As the Gamecocks' basketball programs continue to turn heads, a season of accomplishments for both teams has prompted support from coaches both in and out of the university's athletic department.
Both head men's basketball coach Lamont Paris and head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley are receiving praise, with the NCAA coaching community giving them credit for the success of their teams and sharing commendations on both a professional and personal level.
The South Carolina men's and women's basketball teams head into Feb. 6 with a combined 40-3 record, the best of any NCAA Division I program in the country. The teams are on their hottest combined start since 2017 — when the women's team won its first national championship and the men's team appeared in the Final Four.
Much of the internal and external support has been directed to the Gamecock men's basketball team, which is currently ranked second in the men’s conference with a 7-2 record in conference games. Through 22 games, South Carolina has already clinched its first 19-win season since the year it made its Final Four run in 2017.
The men's basketball team has defeated two top 10 teams — then-No. 6 Kentucky on Jan. 23 and then-No. 5 Tennessee on Jan. 30 — in a three-game span. After just missing out on being ranked in the Associated Press poll released last week, South Carolina was ranked No. 15 in the poll released on Monday.
Staley has voiced her support on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the South Carolina men's basketball team, even when it did not receive support from national journalists voting in the AP poll.
Paris said that he is grateful for Staley's praise.
“Dawn’s a rockstar. I’m going to have to get more active on my own Twitter so I can shout her out more,” Paris said. “I’ve gotten to know her really well. I respect and appreciate what she’s accomplished and what she’s built … She's such a good person, and I feel fortunate to call her a friend.”
Paris, whose team was projected to finish last in the SEC this season after winning just four conference matchups last year, has defied media expectations and turned South Carolina into a contender for a NCAA tournament bid.
Head Gamecocks baseball coach Mark Kingston also extended support for Paris' and Staley's teams in his opening statement at a press conference on Jan. 24.
“I’d like to start just by congratulating our two basketball teams and how well they’ve started and how well they’re playing,” Kingston said. “Pretty incredible. So congrats to them, and hopefully they continue to play like they have been for the rest of the season.”
Coaches' support has been shown through more than just words. Both Staley and head football coach Shane Beamer were in attendance at the men’s basketball game against Kentucky.
“It really is our culture here to have coaches support each other. We really know how important that is to feel like we’re supported,” Staley said.
Staley said that the supportive nature of coaches at South Carolina has helped Gamecock Athletics look more attractive as a whole to fans.
“It’s not just football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball. I go to softball games. I know tennis (played) Clemson on Saturday at 10 o'clock, and if we didn’t practice, I would be there," Staley said. "When you feel the love from within, it's easy for other people to love up on all different sports that we have here.”
Coaches outside the university have given credit to Paris and Staley for their accomplishments as well.
Kentucky head men's basketball coach John Calipari, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and one-time national champion, praised this season's turnaround after the Gamecocks defeated the Wildcats.
“(Paris is) doing a heck of a job. He really is. It’s a veteran kind of team. And he’s getting them to play the way they have to play,” Calipari said. “They’re the best defensive team in our league, and that’s saying something because this is a (league) of about 10 teams that their whole thing is ‘We’re going to be a great defensive team that can score.’”
Rick Barnes, the head men's basketball coach at Tennessee, expressed similar sentiments after the Gamecocks earned an upset victory over the Volunteers.
"Lamont's done a great job," Barnes said. "I don't want to take anything away from the fact that they came in and they've done what they've done all year."
Staley, meanwhile, leads the only undefeated team in Division I women's basketball, with a 21-0 record and a win on Sunday against Ole Miss.
According to Ole Miss head women's basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, Staley has continued to be a role model and an inspiration for coaches around the country, leading the top team in the country and conference. South Carolina is aiming for a second consecutive undefeated regular season.
"Coach (Staley) is a mentor for me, and I've been competing with her ever since I've been coaching. ... (She) has been a great example for all of us," McPhee-McCuin said. "They are the standard."