South Carolina women’s basketball: Dawn Staley on her future

Dawn Staley is in the second year of a seven-year contract with South Carolina.

Dawn Staley is in the second year of a seven-year contract with South Carolina.

tglantz@thestate.com

Dawn Staley doesn’t have a timeline for her retirement. Whenever that comes, it’ll involve a little more time for streaming.

“I’m going to have to catch up on a whole lot of Netflix series,” Staley quipped during SEC spring meetings this week. “Surely I’m missing out. I hear our players talk all the time. Like, I just finished ‘Ozark.’ I’ve got a couple ‘Bloodline’ (episodes) I’ve got to get to. ‘Lincoln Lawyer,’ I’ve got to get to that.”

Staley is fresh off her second national championship coaching the South Carolina Gamecocks. She’s won more than 77% of her games as the head coach in Columbia, and seems poised to take a place among the all-time winningest coaches in women’s college basketball history — if she so chooses.

That said, Staley, 52, has readily conceded she doesn’t see herself coaching well into her 60s like peers Geno Auriemma at UConn or Tara VanDerveer at Stanford. Both are 68 years old.

Speaking with The State, Staley noted that retirement — which isn’t in her thoughts for the immediate future — isn’t so much an age decision as much as feel. When the time is right, she’ll know when to step away.

“I mean, it’s totally a feel thing,” Staley said. “I didn’t really have a dream job. Maybe go back to Virginia (where she played) and coach probably, just because I grew up there, I chose to go there. That may have been subconsciously a dream job.

“… But sometimes your dream jobs are ones that you didn’t anticipate. I didn’t know I could come to South Carolina and have the type of career that I’ve had here. My path is divinely ordered and the order was to come to South Carolina and do some great things and meet some great people.”

South Carolina finished the 2021-22 season with a 35-2 record and the program’s second national title under Staley’s watch. USC lost twice — a Dec. 30 loss at Missouri and in the SEC tournament title game to Kentucky — by a combined three points.

Staley’s squad later raced through the NCAA tournament with an average margin of victory of 23.3 points, including a dominating 15-point win over UConn in the national championship game.

Staley referenced her coaching future several times during the Gamecocks’ most recent championship run. Asked whether South Carolina could be in the conversation as a dynasty — noting that Auriemma and UConn have 11 titles — Staley said it’s too soon to anoint USC with that distinction.

“I don’t think winning two national championships or going to the Final Four back to back is considered a dynasty in my day and age,” Staley said. “But just look at the tradition of UConn and what they were able to do. They’re the standard. If it takes winning 11 national championships to be a dynasty, I’m probably going to fall short of that because I’m not going to be in the game long enough for us to win 11.”

Staley is entering the second year of the historic seven-year deal she signed with South Carolina in October that paid her $2.9 million in base salary and outside compensation this year. That number will increase in increments of $100,000 over the life of the deal, reaching $3.5 million in 2027-28.

The 2021-22 season also saw Staley earn more than $650,000 in bonuses due to her national championship win, among a handful of other incentives written into her contract.

The Gamecocks return four of five starters from last season’s team entering the 2022-23 campaign. They’ll be anchored by reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston and running mates Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Victoria Saxton.

Georgia Tech transfer Kierra Fletcher is expected to take over the point guard slot vacated by Destanni Henderson, while South Carolina will bring five-star freshmen Ashlyn Watkins and Talaysia Cooper into the fold.

South Carolina record under Dawn Staley

2008-09 — 10-18, 2-12 SEC (No postseason)

2009-10 — 14-15, 7-9 SEC (No postseason)

2010-11 — 18-15, 8-8 SEC (WNIT Second Round)

2011-12 — 25-10, 10-6 SEC (Sweet Sixteen)

2012-13 — 25-8, 11-5 SEC (NCAA Second Round)

2013-14 — 29-5, 14-2 (Sweet Sixteen)

2014-15 — 34-3, 15-1 SEC (Final Four)

2015-16 — 33-2, 16-0 SEC (Sweet Sixteen)

2016-17 — 33-4, 14-2 (NCAA Champs)

2017-18 — 29-7, 12-4 (Elite Eight)

2018-19 — 23-10, 13-3 SEC (Sweet Sixteen)

2019-20 — 32-1, 16-0 (No postseason held due to COVID-19 pandemic)

2020-21 — 26-5, 14-2 SEC (Final Four)

2021-22 — 35-2, 15-1 (NCAA Champs)

Dawn Staley current contract, annual salary details

  • Year 1: $2.9 million (Oct. 1, 2021 to April 15, 2022)
  • Year 2: $3 million (April 16, 2022 to April 15, 2023)
  • Year 3: $3.1 million (April 16, 2023 to April 15, 2024)
  • Year 4: $3.2 million (April 16, 2024 to April 15, 2025)
  • Year 5: $3.3 million (April 16, 2025 to April 15, 2026)
  • Year 6: $3.4 million (April 16, 2026 to April 15, 2027)
  • Year 7: $3.5 million (April 16, 2027 to April 15, 2028)

Ben Portnoy is The State’s South Carolina Gamecocks football beat writer. He’s a five-time Associated Press Sports Editors award honoree and has earned recognition from the Mississippi Press Association and the National Sports Media Association. Portnoy previously covered Mississippi State for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch and Indiana football for the Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

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