Carolyn Peck on Dawn Staley Paving the Way for Her Basketball Hall of Fame Induction

Last November, it was announced that, among others, Carolyn Peck would be inducted into the 2023 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class. She is the first Black woman head coach to win an NCAA women’s basketball championship, but she credits South Carolina basketball head coach Dawn Staley for making her entry into the Hall of Fame possible.

On April 29, Peck, a basketball analyst for ESPN, will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, along with Cathy Boswell, Donna Lopiano, Lisa Mattingly, and Lindsay Whalen. She coached Purdue University’s woman’s basketball team from 1997-99 and led them to the Elite Eight in her first season as head coach. During her tenure, Purdue won the national championship title in 1999, but she has yet to receive the recognition she deserves.

“We’re reading newspaper articles and going, ‘Why aren’t they talking about us?’ “Peck said. “We accomplished this. We just beat this team. Ukari Figgs is all of that, and nobody’s talking about her. Why?”

Not only was Peck the first Black woman to ever win an NCAA women’s basketball championship, but she is also one of only four coaches to win a women’s basketball national title within their first two seasons as a head coach. Cathy Rush, Margaret Wade, and Marianne Stanley won their respective titles during the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) era, which started in 1971 and ended in 1983. Peck is the only female head coach who won the national championship in an NCAA tournament.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley acknowledged Peck by saying, “We often don’t give credit where credit is due. That’s a story that has been forgotten, and we only talk about the fact that she’s the first Black woman to do it.”

Staley won her first NCAA title as a coach in 2017, and the importance of Peck’s championship was finally grasped 18 years later.

“I don’t really think it mattered that I was the first Black woman to win a national championship until Dawn did it in 2017, and she reminded everyone of what we did,” Peck said.

According to USA Today, South Carolina Gamecocks coach Staley fulfilled her promise to former Purdue Boilermakers coach Peck, who, in 2015, gave Staley a piece of the 1999 championship basketball net with a caveat. Once she won her first title, Staley had to pass on the championship net.

After Staley won her first championship on April 2, 2017, she was known to wear the net from the game as an accessory. Later that month, Staley returned the piece of basketball net to Peck.

Peck will enter the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and stand proudly on the accomplishment of being the first Black woman head coach ever to hoist the NCAA national championship trophy.