‘I want this to be my last stop.’ Why new deal makes Dawn Staley especially proud

·3 min read

Dawn Staley’s mother moved to South Carolina when Staley was hired as the University of South Carolina head women’s basketball coach in 2008. Staley’s sister made the move in 2014, and her brother will be bringing his family to the Palmetto State within the next year.

Columbia has become home base for the coach who catapulted the Gamecocks’ name into the national conversation.

With Friday’s blockbuster contract approval — a $22.4 million deal that extends Staley through April 15, 2028 — Staley could be sticking around Columbia longer.

“I do believe this contract extension keeps me here, it’s fair to say, for a very long time,” she said. “I don’t know when my career will end, but certainly, I want this to be my last stop.”

Staley’s contract will pay her $2.9 million this season and increase $100,000 in each following year, making her the highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference and one of the top paid in the nation. The deal averages over $3 million annually.

Staley talked with her team shortly after the contract was approved Friday afternoon. She told them this deal wasn’t about the money. It was about principle.

“I know that the very thing that people will look at is the money,” Staley said. “I mean, the money is staggering. And it really wasn’t about the money, but it takes the money for this recognition to be something that is eye-opening and monumental.”

Staley’s raise reflects the impact she has had on South Carolina women’s basketball, a program that’s made it to three Final Fours and won a national championship in 2017. Staley has won national coach of the year, Naismith coach of the year and four times been named SEC coach of the year.

Thirteen years before she was taking the microphone to discuss a groundbreaking contract extension, Staley was in the same building being introduced as USC’s new head coach. Staley said she’s always come from a place of passion — playing or coaching basketball — and it felt good to be recognized for something she said could be viewed as “unpopularly right.”

“My path was divinely ordered,” Staley said. “It was ordered because I’m supposed to be here today enjoying what will hopefully one day help some other people who look like me (or) who don’t look like me, who are in the position where you’re rewarded for your work.”

Staley’s parents were born in South Carolina, but she didn’t think her mother would’ve returned to the state if not for her job. The late Estelle Staley died at age 73 in August 2017.

The state of South Carolina hasn’t always been on the “popular end of history,” Staley said, but she stood proudly Friday in the Carolina Volleyball Center, taking a step she hopes will make waves for women’s basketball, women’s sports and women in general.

“I’m so thankful, because this doesn’t happen very often, but I’m super happy it happened right here at the University of South Carolina, where we can be leaders in gender equity,” Staley said. “I mean, who knew? Who knew that this would take place in my tenure here at South Carolina? So I hope this is just an opportunity for the rest of the nation and the world to catch up.”

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