Dawn Staley makes history as Naismith Coach of the Year
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley completed her sweep of annual awards today as the Atlanta Tipoff Club named her its 2020 Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year. The Gamecocks’ leader becomes the first men’s or women’s honoree to have won the award after previously claiming the Citizen Naismith Trophy for Player of the Year, which she received twice while playing at Virginia (1991, 1992).
“It is truly an honor to receive the Naismith National Coach of the Year, and, while I’m the one receiving the award, every head coach knows you cannot be a good coach without great assistants, great support staff, and great players,” Staley said. “So, this award is every bit as much theirs as it is mine. We are blessed at the University of South Carolina to have the best FAMS in the nation. They support us every day, on the court and off it, and it is my hope that during this trying time in our nation, when games like basketball seem so distant, that reading about this award gives those fans a little bit of joy and reminds them a little of what we can all look forward to when we come through this time on the other side. To the committee, to my staff, to our players and to our FAMS – thank you – and I can’t wait to get back on the court!”
In 2019-20, Staley challenged her team with the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, and the Gamecocks answered with a 13-1 record against nationally ranked opponents, including wins over three teams that finished the season in the top five. South Carolina went 8-0 against RPI top-25 teams and 8-1 against the next 25 RPI teams (26-50).
Staley’s team of six returning letterwinners and the nation’s top recruiting class entered the season ranked in the top 10 of the AP and USA Today/WBCA Coaches’ Polls and finished it at No. 1 in both. The Gamecocks’ 10 weeks atop the AP Poll were the most of any team this season behind a 32-1 record that included 26 consecutive wins to close the season, a perfect 16-0 record for the program’s fifth SEC Regular-Season Championship and its fifth SEC Tournament title.
The SEC Coach of the Year put together a team that embodied her competitive spirit and built its success on its commitment to defense and a team-first mentality. The Gamecock offense scored a school-record 82.0 points per game to rank sixth in the nation while no individual Gamecock averaged more than 13.1 points. South Carolina’s bench added 26.6 points per game of that average as those six Gamecocks thrived in their roles. Defensively, South Carolina was fourth in the country in allowing opponents to shoot just 33.3 percent from the field, and their 30.1 defensive rebounds per game were 12th best in the country.
In 12 seasons, Staley’s Gamecocks have won the 2017 National Championship and finished the season in the Final Four once, Elite Eight once and Sweet 16 four times. Her teams have won five SEC regular-season titles in the last seven seasons and five of the last six SEC Tournament crowns. Her SEC regular-season winning percent of .726 is second only to Tennessee’s Pat Summitt in league history, and her 11.5 SEC victories per season are the most of any head coach all-time. Staley’s 305 wins at South Carolina are the most by a Gamecock basketball coach – men’s or women’s. She is a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, including becoming the first in league history to win the title three straight seasons.