The country’s No. 1 team officially has the country’s No. 1 coach
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley won the 2020 Naismith Coach of the Year award on Thursday, thus becoming the first person in history to take home both the Naismith coaching award and the Citizen Naismith Trophy as a player.
“It is truly an honor to receive the Naismith National Coach of the Year, and, while I’m the one receiving the award, every head coach knows you cannot be a good coach without great assistants, great support staff and great players,” Staley said. “So, this award is every bit as much theirs as it is mine.”
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The Gamecocks’ 12-year head coach led her team to a 32-1 record in 2019-20, highlighted by a 16-0 record in SEC play en route to the conference tournament title — and SEC Coach of the Year honors for herself.
This season also saw South Carolina go 13-1 against top-25 opponents with wins over No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Maryland and the program’s first-ever win against No. 5 UConn. The Gamecocks finished the season No. 1 in the AP Poll.
Staley entered 2019-20 with the nation’s top recruiting class, led by consensus freshman of the year Aliyah Boston. But the Gamecocks have talent on both ends of the spectrum — senior Tyasha Harris is a Citizen Naismith Trophy finalist, and if she won, would make her and Staley the 14th coach/player pair to win both Naismith awards.
A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2013) and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2012) for her venerable playing career, Staley’s college highlights include having appeared in three Final Fours with Virginia and being named the 1991 NCAA Tournament’s most outstanding player.
At South Carolina, Staley turned around a team that compiled a 10-18 record in her inaugural season, winning the program’s first national championship in 2017. That year, she was named head coach of the United States national team.
“We are blessed at the University of South Carolina to have the best FAMS in the nation,” Staley said. “They support us every day, on the court and off it, and it is my hope that during this trying time in our nation, when games like basketball seem so distant, that reading about this award gives those fans a little bit of joy and reminds them a little of what we can all look forward to when we come through this time on the other side.”
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