MINNEAPOLIS — Dawn Staley was dropping.
Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Famer as a participant, had coached at Temple, in her hometown, Philadelphia, for eight years, however the workforce couldn’t get past the primary weekend of the N.C.A.A. match.
So when Staley took over as coach of South Carolina’s girls’s basketball workforce in 2008, she had one aim on her thoughts: “I wanted to win,” Staley mentioned Saturday. “I wanted to win the national championship.”
Under Staley, the Gamecocks have made 10 consecutive N.C.A.A. tournaments, earned 4 journeys to the Final Four and, after Sunday night time, received two nationwide championships. This has been a gradual burn for Staley, who rebuilt South Carolina’s program from the bottom up. That Sunday’s win was in opposition to Connecticut, probably the most embellished girls’s basketball program, suggests a altering of the guard within the sport.
Staley constructed a powerhouse workforce led by Aliyah Boston, who received awards as the highest participant and defender. Starting guards Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Destanni Henderson, Staley mentioned, have “logged a lot of minutes together,” and because of this they play like “shorthand writing.”
“You don’t have to say much,” Staley mentioned. “You can just point, and they know the switch.”
Her rosters have proved themselves time and again. Staley has led the Gamecocks to their solely No. 1 rankings in program historical past and despatched eight Gamecocks to the W.N.B.A draft, together with the No. 1 total choose in 2018, A’ja Wilson, who helped convey dwelling the Gamecocks’ first nationwide title in 2017.
On Sunday night time, Wilson was readily available rooting for her alma mater.
UConn, led by Coach Geno Auriemma, laid the groundwork for a lot of that success, Staley mentioned. Auriemma has received 11 championships at UConn, the place he has been in cost since 1985.
“Whether people believe that or not, he has helped our game grow tremendously,” Staley mentioned. “I think a lot of what we’re able to do and get is off the backs of their success. I think the people up at UConn treat their women’s basketball team as a sport. They’re forced to because of all the winning and all the success, but you could take a page out of their book.”
Going into the championship recreation, neither coach had misplaced a nationwide championship recreation. Then Staley defeated Auriemma.
“I told Dawn after the game, they were the best team in the country all year,” Auriemma mentioned Sunday night time.
While South Carolina is pushing folks to suppose past UConn because the gold commonplace in girls’s faculty basketball, Staley hesitated to name her program a dynasty. But she acknowledged the enjoying area was altering.
“What I think is important as a Black woman and coach is the way you do it, like the example that you set for other coaches to follow,” Staley mentioned after Sunday’s recreation.
“I just want to be a great example of how to do things the right way and keep our game in a place where the integrity is intact, because that’s the way we’ll grow,” she added.
While South Carolina’s two titles might appear to be child steps in comparison with UConn’s 11 championships, the game is now not dominated by one workforce. This season has proven how girls’s basketball is in a really completely different period, with a wealth of expertise is unfold throughout the nation evinced, partly, in six double-digit seeded groups making the spherical of 16.
South Carolina is a member of the Southeastern Conference, which is understood primarily for soccer. Staley, by way of her success, has drawn rather more consideration to girls’s basketball at her college. She has positioned herself because the highest-paid Black girl teaching a workforce and cultivated a loyal fan base that has led the nation in attendance for girls’s faculty basketball for seven straight seasons.
“When she first got here, it wasn’t all rainbows and stuff,” Beal, a junior guard, mentioned forward of Sunday’s recreation. “I think, just looking back on that and how she built a great community, a great place, I think just having our own legacy and building that for us was key.”
Candace Parker of the W.N.B.A.’s Chicago Sky mentioned South Carolina is carving out its personal path.
“I would say the next U.S.C. is the next U.S.C., I think everyone is chasing who they want to be, their own identity,” Parker mentioned after Sunday’s recreation. “I think they are who they are and they’re doing what they’re meant to be.”
If Boston has her manner, Sunday night time’s win is only the start.
“I think over the past couple years you’ve just been able to see this program and how it just continues to grow,” Boston mentioned, including that extra gamers will need to go to South Carolina due to “the atmosphere that we have here.”