Dawn Staley Thanked Caitlin Clark For ‘Lifting Up Our Sport’ And Proclaimed Her ‘One Of The GOATs’

Dawn Staley cemented her place among the all-time great women’s college basketball coaches on Sunday, winning her third national championship as South Carolina’s head coach as the Gamecocks finished off a perfect season with an 87-75 win over Iowa.

It was a thrilling game that saw Caitlin Clark go supernova early with 18 points in the first quarter, but after that the Gamecocks locked in on the star, keeping her to 12 points the rest of the way. Raven Johnson led the way as the primary defender on Clark, with the rest of the South Carolina defense providing help, and with Iowa struggling to knock down threes around their star (and struggling on the glass on the other end), the Hawkeyes just couldn’t keep up.

For Staley, this win might’ve been the sweetest, as it came in a year where most expected the Gamecocks to take a step back. They saw Aliyah Boston go to the WNBA as the No. 1 overall pick and win Rookie of the Year, along with Zia Cooke and most of the rest of their starting five that lost to Iowa in the Final Four a year ago. This year’s team lacked that same level of star power, but made up for it with depth and an incredibly unselfish style that was the product of buy-in to what Staley was asking of them.

After the game, Staley was extremely emotional, letting it out in an incredible scene surrounded by her players celebrating.

Once on the stage to receive the national championship trophy, Staley wanted to take a moment to shout out Clark, giving Iowa’s star her flowers, calling her one of the GOATs, and offering an appreciation of what Clark did in shouldering a heavy burden as the face of women’s college basketball, bringing so much attention to the sport and handling it as well as she did.

It’s a very cool thing for Staley to do in that moment, and it was something Clark didn’t take for granted when asked about it after the game.

Clark has certainly raised the profile of women’s college basketball, and as Staley notes, she’ll continue to do so at the WNBA level when she gets drafted in just over a week’s time. Clark returned the favor, noting what Staley has done for the game as a coach and player, and you could tell it really did mean a lot to her to get that kind of affirmation from a true legend of the sport.

Staley’s resume is impenetrable, with three Olympic gold medals as a player, one as a coach, six WNBA All-Star teams as a player, and now three national titles as a coach (and counting). To get that kind of praise from her is certainly a big deal, and it’s another reminder of how Staley is one of the great ambassadors for the game, along with being an incredible coach, knowing how important it is to lift up the next generation, even when they play for the other team.