Dawn Staley Details Why Caitlin Clark Must Win a Championship to Be the GOAT

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley speaks to the media on the eve of the NCAA tournament championship game.
South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley speaks to the media on the eve of the NCAA tournament championship game. / Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA

Caitlin Clark is undoubtedly the author of one of the greatest careers ever seen in the sport of college basketball, but still remains without an elusive national championship to her name. Though she may be the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, conversation has stirred this week about whether or not she truly stands alone as the best to ever play without a title.

As for South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, the leader of Clark’s opponent in the national championship, hoisting a trophy is prerequisite for becoming the GOAT.

“Yeah, I was really good in college by never won a championship. You gotta win a championship,” Staley explained in her press conference Saturday ahead of Sunday’s title game, via The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, using herself as an example.

The Gamecocks’ coach echoed comments made by four-time national champion and former UConn star Breanna Stewart earlier in the week, when she stated definitively that Clark needed a title to surpass the rest of the greats to come through the women’s game.

“I agree with Stewie when it comes to winning the championship,” Staley continued. “We’re going to talk about GOATs, I think [Stewart] is the GOAT, to be able to win four national championships and to be MVP.”

Of course for Clark to finally reach the mountaintop, she’ll have to get through Staley, Kamilla Cardoso and the Gamecocks—a fact the two-time champion coach begrudgingly acknowledges.

“If Caitlin wins the championship she’s pretty damn good, yeah, like she’s a GOAT. I mean she’s really damn good regardless,” Staley said. “But winning the championship would seal the deal.

“I hope to the dear Lord she doesn’t,” she added.

Staley and South Carolina will seek to prevent Clark from reaching another level of status on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET when the national championship tips off from Cleveland.

Zach Koons


Zach Koons is a programming editor at Sports Illustrated who also specializes in Formula One news and analysis. He started as a breaking news writer at SI before joining the programming team in 2023. Also a contributor to NBA and college sports coverage, Zach previously wrote for The Spun and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and currently hosts the Bleav in Northwestern podcast. Zach is a 2022 graduate of Northwestern University and lives in New York City.