for her players on the court, Staley has also been consistently outspoken on issues of civil rights. In 2020, she joined other University of South Carolina players and coaches in a campaign to remove the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurman’s name from the school’s fitness center, arguing that his stance on segregation and his opposition of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 shouldn’t be honored. And when a Black volleyball player from Duke was targeted with racial slurs from fans at Brigham Young University during a game in 2022, she canceled a two-game series against the school.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” she said in a statement at the time. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Her Players Love Her

Coach Staley doesn’t just make her team run laps and review highlight footage. She’s also incredibly nurturing to the members of her team, who consider her a mother figure when they’re away from home, showing up at graduations and other important events.

“It means a lot just to play – just to learn from her,” said guard Raven Johnson. “I go to her about everything. I could joke around with her. I could do anything, just anything. She’s like a mom, like a home away from home. It’s a home-away-from-home feeling.

“I wish you guys could experience that and just how much she’s helped me as a player and as a woman. And she’s just amazing, man. It’s a blessing. Just playing for her is so much fun. People just love playing for her. People would run through brick walls for her,” said guard Te-Hina Paopao.

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