Dawn Staley didn’t go out of her way to talk with Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk this May at the annual SEC meetings in Destin, Florida.
She did, however, make time to speak with Mizzou women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton, the Tigers coach said in a radio interview Tuesday.
The South Carolina and Missouri women’s basketball teams have been locked in an increasingly heated rivalry over the past year, with physical play and accusations of racism, fan misconduct and poor officiating, culminating in Staley suing Sterk for defamation after he claimed she promoted an atmosphere in which Mizzou players were spit on and called racial slurs.
Sterk was fined by the SEC for his comments, and the conference also announced it would conduct a review of USC’s gameday management and security. Staley and Sterk eventually settled the suit, with Sterk agreeing to pay $50,000, half of which Staley donated to charity.
Since then, the rivalry between the schools has been reduced to a simmer, and Pingeton, speaking on 93.9 The Eagle in Columbia, Missouri, said she and Staley have taken steps to reduce the tension between the programs, even as some awkwardness remained.
“You excited to see your good buddy Dawn Staley?” a host asked Pingeton about the upcoming season. South Carolina and Missouri will play at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 21.
After a pause, the hosts laughed and Pingeton answered by mentioning star player Sophie Cunningham.
“So I’m excited to have Sophie back. I think Sophie’s going to do some great things for us this year,” Pingeton said.
Pingeton then addressed the situation.
“Everyone’s gotta be better. We all gotta be better,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn and grow. Dawn and I, we actually had some really good conversations down at the SEC meetings in Destin and we’re really in a good place. Love the rivalry, love how competitive it is, but we’re in a really good place and we want to use what happened as a platform to be better for both of our programs, so I think it’s really a positive.”
That portion of the interview, embedded below, begins around the 9:20 mark.