Dawn Staley Mar 31, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley speaks to members of the media following their game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in semifinals of the women’s Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The previously unbeaten South Carolina Gamecocks ran into the unstoppable Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2023 Women’s Final Four on Friday night, falling 77-73 and losing out on their chance to repeat as national champions.

Afterward, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley defended her team against media narratives surrounding her team’s aggressive style of play.

“We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters,” Staley said. “I do think that that’s sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts.”

While Staley didn’t mention names, she appeared to be referencing Iowa coach Lisa Bluder’s comments before the game, where she was told that trying to rebound against the Gamecocks was like “going to a bar fight.” Earlier in the season, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said of South Carolina, “It’s not basketball anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not basketball.”

While those specific comments came from Staley’s peers, she assigned blame to members of the media as well.

“Some of the people in the media, when you’re gathering in public, you’re saying things about our team, and you’re being heard, and it’s being brought back to me,” Staley said. “And these are the people that write nationally for our sport. So you can not like our team and you can not like me. But when you say things that you probably should be saying in your home on the phone or texting out in public and you’re being heard, and you are a national writer for our sport – it just confirms what we already know. So watch what you say when you’re in public and you’re talking about my team in particular.”

Staley also implored media members to judge her players and team by who they are as people and not, perhaps, by other factors or biases.

“You’ve got young lives who are really – if you really knew them, if you really knew them, like you really want to know other players that represent this game, you would think differently,” Staley said. “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. We found success in it, and maybe some days like today, we end up on the losing side of the stick. But guess what? We live to see another day. We live to see the comeback next year and try to do this again because I’m not changing.”

[Greenville Online, ESPN]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.