Women's Basketball Coach Warns Critics and Media: 'We're Not Monkeys ... So Watch What You Say'
Emotions were running high after the top-seeded South Carolina women’s basketball team lost to Iowa in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament on March 31.
The 77-73 loss for the Lady Gamecocks marked a disappointing end to a season brimming with potential.
South Carolina was not just in the midst of a 42-game winning streak — the team also featured 2022 Naismith Player of the Year Aliyah Boston and Naismith Coach of the Year Dawn Staley.
Throw in what many consider one of the best defenses ever seen in women’s basketball, and even with budding superstar Caitlin Clark headlining the Iowa roster, it’s easy to see why South Carolina was favored going into the game.
But games aren’t played on paper, and all those accolades ultimately meant nothing when Clark and the Lady Hawkeyes pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure their spot in the national championship game.
Prior to the game, Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder described trying to rebound against South Carolina as “going into a bar fight,” according to the Greenville News. Legendary Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma voiced similar concerns in February.
And boy, did Staley have some choice words for her critics — particularly in the media — following the stunning loss.
After a reporter asked about other coaches describing Staley’s team as “bullies,” Staley unleashed — and even mentioned race in her tirade.
“We’re not bar fighters, we’re not thugs, we’re not monkeys, we’re not street fighters,” she said. “This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball, on the court and off the court.”
“We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters. … So watch what you say when you’re in public and you’re talking about my team in particular.”
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley had a message for the media. pic.twitter.com/4Y6WL3T8MX
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 1, 2023
“You can not like our team. You can not like me. But when you say things that you probably [shouldn’t] be saying … and you’re being heard, and you are a national writer for our sport, it just confirms what we already know.”
While Staley stopped just short of saying the quiet part out loud, she appeared to be heavily implying that the criticism her team garners is rooted in racism. South Carolina is a predominately black team, and Staley is herself black.
Conversely, Iowa is a mostly white team, with Clark also being white. It’s worth noting that it is rather difficult these days to throw a rock and not hit a glowing puff piece on Clark, the 2023 Naismith Player of the Year.
Staley seemed to allude to the attention given to Clark in follow-up comments:
“So watch what you say when you’re in public and you’re talking about my team in particular,” she said. “Just watch what you say about our team because it’s wrong.”
“If you really knew them like you really want to know other players that represent this game,” (a shot at Clark’s ubiquitous coverage?) “you would think differently.”
It was at this point that Staley explicitly mentioned race.
“So don’t judge us by the color of our skin,” she said. “Judge us by how we approach the game. And you may not like how we play the game. You may not like it. That’s the way we play. That’s the way I coach. I’m not changing.”
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