It wasn’t surprising, because when a team has had tremendous sustained success like South Carolina has had, other teams notice. So Dawn Staley wasn’t shocked when her phone beeped and it was Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig, asking permission to speak to assistant coach Nikki McCray-Penson.
“It came about fairly quickly,” Staley said Monday. “She had a previous relationship with the AD, from when they were at Western Kentucky. It made sense.”
Staley granted permission, McCray-Penson discussed the job with Selig and was introduced as ODU’s head coach last week. Staley was happy for her longtime friend, coach and teammate, and has turned her attention toward finding a replacement.
Also not surprisingly, there’s a lot of interest. People want to be a part of a Gamecocks program that has won four straight SEC regular-season championships, three straight SEC tournaments and stands atop the world as the reigning national champions. Staley expects to hire somebody within the next few weeks.
“I have a short list,” she said. “We’re going to look outside of us and people outside our comfort zone, but anytime we have hired here, I always ask around, ‘Who’s the best?’ ”
No one has been brought to campus to interview – something that will happen possibly by the end of the week, and Staley could finalize a deal by the end of next week or shortly thereafter. McCray-Penson was a valuable recruiter and her knowledge of the game and USC’s system was immense.
Finding a candidate with all that may be difficult but Staley has a lot of advantages to offer. Again, the Gamecocks are the national champs.
“People I’ve worked with, we make it real hard for them to leave. They make it easy for us to always have them here,” Staley said. “We lost a big part of our staff and our family and I want to make sure they can step in and do those type of things and also enhance it.”
USC’s schedule is coming together but Staley couldn’t offer many other details beside what’s already known. Contracts have to be finalized first.
“We’re playing in one tournament that has some power to it, but I don’t think that’s announced yet,” she said. “I think we got a pretty decent schedule. I don’t think it’s as good as last year.”
The Gamecocks will play at Maryland on Nov. 13 but Staley didn’t know if that would be USC’s season-opener. Known games without dates are home games against Duke and Connecticut with a road game against Clemson.
USC will not play in the Big 12/SEC Challenge this year due to the event’s rotating schedule, and will not play Ohio State, Louisville or UCLA from last year’s schedule. The Buckeyes and Bruins were part of home-and-home agreements that concluded and Louisville was in Springfield, Mass., as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge.
There is a road game scheduled against a Northeast team that made the NCAA tournament last year.
There’s a name conflict on this year’s roster, much like there was when Tiffany Mitchell (“Tiff”) and Tiffany Davis (“Slim”) were on the same teams. Senior Bianca Cuevas-Moore (“B”) isn’t giving up her nickname even with freshman Bianca Jackson already on campus. Jackson has already been re-named “Shay” (a variation of her middle name) in the dorm.
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