Dawn Staley Wins Another Naismith Coach of The Year Award With $680,000 Bonus Reasons To Win Her Third National Championship

The mark of a great coach is one who can switch philosophies, game plans and even personal pillars of execution, in order to get the most out of a team. No two teams are the same and elite sideline stalkers such as South Carolina women’s basketball guru Dawn Staley are not afraid to adjust. 

The job she did with a team that lost five starters is just amazing and is a reflection of her true gift as a leader and game manager. Or as she describes it “a dreamer.”

While all of the college basketball hype surrounded Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese, Staley constructed a brand-new lineup featuring four newcomers, among a team that only goes 10 deep. 

Dawn Staley Is A Master Technician: South Carolina 70-1

She not only got them back to the Final Four, but without a loss, lifting the team’s record to 70-1 dating back to 2023. The consistency and standard are a credit to Staley’s culture as her team prepares to meet N.C. State on Friday night in a Final Four showdown, South Carolina’s fourth consecutive trip to the semifinals of March Madness. 

That’s why Staley won her third consecutive Naismith Coach of The Year Award this week. 

“It’s an honor to represent this trophy and I’d like to thank God for always, for always giving me and our staff uncommon favors. You don’t win an award like this without one, picking a great staff,” Staley said. “They’re the ones that do the heavy lifting when it comes to being honored like this. I’m honored to work with y’all. Got to give it up to our players who have committed to all of us as staff members.”

Staley’s sixth Naismith coaching award has elevated her into some exclusive company in legends row, alongside Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (eight) and the late Pat Summitt at Tennessee (five) in Naismith awards. Staley also won two during her tenure at Virginia.

Dawn Staley Ranks Second In Salary Among NCAA Women’s Hoops Coaches 

Staley’s success and outspokenness has also garnered her a deserving bag as she ranked second in salary, tied with Auriemma and behind LSU’s Kate Mulkey who makes $3.6 million.  

In 2021, Staley received a record seven-year, $22.4 million extension that would run through the 2027-28 season. The deal was groundbreaking for a woman and put her salary on par with UConn’s Auriemma as the highest-paid women’s coaches at public universities at the time.

This season she earns about $3.1 million and that should increase to $3.5 million in the final season of 2027-28.

Staley received a $25,000 bonus for her latest coaching award, boosting Staley’s bonus total for the 2023-2024 season to an impressive $430,000.  

Additionally, she secured a $50,000 bonus for winning the SEC Tournament title, adding to her achievements. She also receives a $25,000 bonus for every NCAA Tournament win, so her bonuses could reach upwards of $680,000 this season. 

Staley Is A Basketball Lifer Who Has Done It All 

Staley is a three-time gold medal Olympian, winning the gold in 1996, which was the catalyst tournament for the late ’90s explosion of women’s athletics. She also won in 2000 and 2004. After winning two National Player of the Year awards as an All-American point guard for the University of Virginia under legendary coach Debbie Ryan, Staley was a two-time All-Star in the now-defunct American Basketball League and then became one of the stars and influential pioneers of the WNBA.

In 2011, the fans voted Staley one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history and Staley was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

How Did Dawn Staley Get Into Coaching?

Her unselfishness, ball handling skills, relentless pursuit of perfection and groundbreaking style of play made Staley a perfect candidate for coaching. 

As the story goes, she was interested in coaching and the voices in her circle were telling her it would be impossible to simultaneously play in the WNBA and coach D-1 college hoops.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Staley returned to her hometown of Philly and started coaching the Temple Owls near the end of her WNBA career and immediately proved to be a program builder. 

In six years at Temple, she had a 172-80 overall record with six NCAA tournaments, three regular-season conference championships, and four Atlantic 10 Conference titles.


A-10 Commissioner Linda Bruno (blue) and the Temple Women’s basketball team present the USA Basketball Women Athlete of the Year award to Temple coach Dawn Staley on Jan. 4, 2005. (Photo: Joseph Labolito/Getty Images)

Searching for a greater challenge in the SEC, Staley took over a doormat South Carolina program in 2008.

She molded it from scratch and impressed her full basketball personality on the squad. Nine years later Staley hoisted a national championship banner, and after two consecutive undefeated regular seasons many say South Carolina has finally surpassed UConn as the powerhouse in women’s college hoops.

READ MORE: Dawn Staley Finally Cuts Down Her Own Net

The top-ranked Gamecocks finished 2020 with a 32-1 record and were poised to win another title before the COVID pandemic canceled March Madness for the first time ever. It was tough to deal with, but Staley finished the job again in 2022. 

Most recently, Staley served as United States Women’s National Team head coach (2017–2021), leading them to a perfect 45-0 record. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Staley secured her first gold medal as head coach for Team USA, adding to her four overall gold medals. 

Dawn Staley Builds Powerhouse At South Carolina 

Staley has built USC into the pre-eminent program in the Southeastern Conference and, with the death of Pat Summitt, Staley moved to the forefront as the iconic, fresh face of women’s college basketball. 

Tennessee was the only SEC national champion in women’s hoops for a long time, boasting eight NCAA titles, before Staley and USC broke through. 

Staley is in the right place at the right time. She’s a giant who at 53 years of age is still relevant in the eyes of anyone familiar with women’s basketball. She has accomplished this while other programs within her own conference, such as LSU, have also risen to elite status. 

“Pat Summitt really transcended women’s basketball to bring in the casual male fan, fans of other sports”, said former college and WNBA coach Nell Fortner, who coached Staley on the 2000 Olympic team. “People were mesmerized by Pat. Our sport misses that, and we need it. For her to become that would be absolutely outstanding.”

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer is familiar with Staley. The Cardinal beat Staley’s Virginia team for the 1992 NCAA title, and then VanDerveer coached Staley on the 1996 Olympic team. The pupil met the teacher in 2017 and beat Stanford for the first time in school history enroute to a magical season.

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Tara VanDerveer (left) coached Dawn Staley (right) on the 1996 Olympic team. The pupil met the teacher in 2017 as a coach and beat Stanford for the first time in school history enroute to a magical championship season. (Photo Credit: usatoday.com)


READ MORE: Dawn Staley Is Attacked On Gamecock Central For Condemning Jacob Blake Shooting

In addition to her on the court exploits, Staley has been very vocal on social justice issues and a leader in the national movement to end systemic racism and gender inequity in sports and in life. Her vocality on these issues has ruffled some feathers in the old Confederacy, but she continues to rise above and bring undeniable pride to Gamecocks Nation.

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