South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley guided her team to a commanding 66–57 victory against NC State on Tuesday. But winning games is not the only thing the legendary coach has been up to.
To kickoff the 2021 season, Staley kept her promise by sending each Black woman coach in Division I basketball a piece of the Gamecocks' 2017 NCAA Championship net, carrying out a tradition that was started by the great Carolyn Peck in 2015.
Peck, who is now a sports personality for women's college basketball and the WNBA, was the first Black woman to lead a team (Purdue) to win an NCAA Championship, doing so in 1999. After doing so, Peck gifted a piece of the net from the Boilermakers' championship net to Staley, who kept it in her wallet until winning her first title as a coach in '17.
Staley thought about cutting up the net and sending every Black coach a piece of it as inspiration "for every other black woman who wants to lead her team to that mountain top," per Sean Hurd of ESPN's The Undefeated.
"After returning Carolyn's piece of the net to her, I struggled to pick just one other coach to give mine to keep the tradition alive," Staley wrote in a note that accompanied the net. "... I don't want to count Black women as National Championship coaches by one every few decades.
"So, I pick ALL of you to receive this piece of our 2017 National Championship net in the hope that making our goal tangible will inspire you as it did me, to keep pushing forward and us all to keep supporting each other in our journeys."
Arizona head coach Adia Barnes guided her team to its first Final Four in school history and made a National Championship game appearance last season. Despite losing to Stanford, Staley's promise came to fruition for Barnes and many others.
Following the Wildcats' victory against Cal State Northridge in their season opener, Barnes opened her package to her piece of the net. Barnes and Stanley share a special relationship as the two coached the FIBA AmeriCup tournament together as well as Team USA basketball.
Other coaches around the country—Wisconsin's Marisa Moseley, Delaware State's E.C. Hill, Auburn's Johnnie Harris, University of Texas-Arlington's Shereka Wright, Coastal Carolina's Jada Williams, SMU's Toyelle Wilson—shared heartfelt messages thanking Staley for her kind gesture.
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