Dawn Staley knew just what it was going to take to bring a national championship to USC

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For South Carolina head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley, seeing the confetti fall and being a part of the national title celebration all seems like a dream.

"You know, you have to pinch yourself," Staley said. "You walk in the office or we're just hanging out and we're like 'We won the national championship. Did we really win?'"

But it's not a dream for Staley and she has the hardware to prove it along with a custom saddle bearing the Gamecock logo -- a Final Four gift from the city of Dallas that they haven't figured out how to mount.

"Dallas did us right," Staley said.

When Staley took over the University of South Carolina women's basketball program 9 years ago, there was no timetable for a championship.

"We had to change the culture," Staley said. "We had to get players in here that believe in our vision and I really did not care about the wins or losses."

Staley is all about winning, but shortcuts are not an option for her. The process has to be done right the way while hoping to catch a little luck along the way.

"We got very, very lucky," Staley said. "I didn't know Lisa Welch, Tiffany Mitchell, A'ja Wilson. I didn't know they were here right in our backyard and that they were as good as they were."

Staley is extremely proud of her championship team, but she lets everyone know that the trophy also belongs to the players who built a strong foundation for the Staley era.

"What has taken place here in South Carolina has been quite remarkable," Staley said. "It was the plan. It seemed like it was my plan, but it really wasn't my plan. Things have taken place, things were removed from our path, and things were placed in our path for us to achieve and overcome."

For the WNBA star, Hall of Famer, and three-time Olympic gold medalist, things may seem to come easy. However, this has been on Staley's "to-do" list for quite some time.

"It took me, you know, 27 years to get a national championship," Staley said, "but if I knew it was going to feel like this, I wouldn't have been as disappointed those first 27 years."

As always, Staley in constantly working on a game plan. But this is one time Staley just want to take it all in.

"I also want to enjoy this moment because, for all of my career, I've never had a chance to enjoy the ride," Staley said. "I've never had a chance to kind of sit back and reflect on accomplishments."

She also wants to pay it forward for both future players and young coaches.

"You want other people to experience it," Staley said. "We're bringing in a new set of players that have goals of winning a national championship."

Years ago, Carolyn Peck became the first African-American women's basketball coach to win a national title. She gave Staley a piece of her championship net. Now, Staley is determined to share that same inspiration with someone else.

"It's a heavy load, too," Staley admitted. "It's a heavy load to bear when you have that. I think I carried that piece in my wallet every day. I would periodically go in and touch it and feel it to just make sure that I had something tangible to look forward to."

As Gamecock Nation celebrates this historic achievement, Staley said anything worth having is worth the wait.

"I'm a goal setter in the fact that I'd like to win things. I like to be considered number one in anything that I do," Staley said.

So what's next on Staley's "to-do" list?

"I'd like to win another national championship," she said. "I'd like to win a 2020 gold medal in the Olympic Games. And I'd like to do some things personally. I'd like to write a book someday. I'd like to share my blessings with other people."

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.