Caitlin Clark and South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley Prove Women’s Sports Are the Classiest Around

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I don’t watch a ton of sports, but I’ve seen enough to know that it’s fairly common for a championship team to thank their opponents while celebrating a big win. Maybe the opposing team’s coach will get a shout-out by name. Maybe a star player will be singled out with a “thank you for making us better,” or some other sportsmanlike platitude.

However, when Dawn Staley, head coach of the NCAA Championship–winning South Carolina Gamecocks, took the podium on Sunday, April 7, following her team’s big win, she went out of her way to dedicate an entire paragraph of her speech to Caitlin Clark, the record-breaking college basketball star for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Staley said. “She carried a heavy load for our sport and it’s just not going to stop here on the collegiate tour, but when she is the number one pick in the WNBA draft, she’s going to lift up that league up as well.”

She added, “Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you are one of the GOATs of our game and we appreciate you.”

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament National Championship.

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament National Championship.
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Staley’s decision to call Clark a GOAT seems pointed, especially after some fans believed the South Carolina coach questioned Clark’s GOAT status in a previous interview.

“If Caitlin wins the championship, she’s pretty damn good, yeah, she’s a GOAT,” Staley said the day before the final game, per Yahoo! Sports. “I mean, she’s really damn good regardless. But winning the championship would seal the deal. I hope to the dear Lord she doesn’t.”

In her own press conference following Staley’s comments, Clark rebuked the idea that a championship is a prerequisite for GOAT status: “I’ve played basketball at this university for four years, and for it to come down to two games and that be whether or not I’m proud of myself and proud of the way I’ve carried myself and proud of the way I’ve impacted people in their lives, I don't think that’s a fair assessment,” she said, according to USA Today.

Caitlin Clark, #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes, dribbles the ball while being guarded by Raven Johnson, #25 of the South Carolina Gamecocks, during the second half at the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game.

After Staley’s thoughtful shout-out from the podium, fans praised the 53-year-old coach for her remarks. “That’s straight class,” wrote one fan on X in the replies of ESPN’s video of the moment. “Game respects game.”

The Instagram account @justwomenssports also shared the speech. In the comments a fan wrote, “This whole tournament has been such a W for all of women’s sports!!” And another, “Dawn is class act, love to see women supporting women. SC may [have] won but it was a big WIN for women’s basketball this March Madness.”

Clark, too, was appreciative of Staley’s words. “I think anytime someone like coach Staley is able to recognize you and what you did for the game is pretty special,” Clark told reporters after the final, per CNN. “Obviously, she’s somebody I respect so much. I respect what she’s done for South Carolina. I respect what she did as a player for our game. Anytime you can get the praises of her is pretty special, so that means a lot.”

Originally Appeared on Glamour