Dawn Staley is the embodiment of women’s basketball and its incremental rise as a viable and marketable American sport.
She has done it all. She’s in some way been an integral part of every watershed moment in women’s basketball over the past three decades.
Staley is a walking glass ceiling obliterator. Her most recent accomplishment came during South Carolina’s 2021 SEC title run.
This has been a year of firsts for Staley as over the summer she led USA Women’s Basketball to the gold medal (seventh straight) at the Tokyo Games. She became the first Black head coach of the Women’s Olympic Team.
The Architect Gets Paid
Now the head coach of the perennial powerhouse South Carolina Gamecocks, Staley just became the highest-paid Black coach in women’s college basketball.
South Carolina has approved a 7-year, $22.4 million contract for WBB Coach Dawn Staley ✍️
She becomes the highest paid Black head coach in women's basketball.
Staley also joins UConn's Geno Auriemma as the highest paid WBB coaches in the country.
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) October 15, 2021
The seven-year, $22.4 million extension is well-deserved and will run through the 2027-28 season, making her and UConn’s Geno Auriemma the highest-paid women’s coaches at public universities.
We don’t know if she’s No. 1 or No. 2 but we do know she’s the highest-paid woman coach to ever do it.
Her 2021-22 compensation begins at $2.9 million, with the final year maxing out at $3.5 million. The contract includes additional performance-based incentives up to $680,000 per year.
Staley has turned the Gamecocks into a consistent national title contender, while sending an abundance of players onto the next level.
Interim President Harris Pastides said he hopes the extension puts Staley at the top.
“I hope she is No. 1,” Pastides told dailygamecock.com. “She taught us how to break the glass ceiling in women’s basketball and for women’s coaches, that’s what she’s doing today. And she broke right through that glass ceiling and she’s cutting down the net.”
Voice For The Voiceless
But outside of basketball, it’s the life lessons she provides her players with that doesn’t get enough publicity.
“I didn’t do this for me,” Staley said in an interview. “I’m an advocate of equal pay and overall, this is a huge statement for women and Black women, and not just in sports but all over the country, when you think about how less they’re paid on the dollar compared to men.”
Staley commended the progressive approach by a state educational administration that has notoriously underserved Black people.
“Credit where it’s due. This university and this state have a rich history of racism, and I’m not going to disgard that. But this is one of the most progressive decisions they’ve ever made. They need to recognized for leading the way in gender equity in America. This is an equitable statement and in the midst of all our inequities in our country, I hope it’s a turning point.”
Staley has also stood her ground and spoken her mind at the most difficult times, while coaching in a Southern hotbed of historical racial inequity.
Staley suffered a couple of attacks as she showed her support for racial justice, spoke out about the George Floyd killing, penned a Players’ Tribune piece entitled, “Black People Are Tired,” and was unwavering in expressing the changes that are needed to improve the country.
Staley led the Gamecocks to the 2017 NCAA championship. Her accomplishments as a player set the foundation for her coaching exploits.
Staley is a three-time Olympian, winning the gold in 1996, the catalyst tournament for the late ’90s explosion of women’s athletics.
After winning two National Player of the Year awards as an All-America point guard for UVA 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 pioneers of the WNBA.
Staley is one of the elite coaches in all of college basketball. and her work ethic and leadership shows in how her players develop under her watch.
She’s got a knack for really taking players’ games to the next level while also instilling core values in them.
Her historical payday is a win for sure, and all we can hope for is that this becomes the norm as it pertains to equal pay for women in athletics and leadership positions.