South Carolina basketball: Could Dawn Staley be in line for NBA job?

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley is the best coach in the history of Gamecock basketball, men’s or women’s. After building a powerhouse in Columbia, could professional teams begin targeting her for head coaching roles?

Gamecocks’ women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley has led the South Carolina program to the height of its success, reaching the pinnacle of the sport in 2017 by taking home a national title. With sustained success comes the risk that Staley could be poached by another program. Many thought that her alma mater Virginia could pose a threat, but she shut that down quickly.

Then there’s always the possibility of wanting to return to her hometown of Philadelphia. She’s already coached at Temple, leading the Owls to six NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons. Could a team in the Northeast lure her away? So far, that’s been a resounding no.

But what if she got a call from the professional ranks? Many will automatically think about a return to the WNBA, where she dominated as a player before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, but could she also be a target for NBA teams? At least one journalist thinks so.

Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article earlier this week advocating for the Sixers to interview Staley for their current head coaching opening. And quite frankly, I can’t see why she’d not be given the opportunity.

Staley’s background and knowledge of the game of basketball present a strong case for her to become the NBA’s first female head coach. She’s played the game at a high level in college, professionally, and as an Olympian. Staley is the NCAA’s all-time steals leader and she helped the Cavaliers reach the Final Four three straight seasons as a player. She’s also a three-time gold medalist who carried her country’s flag into the 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

As a coach, she’s been even more dominant.

Success followed her from Temple to South Carolina, where she’s now won over 300 games in 12 seasons, culminating with a 32-1 record and No. 1 ranking last year. With the Gamecocks alone, she’s won five SEC regular season titles and five SEC tournament titles, reached nine postseason tournaments (it would’ve been ten without COVID), and made it to the Final Four twice. Success at the NCAA level doesn’t always translate to the professional ranks, but then again, sometimes it does.

And for those thinking that she wouldn’t be able to handle men, as Hayes states in the article, “they don’t know Dawn Staley.”  She’s intense, fiery, and demanding on the sidelines in Columbia, SC, much like fellow Gamecock head coach Frank Martin. Her personality demands respect and her accomplishments within the sport would call for men and women alike to listen to her teachings. Of course, having Staley lead the Sixers would be shut down immediately for those who are too closed-minded to believe that women have a place in men’s sports.

Luckily, the NBA has become one of the most progressive leagues in professional sports, having seven women on coaching staffs across its 30 organizations. NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated last year that “there’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball” and that, eventually, he wanted half the league’s 30 head coaches to be women.

A league source told Hayes that at least one woman will be considered for the Sixers’ opening. Will Staley get the call? Who knows? But Gamecock fans will hope to hold on to Staley as long as possible. Her contract with the university runs through the 2024-25 season. The program should enjoy her time here as much as they can because it may soon be battling NBA offers in addition to those from the NCAA and WNBA.

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