South Carolina Basketball: On Dawn Staley's birthday, a look at some of her most ridiculous records

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley turned 54 today, and her name is all over the record books.
South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley
South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Today is May 4th, and you know what that means: it's South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley's birthday! For anyone who thought this was a lead-in to a Star Wars "May the Fourth be with you" article, Coach Staley was born on May 4th 1970, a full seven years before Star Wars was released in theaters. In other words, May 4th belonged to the queen of college basketball before it belonged to Star Wars.

On the 25th anniversary of Coach Staley's 29th birthday, it only seems appropriate to take a look at some of the most ridiculous records and stats that surround the head Gamecock in charge.

The Championships

Dawn Staley is one of just five coaches ever to win three national championships, along with Geno Auriemma, Pat Summitt, Tara VanDerveer, and Kim Mulkey. The Covid-19 pandemic cheated Staley and the Gamecocks of an opportunity at a 4th as USC was the consensus #1 team in the nation when the season shut down).

She is also one of just two coaches (along with Summitt) to win at least eight SEC Championships as she has led the Gamecocks to eight regular season titles and eight SEC Tournament titles since 2014.

Coach Staley dethroned Tennessee's SEC reign, putting the final nails in the Vols' national dynastic coffin. Then, they knocked off the UConn Huskies as the top program in the country.

The Wins

In the history of the South Carolina basketball program (since the start of the NCAA), the Gamecocks have 893 wins over 43 seasons. Dawn Staley has 440 of them in just 16 years. Before Staley became the coach at USC, the program averaged about 17.4 wins per season. Since she took over, the Gamecocks have become a team that wins about 27.5 games per season.

South Carolina won 25 or more games just once before Staley's arrival in Columbia. They have won 25 or more games 12 times since she became the head coach, including five seasons in a row and 12 of the last 13 years.

8 NCAA Tournaments featured the Gamecocks from 1981-2008 (the year Staley was hired). They've been in 12 editions of March Madness (and that would have been 13 with the inclusion of the 2019-2020 season).

The Players

Only a handful of elite players had worn garnet and black until Coach Staley arrived on the scene. Only two players (Jocelyn Penn and Shannon Johnson) were selected as AP All-Americans in the history of the program before Tiffany Mitchell was selected in 2014.

In the last decade as Coach Staley grew the Carolina program to where it is today, the Gamecocks put 14 on the AP All-America squad. A'ja Wilson (4x), Aliyah Boston (4x), Tiffany Mitchell (3x), Kamilla Cardoso, Zia Cooke, and Ty Harris have all received the honor.

Carolina has had two #1 overall WNBA Draft selections under Staley as A'ja Wilson (2018) and Aliyah Boston (2023) were the top players selected in their respective drafts. They also had the 2nd-most alums in the WNBA entering this spring's training camp (behind only the UConn Huskies).

The Dominance

This season, Carolina finished 38-0 as they won their third title, becoming just the fifth program ever to accomplish the feat. It was the crowning achievement on top of what has been a dominant run by the Gamecocks (one that doesn't seem close to stopping).

South Carolina basketball has not lost a regular season game since 2021 (yes, seriously), and the team is 109-3 over the past three seasons. The Gamecocks have won three national championships (and had the 2019-2020 season, too) since any other team has won multiple titles. They've won by an average point differential greater than 25 points per game during that stretch, as well.

USC has made every Final Four since the Covid-shortened season, and they've won three of the last four SEC regular season championships and three of the last four SEC Tournament trophies.

The dominance has seen the Gamecocks ranked #1 in the AP poll every week (other than the preseason poll ahead of the 2023-2024 season) since the 2020-2021 season ended. They also spent the previous season at #1 almost the entire year.

The Culture

Despite South Carolina having lots of great players who have been coached by Dawn Staley, the culture around the program has always been one built around the idea of team over individuals.

There has been just one player average 20 points per game in a season under Staley (A'ja Wilson during her senior year), and players routinely sacrifice and defer to their teammates in order to make the team better as a whole.

The winning culture around South Carolina basketball is exactly why she has won National Coach of the Year honors in four separate seasons and SEC Coach of the Year seven times. Only Pat Summitt has won more SEC COY awards, and only Summitt, Tara VanDerveer, and Geno Auriemma have won more National COY trophies.

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