South Carolina coach Dawn Staley thinks Iowa’s Caitlin Clark needs a ring to be the GOAT

CLEVELAND — As she’s rewritten the record books over the course of her brilliant four-year career, Caitlin Clark has sparked numerous debates about if she is, in fact, the greatest of all time (GOAT) when it comes to college women’s basketball. 

No offense to Clark, who earlier this season became the all-time leading scorer in Division I history regardless of gender, but Staley thinks that title belongs to former UConn standout Brenna Stewart.

Caitlin Clark takes in the applause of the crowd during a game against Michigan in February.

It’s hard to argue against her.

Stewart won four consecutive championships at UConn from 2012-16 (the last time the NCAA had a repeat champion on the women’s side), earning Most Outstanding Player honors in each of those championships, too. She was the first woman to win four MOP awards.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, herself a tremendous college player who never won a championship during her 1988-92 career at Virginia, agreed that to cement a legacy and be in the GOAT conversation, one needs to win a title.

“I was really good in college, never won a championship,” said Staley, who led Virginia to three Final Fours, losing the only national championship she played for, in 1991. “You’ve got to win a championship. That’s (my opinion) personally. Like I had a great career. But it’s always, did you win a championship?”

For her part, Clark said Saturday she won’t measure success on if she gets a ring or not.

Clark celebrates with her teammates after Iowa defeated LSU in the Elite Eight.

“I don’t think so at all,” Clark said. “I’ve played basketball at this university for four years, and for it to come down to two games and that be whether or not I’m proud of myself and proud of the way I’ve carried myself and proud of the way I’ve impacted people in their lives, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.

“I don’t want my legacy to be ‘oh, Caitlin won X amount of games or Caitlin scored X amount of points.’ It’s, I hope, what I was able to do for the game of women’s basketball. I hope it is the young boys and young girls that are inspired to play this sport or dream to do whatever they want to do in their lives.

“To me, for it to come down to 40 minutes and for me to validate myself within 40 minutes, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.”

With all that in mind, Staley knows that if Clark wins the championship Sunday with another surprising victory over the Gamecocks, she’ll be in the GOAT conversation considering all her other accomplishments.

“I mean, she’s really damn good regardless,” Staley said of Clark. “But winning the championship would seal the deal.

“I hope to the dear Lord she doesn’t.”

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