South Carolina women's basketball fans can exhale now as head coach Dawn Staley has elected to stay put with the Gamecocks after receiving overtures from Ohio State, according to a release from the university.
Staley's name had appeared as one of the Buckeyes' top choices to replace Jim Foster, who was let go from the university following a disappointing season in Columbus.
"While it's flattering to be contacted by other programs, staying at South Carolina was not a difficult decision," Staley said in the statement. "With what we're building here and the outpouring of support I've received from the administration, fans and community leaders, it was an easy choice. I want to stay here and finish what we have started."
Staley was meant to talk about the end of the women's season at a Monday morning press conference, but questions about her decision to stay overshadowed the conference's main topic.
Ultimately, Staley said, her decision to stay on at South Carolina was about the university's leaders and fans.
"The people here in Columbia and the people that watch us and follow us, they've given me and our staff and our team our flowers while we could smell them," said Staley. "They do that not just because of the Ohio State talk, but they do it all year long. I can't take that experience away and I can't take that feeling away. To be part of a university that's about the people, our leaders make this special, makes this job special. All of those things went through my mind. All that stuff was a pull on me. I couldn't leave this place."
South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner had given Staley permission to speak with the Buckeyes on Friday night, but he said he would do anything he could to keep her in Columbia.
Tanner says he is "extremely relieved" with Staley's decision, saying that he feels very strongly about her body of work at Colonial Life Arena.
"I think she's a great fit for us, and I certainly didn't want to experience her not being with us anymore," said Tanner.
While Staley's most recent season with the Gamecocks ended in an upset loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament, she has successfully guided the women's team to two consecutive appearances in the tournament.
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