South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has turned down the opportunity to be the next head coach of the Virginia women's basketball team, according to a statement she released today. For the Cavalier faithful, and much of the country outside of Columbia, SC, this comes as a bit of a surprise, as Staley has always been viewed as a sort of "head coach in waiting."
Staley was a former ACC Player of the Year, is an Olympic multiple-gold medalist, and the greatest Cavalier of all time. But for now, she is out of reach, despite AD Craig Littlepage being granted permission to talk to her over this past weekend. Here is her statement:
A lot of people have been talking about me going to Virginia since Debbie Ryan stepped down, and I understand that. It's my alma mater, where I was really shaped as a person, so it's a natural conversation to have In the end, Virginia is going in a different direction, and I'm staying at the University of South Carolina because I truly believe we have a bright future here. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to leave because of the direction we have this program going. The players we have coming in next year are going to help us grow even more, and the groundwork our coaching staff is laying with future classes has been outstanding. We feel like we have a gold mine here, and I'm confident our best days at South Carolina are ahead of us.
According to Gamecocks fan message boards, one major factor for Staley would also have been the health of her mother, who is currently in the Columbia, SC area. Regardless, while most Virginia fans are disappointed that Staley won't be returning to Charlottesville any time soon, there's no doubt that the Blue and Orange will still cheer on the Garnet and Black.
So where will Virginia go from there?
The Daily Progress reports a number of other candidates for the position that the University appears to be pursuing. This includes Georgetown head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, whose Hoyas narrowly fell to top-seeded UConn in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Williams-Flournoy is the sister of renowned Virginia AAU basketball legend Boo Williams. Littlepage reportedly was present for that game.
Another possibility is UCLA's coach Nikki Caldwell, who the Daily Progress reports as being on grounds earlier this week. Caldwell played for Tennessee and was a former assistant under Ryan. Last year she was the Pac 10 Coach of the Year (Virginia has a history of going after those, apparently), and the Bruins finished 28-5 this season.
Temple's Tonya Cardoza has also been linked as a possible replacement. Cardozo's Owls finished this season 24-9 overall after falling to second-seeded Notre Dame in the second round.