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Staley accepting the challenge

While introducing Dawn Staley as South Carolina’s new women’s basketball coach, USC athletics director Eric Hyman recited the list of Staley’s career accomplishments.

It took him four and a half minutes.

While Hyman stressed patience both with his remarks — “I’m not getting bored, I hope you’re not,” he told Staley — and the timeline for success, Staley sounded like she has a different schedule for getting the Gamecocks in gear.

“Eric Hyman said it’s going to take a little bit of time,” Staley said Saturday after pulling on a USC cap. “I’m patient, but not that patient.”

USC announced Staley’s hire Wednesday, but it was not official until trustees approved the five-year, $650,000-a-year contract that makes the former Temple coach the third highest-paid coach in the SEC behind Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and LSU’s Van Chancellor.

Because Staley is responsible for 75 percent of the $500,000 buyout owed to Temple, her guaranteed compensation will average $575,000 annually.

Hyman said it was the easiest contractual matter he has taken to the board, which needed 10 minutes to endorse it.

Staley was one of four candidates interviewed by USC. Hall of Fame coach Sylvia Hatchell, who received a new deal to stay at North Carolina, Chattanooga’s Wes Moore and Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick were the others.

“We talked to some high-caliber people. But when it was all said and done, she was the best person,” Hyman said. “There’s a price for excellence. Here at the University of South Carolina we want to have excellence. We want to be great, not good.”

The 38-year-old Staley has the same vision. After turning Temple’s fortunes around in eight seasons with the Owls, the Philadelphia native channeled Gamecocks football coach Steve Spurrier while explaining why she left her hometown.

“Some people may ask why South Carolina? And I say why not?” Staley said, echoing a line used by Spurrier at his introductory press conference. “The facilities are here. The commitment’s here. The community and the people who want to be a part of a winning program (are here).”

Staley replaces Susan Walvius, who made the NCAA tournament twice in 11 seasons and was 51-103 in SEC play.

Besides the challenge of competing in the SEC, Staley said family played a big role in the move. Estelle Staley, the coach’s 65-year-old mother, grew up in Orangeburg County before relocating to Philadelphia as a teen-ager.

After her mother had a stroke in July, Dawn Staley said it was important to have her closer to friends and relatives in South Carolina.

USC’s players were excited about getting a coach with Staley’s qualifications.

In the bedroom of her Columbia home, Gamecocks senior guard Brionna Dickerson has a Staley bobblehead from her days with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting.

“I feel like someone needs to pinch me because it’s just like a dream come true,” Dickerson said. “You never think you’ll get the opportunity to play under someone like that.”

Staley has hired two assistant coaches: Lisa Boyer, a veteran college and pro coach, and former Tennessee player Carla McGee. In addition to filling out her staff and meeting with recruits and players, Staley wants to find a house in an intown neighborhood.

She also will need time to adjust to her new surroundings. Eating dinner Friday, Staley was surprised to notice the restaurant cleared out by 10 p.m. and wondered where she might find a cheesesteak on nights she works late.

“In Philly things stay open pretty late,” she said.

If Staley accomplishes her goals of a national title at USC, there figure to be plenty of places that will keep the kitchen open for her.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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