Clemson women’s basketball coach Audra Smith agreed to go to Dallas and support her former teammate and close friend Dawn Staley at the Final Four in April, but she wasn’t about to join in on the celebration after South Carolina won the national title.
Smith was in the crowd and sitting in South Carolina’s section when the Gamecocks topped Mississippi State.
She was walking out of the American Airlines Center when she received a phone call.
“I was there quietly in all black… The game’s over, and I’m like, ‘Oh wow, that’s awesome,’ ” Smith recalled. “So I’m leaving the arena and her assistant calls … She says, ‘Big A, where you at? We’re celebrating, we’re on the floor. Dawn wants you to come out.’ I’m like, ‘Are you guys crazy? All the press is down there. Do you think I’m going to come on the floor and celebrate? Are you out of your mind? I’m happy for you, that’s fantastic. No way. I’m in the car, I’m out of here.’ ”
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Smith and Staley have had plenty of opportunities to reminiscence about USC’s national championship in the offseason after the two came close but never won a national title as college teammates at Virginia.
Even though they coach at rival schools, Smith is happy for her close friend and is hoping to follow in Staley’s footsteps.
“I can’t help but be proud of her because she will always be like a sister to me because she and I spent so much time together at UVA and have always been close,” Smith said. “There was definitely a part of me going, ‘I would give anything if my team and I were on the floor right now playing for this national championship,’ but by no means was I like, ‘Oh my gosh I don’t want them to win,’ or any type of jealousy. There was just admiration. I knew where she started when she first got the job at South Carolina and how hard her and her staff had worked to get to that point.”
Smith added that she has plenty of funny stories involving Staley, including one that occurred at an AAU event this summer.
They were in Atlanta and had gone out for lunch when Smith spotted the net from USC’s national title win.
“She was sitting in her truck, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, is that the net?’ The net was hanging over her mirror. And so I went to touch the net and so boop, she snaps a picture,” Smith said smiling. “And I said, ‘Do not do that. You are going to get me run out of Clemson.’ And so she tweets something along the lines of, ‘Big A had to touch the net. I couldn’t have accomplished this without her and her support. #ClemsonFansCalmDown.’ So it was pretty cool.”