Dawn Staley considered leaving South Carolina basketball this offseason

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley told ESPN this weekend that she considered retiring during the offseason.

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley with point guard Raven Johnson
South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley with point guard Raven Johnson / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina basketball has become the premier program in all of women's college basketball, winning their first national championship with a team led by A'ja Wilson and Tiffany Mitchell, winning their second with a team anchored by Aliyah Boston and "The Freshies," and now being the heavy favorites to win a third.

Since the 2016-2017 season (the year of the first title), no other program has won two national championships, something that becomes even more impressive when one realizes the Gamecocks were the odds-on favorites to win when the Covid-19 pandemic ended the 2019-2020 NCAA Tournament before it ever began.

In other words, Dawn Staley has built the South Carolina basketball program up from a program that made just 2 NCAA Tournaments in 20 years to one that is the best in the sport. Her name has become synonymous with success in women's basketball, and when one thinks of South Carolina basketball, they think of Dawn Staley.

According to the coach, herself, though, she almost left the Gamecocks this offseason.

Speaking with the College GameDay crew on ESPN before Sunday's game against Georgia, Coach Staley revealed she considered early retirement this summer. The panel of college basketball pundits laughed, but Staley remained deadpan and added "Seriously."

Based on the context around Staley's comments (talking about the difficulty of this offseason after losing so much talent off of last year's team), the words can be taken with a grain of salt. It is likely that Coach Staley never seriously considered retiring. However, her willingness to say this speaks to the difficulty she and her team had as they tried to get ready for the 2023-2024 season.

Many analysts called the 2023-2024 version of South Carolina basketball a "rebuild" as they lost all five starters from last year's team (plus one reserve to the WNBA Draft). While Staley didn't view the year as a rebuild, she knew that things would be difficult, and, according to the coach, herself, this summer was tough.

Considering how hard the offseason was, the sheer dominance of the Gamecocks this season has to bring a special type of satisfaction to the best coach in college basketball. Staley's group is the only undefeated team across the sport (men's or women's) and is the clear favorite to win another national title. Even with LSU entering the season as the betting favorite, the Gamecocks have a chance to clinch the SEC regular season championship this week at home against Alabama.

Staley intimated to the panel of Elle Duncan, Andreya Carter, Carolyn Peck, and Chiney Ogwumike that she was somewhat surprised with her team's ability to improve so drastically from the summer as they "lacked leadership, lacked conditioning...lacked a lot of things." But the Gamecock women's basketball coach acknowledged multiple times that her team has figured those things out well.

The big year for the garnet and black has changed Staley's outlook on coaching the group. She quipped during the interview, "If I knew it was going to turn out like this, I probably wouldn't have been so mad [at the time]."

With the renewed energy and enthusiasm that a great team brings, Coach Staley and the Gamecocks have pushed their way to a 25-0 record, an all-time SEC regular season win record (43-straight wins and counting), and a virtually locked-in position as the top seed in both the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

Not bad for a "rebuilding year."

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