When three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley took the reins of the University of South Carolina women's basketball program on May 10, 2008, the Gamecocks' stature immediately rose not just in the Southeastern Conference but on the national stage as well. Building on a foundation of hard work, defensive effort and a "team first" mentality, South Carolina began to realize those expectations in 2011-12, and the program has continued to thrive as one of seven in the nation to be ranked in every Associated Press Top 25 poll since the start of the 2013-14 season. The Gamecocks boast five straight 25-win seasons, which include three SEC regular-season championships (2014, 2015, 2016), two SEC Tournament titles (2015, 2016), an NCAA Final Four appearance (2015) and three other Sweet 16 seasons (2012, 2014, 2016), the program's first ever No. 1 national ranking and a school-record 34 wins in 2014-15. Staley's success has united every demographic in the state of South Carolina as the Gamecocks' fan base tripled over a span of three seasons, and twice led the nation in home attendance (2014-15, 2015-16).
While her coaching career is blossoming, Staley is still recognized for her body of work as a one of the most decorated participants in United States women's basketball history. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame solidified her legacy with her enshrinement as part of the Class of 2013. The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia established the Dawn Staley Award recognizing the nation's top guard in women's Division I basketball in 2013 as well. Staley was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012 and was one of the final nominees for induction to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame the same year. In the summer of 2011, the WNBA recognized her as one of the league's "Top 15," honoring the most influential players in the league's history.
Lisa Boyer joined the South Carolina staff in May 2008, shortly after head coach Dawn Staley announced her intention to join the Gamecocks. Boyer has been the lead assistant on a Staley-led staff since the 2002-03 season when she returned to the college ranks after five seasons coaching at the professional level. Named associate head coach in May 2010, Boyer is the Gamecocks' recruiting coordinator and works directly with South Carolina's guards. Her experience and analytic mind have helped guide South Carolina to five straight 25-win seasons, highlighted three SEC regular-season championships (2014, 2015, 2016), two SEC Tournament titles (2015, 2016), the program's first NCAA Final Four appearance (2015) and the program's highest final ranking (No. 3 in 2014-15 and in 2015-16). For her 30+ years in coaching and shaping both professional and collegiate players, Boyer's alma mater honored her with induction into the Ithaca College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
"Having Lisa on our staff says a lot because she could be a head coach in her own right," Staley said. "I strive for perfection. If you don't have the knowledge to accomplish perfection, then you get somebody who has that knowledge to pass it along to you. When I started in coaching, Lisa was that person for me. I wore her down because I knew I needed her. I trust her with my life, and I knew I could trust her with my career, not just as a coach, but as an administrator, a manager and overall as a person."
Two-time Olympic gold medal winner and Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 2012) Nikki McCray-Penson reunited with her former teammate when she joined head coach Dawn Staley's South Carolina staff in May 2008. Following an 11-year professional playing career, McCray-Penson moved into the coaching ranks in 2006, spending two seasons on the bench at Western Kentucky before joining the Gamecocks. A three-time WNBA All-Star and the 1996-97 ABL Most Valuable Player, McCray-Penson has proven to be a standout recruiter who helped South Carolina land the nation's No. 2 recruiting class and the top player in the country in 2014.
McCray-Penson's energy and experience have helped the Gamecocks to five consecutive 25-win seasons and NCAA Tournament appearances (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). The Gamecocks have finished among the SEC's top four each of the last five seasons, including securing the program's first SEC regular-season championship in 2014, a share of that title in 2015 and the league's second ever 16-0 record to claim the 2016 championship. South Carolina has earned three straight NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds, the program's first coming in 2014. Appearing in the event's Sweet 16 in four of the last five seasons, the Gamecocks reached their first NCAA Final Four in 2015. South Carolina capped the 2014-15 season with its best final national ranking, coming in at No. 3 after spending 12 weeks of the season in the No. 1 position. The Gmecocks have finished among the nation's top 10 each of the past three seasons.
Fred Chmiel reunited with South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley in June 2015, marking their third partnership, including one season in which he coached Staley in the WNBA. In 10 seasons as an assistant coach at the college level, Chmiel has been part of seven conference regular-season titles, two conference tournament titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances, including three Sweet 16 berths, and his teams have produced five WNBA draft picks.
"Coach Staley has always been family to me," Chmiel said. "This staff's work ethic and determination are something that I want to exemplify in my coaching career. I'm going to do whatever I can to help propel this program to a national championship. Coach Staley has done so much in seven season, from ground zero to a national powerhouse, that I want to add whatever I can from my experiences."
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