MINNEAPOLIS — Daybreak Staley was shedding.
Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and Corridor of Famer as a participant, had coached at Temple, in her hometown, Philadelphia, for eight years, however the workforce couldn’t get past the primary weekend of the N.C.A.A. event.
So when Staley took over as coach of South Carolina’s ladies’s basketball workforce in 2008, she had one purpose on her thoughts: “I wished to win,” Staley mentioned Saturday. “I wished to win the nationwide championship.”
Underneath Staley, the Gamecocks have made 10 consecutive N.C.A.A. tournaments, earned 4 journeys to the Last 4 and, after Sunday night time, gained two nationwide championships. This has been a sluggish burn for Staley, who rebuilt South Carolina’s program from the bottom up. That Sunday’s win was in opposition to Connecticut, probably the most embellished ladies’s basketball program, suggests a altering of the guard within the sport.
Staley constructed a powerhouse workforce led by Aliyah Boston, who gained awards as the highest participant and defender. Beginning guards Zia Cooke, Brea Beal and Destanni Henderson, Staley mentioned, have “logged a number of minutes collectively,” and because of this they play like “shorthand writing.”
“You don’t need to say a lot,” Staley mentioned. “You possibly can simply level, they usually know the swap.”
Her rosters have proved themselves time and again. Staley has led the Gamecocks to their solely No. 1 rankings in program historical past and despatched eight Gamecocks to the W.N.B.A draft, together with the No. 1 general choose in 2018, A’ja Wilson, who helped carry residence the Gamecocks’ first nationwide title in 2017.
On Sunday night time, Wilson was readily available rooting for her alma mater.
UConn, led by Coach Geno Auriemma, laid the groundwork for a lot of that success, Staley mentioned. Auriemma has gained 11 championships at UConn, the place he has been in cost since 1985.
“Whether or not individuals imagine that or not, he has helped our recreation develop tremendously,” Staley mentioned. “I believe a number of what we’re capable of do and get is off the backs of their success. I believe the individuals up at UConn deal with their ladies’s basketball workforce as a sport. They’re pressured to due to all of the profitable and all of the success, however you could possibly take a web page out of their e book.”
Going into the championship recreation, neither coach had misplaced a nationwide championship recreation. Then Staley defeated Auriemma.
“I advised Daybreak after the sport, they have been the very best workforce within the nation all 12 months,” Auriemma mentioned Sunday night time.
Whereas South Carolina is pushing individuals to assume past UConn because the gold normal in ladies’s school basketball, Staley hesitated to name her program a dynasty. However she acknowledged the enjoying subject was altering.
“What I believe is essential as a Black girl and coach is the way in which you do it, like the instance that you just set for different coaches to observe,” Staley mentioned after Sunday’s recreation.
“I simply wish to be a terrific instance of the way to do issues the precise means and hold our recreation in a spot the place the integrity is unbroken, as a result of that’s the way in which we’ll develop,” she added.
Whereas South Carolina’s two titles could look like child steps in comparison with UConn’s 11 championships, the game is not dominated by one workforce. This season has proven how ladies’s basketball is in a really totally different period, with a wealth of expertise is unfold throughout the nation evinced, partially, in six double-digit seeded groups making the spherical of 16.
South Carolina is a member of the Southeastern Convention, which is thought primarily for soccer. Staley, via her success, has drawn rather more consideration to ladies’s basketball at her college. She has positioned herself because the highest-paid Black girl teaching a workforce and cultivated a loyal fan base that has led the nation in attendance for ladies’s school basketball for seven straight seasons.
“When she first obtained right here, it wasn’t all rainbows and stuff,” Beal, a junior guard, mentioned forward of Sunday’s recreation. “I believe, simply wanting again on that and the way she constructed a terrific group, a terrific place, I believe simply having our personal legacy and constructing that for us was key.”
Candace Parker of the W.N.B.A.’s Chicago Sky mentioned South Carolina is carving out its personal path.
“I’d say the subsequent U.S.C. is the subsequent U.S.C., I believe everyone seems to be chasing who they wish to be, their very own identification,” Parker mentioned after Sunday’s recreation. “I believe they’re who they’re they usually’re doing what they’re meant to be.”
If Boston has her means, Sunday night time’s win is just the start.
“I believe over the previous couple years you’ve simply been capable of see this program and the way it simply continues to develop,” Boston mentioned, including that extra gamers will wish to go to South Carolina due to “the ambiance that we’ve right here.”