Women’s basketball coach chooses not to continue pursuing vacancy
Within a week of South Carolina’s exit from the NCAA tournament, coach Dawn Staley briefly considered a new job.
Ohio State called USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner last Wednesday to ask for permission to speak with Staley, and a representative called her shortly thereafter.
Although Staley said she had “a little interest” in the Buckeyes’ coaching job initially, she withdrew her name from consideration Sunday.
“To be part of a university that really is about the people — our leaders make this special, make this university special, make this job special,” Staley told reporters. “All of those things went through my mind, and it was a pull on me. I couldn’t leave this place.”
The Gamecocks fell to Kansas 75-69 last Monday after defeating South Dakota State 74-52 in the tournament’s first round. USC made it to the Sweet 16 last year.
In five years under Staley, South Carolina has a record of 92-66. Her 82 wins in the past four seasons are the most in a four-year stretch since the Gamecocks joined the SEC.
“It’s at a place where we can say we have a winning tradition here,” Staley said.
Ohio State fired coach Jim Foster after 11 seasons with the university. He compiled a record of 279-82, making him the winningest coach in program history, and he led the Buckeyes to 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances prior to this season.
Staley said she was drawn to the challenges of the coaching job at OSU, but she put herself in the position of a recruit and weighed the pros and cons of remaining at South Carolina.
The coach called the outpouring of support she received, including texts from university President Harris Pastides and a call from Gov. Nikki Haley, “incredible.” She said Tanner’s leadership of also helped make her decision.
“I think he believes in our coaching staff,” Staley said. “He believes in me. And (when) we have someone who’s your boss who believes in you that much, he made it very difficult and made it very easy at the same time.”
Staley predicted South Carolina is on the cusp of winning a national championship. Although the school is not yet a popular choice for recruits, it’s becoming a program where players can achieve both individual and team goals.
Although she would not specifically mention names, Staley said USC has been on the recruiting trail and will bring prospective players to campus within the next week to solidify the team for the coming season. While good role-players are already on the team, the coach still feels improvement is needed.
“We as coaches need to put our players in a better position to do what they do best,” Staley said. “I know we would love to have someone who can create their own shot at any time. We just don’t have that right now.”
The Gamecocks will count on the return of sophomore guard Tina Roy and freshman guard Tiffany Davis to help them next season.
Asked whether she expects freshman guard Khadijah Sessions to replace outgoing senior Ieasia Walker, Staley said that would be a lot to ask from a young player. But the Gamecocks will count on Sessions to improve on intangible aspects of the game to lead the team as it continues to build a winning tradition.
“We are going to have to rely on our experienced players to help them continue to grow so we can continue what we started here,” Staley said.