Josh Kendall

Dawn Staley, Bev Smith friendship goes beyond sports. Just ask Champ

Dawn Staley won’t be able to make it to Carolina Softball Stadium this weekend for South Carolina’s NCAA Regional, but she’s sending the next-best thing: her dog, Champ, who has become semi-famous on Twitter and is very familiar with Gamecocks softball coach Bev Smith.

“She takes care of Champ while I’m out of town,” Staley said. “Everybody’s got to line up behind Bev.”

Staley and Smith, who are neighbors, have developed a very strong relationship since Smith took over the softball program eight years ago. They are frequent neighborhood walking partners and get together for dinner.

“We just bounce ideas off each other,” Staley said. “We talk about players, we talk about movement of players and culture. We talk about a lot of things. We talk about life.”

When Staley’s mother, Estelle, was living with Staley and suffering from Alzheimer’s, it was Smith who was called in when Staley was not available.

“My mom would actually listen to her,” Staley said. “It’s a deeper relationship than the normal you work at the same university relationship. It’s been a great friendship. It’s been a great journey with her to see her program take off.”

“She’s very, very intelligent, tough,” Staley said. “Even through losing, she always sees the positives, she always sees growth. I learned to look at thing a little differently because of our friendship.”

NCAA Regional

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; games Saturday and Sunday

Who: USC vs. UNCG

Where: Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field

Other opening round game: Liberty-Hofstra at 5 p.m.

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