NEW YORK — It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for South Carolina coach Dawn Staley since her Gamecocks won their first national championship.
She’s been honored at the South Carolina State House and in her of hometown Philadelphia. Now she’s in London for a few days. Staley was also in New York last month to see three of her players get taken in the first round of the WNBA draft. When she’s not been traveling, Staley is easy to find on South Carolina’s campus. She’s turned up at many of the school’s sporting events, cheering on the softball and track teams.
“I want to share the moment with as many people as possible,” Staley said Tuesday before being honored by the New York Athletic Club. “It’s easy to do stuff on campus since we’re right there. I don’t mind sharing our championship spirit with everyone else going into postseason play.”
While in New York, she walked around the city, getting stopped by people who congratulated her on her title. Even with all the praise, there are times Staley can’t fathom that her team won a championship after she came so close as a player at Virginia a few times.
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“Some days you have to remind yourself that we won a national championship. Sometimes you can’t believe it,” she said. “You walk outside and see other people and they make you reflect on it and re-live it. It’s a good feeling. I don’t want to walk through life without remembering it and feeling it.”
If she ever does need a reminder, she just has to look down. Ever present around Staley’s neck, when she’s been in South Carolina, has been her favorite new piece of jewelry — the championship net from Dallas. She affectionately calls it “netlace.”
She doesn’t bring it on the road with her out of fear of it getting lost or damaged.
Staley did take a piece of it and put it in her wallet to replace the one that Carolyn Peck gave her a few years ago . Peck was the first African-American coach to win a national championship and had given Staley, the second to achieve that feat, a piece of that net she won while coaching Purdue.
“I got a chance to return it to Carolyn and I have a piece of our net in my wallet now,” Staley said. “We talked about who that next coach is going to be to give it to.”
One place that Staley hasn’t been yet is the White House. She has said since winning the title that she’s hoping for an invite for her team.
“National champions go to the White House. I’m going,” Staley said. “You don’t have to believe in everything President Trump says and does, but I do believe in going to the White House when you’re a national champion. It’s not him, it’s what it stands for.”
Staley visited with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley when she was in New York to accept the Winged Foot Award for winning the basketball championship. Haley is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The two have been friends for a while.
“She asked me when we’re going to the White House and was like, ‘You got to go.’ It’s not who’s in the White House, but the experience of going to the White House and what it represents. My players may never get this opportunity again. Once we get the invite we’ll go.”