COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Associated Press tapped South Carolina's Dawn Staley as its women's basketball National Coach of the Year, the organization announced today. The AP is the second organization to award the title to Staley this season.
Adding the nation's top recruiting class to six returning letterwinners, Staley steered her team to a 32-1 record, SEC regular-season and tournament titles, and 10 weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll, including the Gamecocks' first time closing a season atop that poll. Three members of that freshman class started every game along with seniors Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, whose experience as the last remaining members of the 2017 National Championship team was invaluable to the young team's mindset.
The Gamecocks finished the season at No. 1 in the RPI thanks to their dominance of the nation's fifth-strongest schedule, which included eight wins over RPI top-25 teams and another eight against RPI top-50 squads. South Carolina's 13 wins over nationally ranked opponents were more than any other team in the country this season and matched the 2015-16 team for the most in program history.
The SEC Coach of the Year led a team that embodied her competitive spirit and built its success on its commitment to defense and a team-first mentality. The Gamecock offense scored a school-record 82.0 points per game to rank sixth in the nation while no individual Gamecock averaged more than 13.1 points. South Carolina's bench added 26.6 points per game of that average as those six Gamecocks thrived in their roles. Defensively, South Carolina was fourth in the country in allowing opponents to shoot just 33.3 percent from the field, and their 30.1 defensive rebounds per game were 12th-best in the country.
Staley's Gamecocks have won five SEC regular-season titles in the last seven seasons and five of the last six SEC Tournament crowns. Her SEC regular-season winning percent of .726 is second only to Tennessee's Pat Summitt in league history, and her 11.5 SEC victories per season are the most of any head coach all-time. Staley's 305 wins at South Carolina are the most by a Gamecock basketball coach - men's or women's. She is a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, including becoming the first in league history to win the title three straight seasons.