Just days after Dawn Staley and South Carolina knocked Virginia out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round, the Cavaliers are on the hunt for a new coach and plan to reach out to Staley, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Staley remains the most decorated and celebrated player in Virginia's history, leading the Cavs to three Final Fours while earning national player of the year honors twice. Her number, 24, is retired within the program.
In the past decade at South Carolina, however, Staley has built the Gamecocks into one of the premier programs in the country, advancing to five consecutive Sweet 16s, leading the nation in attendance four years running and claiming the national championship in 2017.
Staley was asked Wednesday if she has any interest in the Virginia job and said she did not. She referenced a "sour taste in my mouth" left from the last time the Cavaliers were searching for a coach.
That was in 2011, when Debbie Ryan, who coached Staley, retired. At the time, Staley said she had talked with UVA's administrators but issued a statement calling South Carolina's program a "goldmine" and reaffirming her commitment to stay in Columbia.
This past Saturday, Staley confirmed that she had been contacted about the job in 2011 but was never offered it. She also downplayed any significance of playing her alma mater. Wednesday, she said she understands why her name was connected and she knows about new Virginia AD Carla Williams, who played ball at Georgia
"I don't have any Virginia stuff. Really, I'm over 25 years removed from it, and since Debbie left, I don't really have a close relationship with the people at Virginia, because most of them aren't there anymore," she said on Saturday. "I do have a couple of close friends that are still there that work for the university. It's another game, it's another game in which I want to win and win badly, not because it's Virginia but because it's an opportunity to move on in the NCAA Tournament."
UVA's coach, Joanne Boyle, retired unexpectedly Tuesday after USC eliminated her squad from the NCAA tourney, the Cavaliers' first in her seven years at the university, citing a "family matter." She had just completed the final season of her contract and had faced questions about her future with the program, which she declined to discuss after the defeat.
After winning the national title last season, Staley signed an extension with South Carolina that made her one of the highest-paid coaches in the country, with her salary increasing to $2.1 million by 2024-2025, the final year of the contract. Her buyout for this season is set at $3.5 million.
South Carolina will play in the Sweet 16 on Saturday against No. 11 seed Buffalo in Albany, New York.