Caitlin Clark GOAT debate hot topic before March Madness title game

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley believes Caitlin Clark needs to do one more thing to be included in any GOAT talk.

Staley, who had a great college career of her own at Virginia, said during her Saturday pregame press conference that Clark needs to win a championship to be in the greatest-of-all time conversation.

If that happens, that would mean Clark would have beaten Staley’s unbeaten South Carolina team in the women’s NCAA championship game on Sunday (3 p.m., ABC) in Cleveland.

Many believe Caitlin Clark needs to win a national title to be mentioned as a GOAT in women’s college basketball. AP

“I was really good in college, never won a championship,” said the Gamecocks coach, who went to three Final Fours and won two Player of the Year awards during her time as a player with Virginia between 1989-92. “You’ve got to win a championship. That’s me personally. I had a great career. But it’s always, did you win a championship?”

Clark said she disagrees with that championship-or-bust statement, saying she wants her legacy with the Hawkeyes to be about more than that.

“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,” Clark said during her press conference.

“I don’t want my legacy to be, ‘Oh, Caitlin won X amount of games,’ or ‘Caitlin scored X amount of points.’ I hope it’s 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.

“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.”

Staley referenced her GOAT comments off a recent interview UConn legend Breanna Stewart had on SiriusXM radio, saying Clark needed to win a title to be in the conversation of the all-time greats.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Caitlin Clark needs to beat her team in the NCAA title game to be considered a GOAT. Getty Images

Stewart led the Huskies to four national titles from 2013-16, and is widely considered the best women’s basketball player of all time.

“You are going to look 10 years back and you are going to see all the records that she has broken, points and stuff like that, but anybody knows your goal when you play college basketball is to win a national championship. So you need one,” Stewart told Sirius XM.

Staley agreed.

“I agree with Stewie when it comes to winning the championship,” Staley said. “We’re going to talk about GOATs. I think she’s the GOAT, to be able to win four national championships and to be MVP. I think she was MVP all four times.”

Caitlin Clark shares a laugh with Dawn Staley earlier in the week when Clark was named the AP Player of the Year and Staley earned the Coach of the Year honor. AP

On an individual level, Clark has more than made the case to be among the ones in the GOAT talk.

She leads the NCAA in career points with 3,921 and has won multiple Player of the Year awards while many other accolades across her career.

Clark understands there always will be critics and naysayers when you’re a big-name player.

“When you’re in the spotlight like this, there’s going to be a million different opinions on you,” she said. “For as many people that are going to love you, there are going to be people that don’t like you. That’s the case with every professional athlete, men or women, playing at the highest stage.

“What I’ve been able to do over the course of my career is just focus on the opinions of the people inside our locker room. That’s what I really care about, the people that I love to death, the people that have had my back every single second of my career, have been the ones that have believed in me more than anybody.”

Staley did acknowledge that if Clark leads Iowa (34-4) past her 37-0 South Carolina squad she will be squarely in the GOAT conversation.

“If Caitlin wins the championship, she’s pretty damn good, yeah, like, she’s a GOAT. I mean, she’s really damn good regardless,” Staley said. “But winning the championship would seal the deal. I hope to the dear Lord she doesn’t.”

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