Dawn Staley gifts every Black woman coach a piece of 2017 championship net as inspiration

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Dawn Staley is giving Black coaches around the nation a piece of history in hopes they can do the same. 

The South Carolina women's basketball head coach tipped off the 2021-22 season by sending a piece of her 2017 national championship net to Black female coaches at the Division I level. It's the continuation of a tradition started by Carolyn Peck in 2015. 

Peck, the first Black woman to lead a team to the title when Purdue won in 1999, gave Staley a piece of her championship net in 2015. Staley wrote in The Undefeated in April that she kept that net in her wallet until she and the Gamecocks won their first title in 2017. 

After Adia Barnes brought Arizona to its first appearance in the Final Four this past spring, Staley said she would hand off a piece of the net to Barnes. 

Barnes shared video of opening the gift late Tuesday after the No. 22 Wildcats won their opener against Cal State Northridge. Staley's No. 1 Gamecocks also won to open their season. The two coached Team USA at the FIBA AmeriCup together in June.

Barnes took it a step further and shared a photo compilation of her net's versatility around the office with the caption "Dreaming of Minneapolis," where the 2022 Final Four will take place. 

Staley wrote in The Undefeated she might cut up the net and send it to every Black coach in the country to give them "something tangible to hold on to." And that appears to be just what she did. 

The notes attached to the net read, "Net Worth," South Carolina's theme for the season. The full message, via Sean Hurd at The Undefeated:

"I see all the time that I'm driven by being a dream merchant for my players, but after winning the national championship, I realized I could be one for every other black woman who wants to lead her team to that mountain top.

"After returning Carolyn's piece of the net to her, I struggled to pick just one other coach to give mine to keep the tradition alive. .... I don't want to count Black women as National Championship coaches by one every few decades. I want us to do it so often we lose count!

"Looking at that net, the strings knotted together to form a crucial piece of equipment in our game, I realized that's what we as Black women head coaches are — a crucial part of our game all at different intersections along our journey to a National Championship.

"So, I pick ALL of you to receive this piece of our 2017 National Championship net in the hope that making our goal tangible will inspire you as it did me, to keep pushing forward and us all to keep supporting each other in our journeys."

Watch: Coaches receive heartfelt message from Staley

Coaches around the country have spent the last couple of days opening the envelopes staff members bring into their office with excitement. And everyone is heartfelt. 

Marisa Moseley is in her first season at Wisconsin after three seasons at her alma mater, Boston University. 

E.C. Hill is also in her first year as head coach at Delaware State. Hill played professionally in the American Basketball League and WNBA, where she was teammates with Staley on the 2000 Charlotte Sting. She proudly showed a photo of Staley hanging in her office. 

Johnnie Harris, the 2018 WBCA assistant of the year, took over at Auburn following an Elite Eight appearance with Texas in the 2021 tournament. Auburn travels to South Carolina on Feb. 17.

Shereka Wright, another former pro player, is in her second season leading UT Arlington.

Jaida Williams has been head coach at Coastal Carolina since 2013. She led the program to a historic year in 2019-20 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league tournament to be canceled. 

Toyelle Wilson, a former assistant at Michigan and Baylor, was named SMU's head coach in April. She was an assistant on Baylor's 2019 national title team.  

The 2021-22 college basketball season tipped off Tuesday with a full slate of games highlighted by South Carolina downing No. 5 N.C. State. The Gamecocks are heavy favorites to win the 2022 national championship. 

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