Photo of Dawn Staley courtesy of the University of South Carolina.


Everyone at this point probably has their own Dawn Staley story. Here’s mine.

It was 1991 and I was watching my alma mater Lamar University women’s basketball team go on this once-in-a-lifetime run in the NCAA tournament, beating No. 7 Texas, No. 2 Louisiana State and No. 3 Arkansas all by double digits as a No. 10 seed to reach the Midwest regional finals, one step away from the Final Four.

Unfortunately, Staley and her University of Virginia Cavaliers were waiting at the other end of the regional finals. To make a long story short, Virginia won 85-70, crushing my alma mater’s Cinderella story. What I remembered the most was Dawn just balling out, the way she did against everyone that year.

Virginia would make it to the championship game where it took legendary coach Pat Summit and Tennessee to put an end to Virginia’s run in overtime for the national title. Staley, though, was still selected the game’s most valuable player.

Fast forward to earlier this month and Staley is now considered one of those legendary coaches, winning her third title at South Carolina after beating Caitlin Clark and Iowa in the finals while going undefeated. Mind you that South Carolina lost to Iowa the year before and lost all of its starters, only to reload, go undefeated and still get their revenge.


The best story I remember about Dawn Staley in college is that she would wear this rubber band. Every time she would make a mistake, she would pop it on her wrist, as a stinging reminder to not make such a mistake again. It was a small thing, but a testament to Staley’s drive at such an early age and her driven desire to be great.

Now the no-nonsense coach is the talk of college basketball — notice here how I did not distinguish between men and women. She is the talk of college basketball, period.

One of the sports talk shows in Philadelphia — Staley’s home town — dedicated an entire show, stating that it was time for Staley to coach Division I in men’s basketball or the NBA. They said the time was simply right and no one else has the cache that Staley has developed for the jump and the ability to make history.

Intriguing, indeed.

Here is my argument “for” and “against” on both sides of the coin.

For coaching men:

  • Dawn Staley has done it before. She was an assistant coach under legendary Temple coach John Chaney before coaching at Temple. She has been schooled well by one of the best on how to turn a bunch young men into champions. Coaching men would be nothing new to her.
  • She’s an Olympic gold medalist and three-time national champion. All she would have to do is walk into practice one day with that gold medal around her neck and ask her team, “What? You don’t have one of these?”
  • She’s got that “Philly” in her (Which means South Jersey can claim her, too). What that means is high expectations: “I don’t play that second-best stuff” from herself and her team. That no-nonsense approach will immediate win over and rally her team around her — regardless of gender.
  • If she fails, so what? There will be a long line of women’s basketball teams ready to sign her on if something in the men’s game doesn’t work out. It’s a no-lose proposition.

Stay in the women’s game:

  • Why leave? She can stay as long as she wants and make a million dollars just being Dawn. It’s like winning the lottery.
  • While some will argue that there’s nothing more to prove in the women’s game, there are a lot more records like all-time championships and all-time wins that she can chase after. If she has a desire to be considered the all-time best coach in the game, it is there for her to chase.
  • She can continue to elevate the game. College women’s basketball is having a moment. The women’s national championship game on ESPN had better ratings than the men’s championship game did for the first time. Dawn Staley is helping lead it. It’s been a long time coming, but Staley can continue to help raise the college basketball game to the next level.
  • Molding young women. Staley loves the fact that she gets to mold the next generation of women’s basketball games and coaches. While elevating the game — much like Pat Summit — she will end her career with basketball courts and buildings named after her. Staley will get a chance to leave a lasting legacy in women’s basketball.
  • Finally, South Carolina will not let her go easily. They will be more than happy to pay to keep her there. No amount of marketing will give them the positive publicity Staley provides.

No matter what decision she makes, much like her basketball team this year, Dawn Staley can’t lose.

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