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How Dawn Staley Became the Top-Paid Black Coach In Women’s Basketball

Dawn Staley, celebrated as the top-paid Black coach in women’s basketball, continues with yet another groundbreaking achievement. After leading the University of South Carolina’s Gamecocks to an undefeated record in the 2023-24 regular season and SEC Tournament, she solidified her status as a coaching powerhouse.

Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley, O∆K

The university owes a great debt to Staley according to South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner.

‘One of the Nation’s Top Coaches’

He once said, “Dawn Staley is one of the nation’s top coaches, regardless of the sport.”

“She has built our women’s basketball program from the ground up, and her teams have produced champions, both on and off the floor,” he continued in a statement reported by ESPN. “The ability to keep Coach Staley at the University of South Carolina is great news for all Gamecocks. I join with our fans in looking forward to seeing the great achievements her program will continue to produce in the future.”

Four years ago, she made history she became the first former Naismith Player of the Year to earn the Naismith Coach of the Year award.

One of Highest-Paid Black Head Coaches

Shortly after that, she made history at South Carolina when the institution announced it would extend her contract through the 2027-28 season, accompanied by a significant pay raise of $22.4 million over seven years. This made her not only one of the highest-paid women’s basketball coaches in the nation but also one of the highest-paid Black head coaches in her sport.

In the updated contract, Staley’s base salary is set at $1 million annually, with additional outside compensation starting at $1.9 million in the initial year and increasing by $100,000 annually thereafter.

Under this agreement, she was compensated for the 2021-22 school year $2.9 million — and will reach a peak at the end of the contract with an annual salary of $3.5 million.

Moreover, the contract offers potential performance-based compensation opportunities of up to $680,000 per year, which considering the year she just had with the team is money in the bag.

Staley is now the third highest-paid coach in women’s college basketball. Kim Mulkey (LSU) and Geno Auriemma (UConn) are the only coaches paid more. In 2023-24, her salary was $3.1 million, according to Front Office Sports.

Currently, South Carolina is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Staley has been a champion since she was in high school. While balling for Dobbins’ Mustangs, she never lost a game. In 1988, she was named USA Today’s National High School Player of the Year.

In college, she continued to blaze trails.

During her time as a point guard at the University of Virginia, she showcased her talent over four years, leading her team to the NCAA Final Four three times and even competing in the championship game in 1991.

Throughout her undergraduate years, she garnered several accolades, including titles such as Most Outstanding Player in the 1991 tournament, National Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992, and three-time Kodak All-American in 1990, 1991, and 1992. Additionally, she was named ACC Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992, as well as the league’s Rookie of the Year in 1989. Her exceptional achievements as a college athlete resulted in the university retiring her jersey in her honor.

She’s also an Olympian, who can boast three gold medals from playing on the 1996, 2000, and 2004 U.S. teams.

She also played in the WNBA for the Charlotte Sting, getting picked in a first-round draft in 1999, two years after the inception of the league.

Transitioning from her professional playing career, she brought her expertise to Temple University to coach their women’s basketball team. Although the team didn’t reach the championship during her tenure, she led them to the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons. With an impressive record of 172 wins and 80 losses, she became the winningest coach in the team’s history.

In 2012, she received the prestigious honor of being inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. That same year, she was also among the final nominees for induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Subsequently, in 2013, she was duly honored with induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Before finalizing her groundbreaking contract with South Carolina, she served as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 2017 to 2021. During her tenure, she played a pivotal role in extending the country’s impressive streak of Olympic gold medals in women’s basketball to seven consecutive wins at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

With all of this experience, she has made her roots at the University of South Carolina. She first started coaching there in 2008. And now’s she’s making coaching history.

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