South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is one of four finalists for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today. Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell was named one of four finalists for the Dawn Staley Award, presented by The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia. Both awards will announce winners in April.
The unanimous selection for SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, Staley is the first Gamecock mentor to be a finalist for a national coach of the year award. She was also the league coaches’ pick for coach of the year as the Gamecocks won a school-record 14 SEC contests en route to the program’s first SEC championship after the coaches had predicted them to finish fifth in preseason voting. South Carolina climbed as high as No. 4 in the national rankings this season, matching the highest mark since Jan. 10, 1982. The Gamecocks are in their 13th week ranked among the nation’s top 10 by the AP this season, including four weeks in the top five. South Carolina built its success on the first undefeated home season in Colonial Life Arena history, while going 10-2 on the road.
Staley joins Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and NC State’s Wes Moore on the list of finalists. The winner will be announced during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville.
Mitchell’s all-around success continues to earn her national recognition as the only unanimous First-Team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press and the SEC Player of the Year as selected by the league’s coaches. She leads the Gamecocks in scoring (15.2 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). In conference action, Mitchell was the only player in the SEC to earn a spot among the league’s rankings in scoring (ninth), rebounding (16th), assists (11th) and steals (seventh). Improving her efficiency, Mitchell is shooting 50.8 percent from the field, including 51.5 percent from 3-point range. The Charlotte, N.C., product has scored in double figures in all but three games this season and was the team’s top scorer 12 times, including eight SEC games.
Mitchell joins Odyssey Sims of Baylor and Breanna Stewart of Connecticut as the finalists for the award, which is given to the outstanding collegiate guard in the country who exemplifies the skills that Staley possessed during her career – ball handling, scoring, ability to distribute and will to win. The award recipient will be announced during the NCAA Women’s Final Four and honored at a ceremony on Thu., Apr. 17, in Philadelphia.
South Carolina earned the first No. 1 seed in program history and will begin play in the Stanford Region of the NCAA Tournament on Sun., Mar. 23, against Cal State Northridge. ESPN will have the broadcast of the matchup at 5:30 p.m. ET.