COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A while back, Carolyn Peck gave Dawn Staley a piece of the net from the Purdue Boilermakers' 1999 national championship.
Peck told Staley to return that piece when she won her own. Fast forward 18 years later and Staley is the second African-American head coach to win a national title in women's college basketball and ready to give back that piece of the net to Peck.
"I am going to return her piece of the net to her and then, I'm going to have a conversation with her because she chose me for some reason," Staley said. "I want to see why and I want to kind of get her feedback on who she thinks could be the next."
Until Staley decides who will actually get a piece of her "netlace," she is paying it forward (figuratively of course) to those who have supported her and the South Carolina Gamecocks during their title run. That support could be seen by Staley even after the tournament was over during the championship parade.
"I wish I could say that I knew it was going to happen [and] I knew the people were going to come out," Staley said. "But I really didn't know. But if it was any indication of how much support they've given us by coming to Colonial Life Arena, by buying season tickets, and to see it all unfold…it was incredible."
As imagined, there has been a lot of attention on Staley and the Gamecocks since winning the national title. With that attention comes more appearances and obligations for Staley, but she has enjoyed the ride so far.
"It's less time," Staley said when asked about having time for herself. "It really is and I don't mind because I want people to enjoy this moment. They put a lot into it. Our fans and the people of South Carolina put a lot into it. A lot of them traveled to Dallas. Some of them traveled to Stockton. They packed Colonial Life Arena in the first and second rounds. They're just super proud that they feel connected to it. If I can lend myself to sharing our net, photos, or whatever it is, I want them to feel like they're a part of it because they helped us reach this pinnacle."
But attention from fans isn't the only thing winning a national title will draw. It also had fans raising questions about Staley's future. However, fans can rest assured she's not going anywhere for a long time.
"I'm not really motivated by offers," Staley said. "I think what I have a passion for is people and the people of South Carolina, our administrators from our president to Coach Tanner to everybody around here, they make you feel special being here and being in this community and being at this university.
"It would take a whole lot, but I'm very comfortable here. My family's here. Everybody, pretty much in my family, they've moved down here. So, we can't just uproot and leave. But this is a place that I feel like we've built a strong program and to leave and have somebody else reap the benefits of our hard work…not happening."