Saying she sees a “gold mine” at USC, women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley said Wednesday she is staying in Columbia instead of pursuing a return to her alma mater, Virginia.
“The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to leave because of the direction we have this program going,” Staley said in a statement. “The groundwork our coaching staff is laying with future classes has been outstanding. We feel like we have a gold mine here.”
Staley spoke with Virginia officials about replacing longtime coach Debbie Ryan, who resigned after 34 seasons. Staley was a two-time National Player of the Year under Ryan while the Cavaliers went to three Final Fours.
“A lot of people have been talking about me going to Virginia since Debbie Ryan stepped down, and I understand that. It’s my alma mater, where I was really shaped as a person, so it’s a natural conversation to have,” Staley said in her statement. “In the end, Virginia is going in a different direction.”
Staley has two years remaining on a five-year contract with South Carolina that pays $650,000 annually, reportedly the second-highest in the SEC behind Tennessee’s Pat Summitt.
Virginia would have needed to pay USC $630,000 to buyout Staley’s contract, which includes money still owed Temple to buy out her contract there when she came to USC in 2008.
South Carolina has improved each of the three seasons under Staley. Wins have increased from 10 in her first season to 18 this past season, which was tumultuous as three players left the team including top recruit Kayla Brewer.
The Gamecocks lost to Charlotte in the second round of the WNIT. Staley is 42-48 at USC.
The team returns its top three scorers and adds three recruits in a class ranked in the top 25 nationally.