Two legends, Iowa's Lisa Bluder and South Carolina's Dawn Staley, face off Friday in Final Four

Will Kennedy
Des Moines Register

When the Iowa women's basketball team kicks off its first Final Four appearance since 1993 against South Carolina on Friday night, it'll be more than just two superstars, Caitlin Clark and Aliyah Boston, doing battle on the court.

The two programs are helmed by a couple of coaching legends. The Hawkeyes by Lisa Bluder and the Gamecocks by Dawn Staley. Both coaches are legends in Iowa City and Columbia, respectively, after leading their programs for more than 15 years each.

Here's a breakdown of how both coaches got to this point before they meet in Dallas with a spot in the national title game on the line.

More:Comparing superstars: How Iowa's Caitlin Clark matches up against South Carolina's Aliyah Boston

Where did Lisa Bluder play college basketball?

Bluder, a Marion native, graduated from Northern Iowa in 1983. She was a three-year starter for the Panthers basketball team and played in 108 games over her career. She was inducted into the UNI Hall of Fame in 2000.

Where did Dawn Staley play college basketball?

Staley, a native of Philadelphia, attended the University of Virginia, where she led the Cavaliers to four NCAA Tournaments, three Final Fours and one national title game, though she never won the championship. She earned national player of the year honors twice and held several records at UVA at the time of her graduation. She went on to play professionally in the ABL and WNBA. She's also won three Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley cuts down the net as they celebrate their 64-49 victory over the UConn Huskies in the Final Four championship game of the women's college basketball NCAA Tournament at Target Center.

Where did Lisa Bluder get her coaching start?

Bluder began her coaching career immediately after finishing up at UNI. Her first job after college was at St. Ambrose College, an NAIA school in Davenport. During her six seasons at the helm there, she made it to four national tournaments, including two Final Fours, and was named Coach of the Year in 1990.

More:What to know about South Carolina, Iowa's Final Four opponent in the NCAA Tournament

Where did Dawn Staley get her coaching start?

Staley started her coaching career in her hometown at Temple University in 2000 and helped guide the Owls to six NCAA Tournament appearances during her eight seasons there. She continued to play in the WNBA throughout her time at Temple, racking up three of her five All-Star Game nods while coaching, before she retired following the 2006 season.

Houston Comets' Dawn Staley, left, defends against Seattle Storm's Sue Bird, right, during the first half a 2005 WNBA playoff basketball game.

How long has Lisa Bluder been coaching at Iowa?

Bluder is in her 23rd season in Iowa City. She arrived after 10 seasons at Drake where she led the Bulldogs to five NCAA Tournament appearances. She was named the head coach of the Hawkeyes on April 7, 2000. During her 39 years as a college head coach, she's never worked outside of the state of Iowa. She has an overall coaching record of 850–386 and a 493–245  with the Hawkeyes entering Friday's game.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder, left, and Caitlin Clark pose for a photo after defeating the Louisville Cardinals 97-83 in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, March 26, 2023, at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

She's also served as an assistant coach for Team USA in the 2001 World University Games and the 2015 Pan American Games where her teams earned gold and silver medals, respectively.

More:How to watch, stream and listen to Iowa women's basketball in the NCAA Final Four

How long has Dawn Staley coached the South Carolina Gamecocks?

Staley joined the Gamecocks right after leaving Temple in 2008 and is in her 15th season with the program. She has an overall coaching record of 574–185 and has a 402–105 mark with South Carolina entering Friday's contest.

In addition to her three Olympic gold medals as a player, she's also won gold in 2020 as the team's head coach and another gold in 2018's FIBA World Cup.

Lisa Bluder's coaching record, highlights with the Iowa Hawkeyes

Bluder has put together an impressive resume during her time in Iowa City alone. She's the program's winningest coach by a significant margin (224 games) and has led Iowa to 16 20-win seasons. She has guided the Hawkeyes to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, four Sweet 16s, two Elite Eights and now one Final Four.

She's been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times and was the national Coach of the Year in 2019.

Former Iowa guard Tania Davis (11) shakes hands with Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder in 2019.

Dawn Staley's highlights, NCAA record with the South Carolina Gamecocks

As most women's basketball fans are aware, Staley has a ton of accomplishments as both a player and a coach. But her best work has arguably come during her time with the Gamecocks. She's had her team ranked in the top-25 every week since Dec. 10, 2012, and has made 11 straight NCAA Tournaments, not counting the canceled 2020 iteration. Staley has guided South Carolina to five Final Fours since 2015 and two national titles, including last year's championship.

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrate their 64-49 victory over the UConn Huskies in the Final Four championship game of the women's college basketball NCAA Tournament at Target Center.

Staley has won Naismith Coach of the Year honors twice, WBCA National Coach of the Year twice, AP National Coach of the Year once, USBWA National Coach of the Year three times, USA Today Sports Network Coach of the Year once and has earned six SEC Coach of the Year honors.

What is Lisa Bluder's annual income?

Lisa Bluder's total compensation from the university for the 2022-23 season is $1,153,506, according to documents obtained by the USA Today Network through an open-records request. Based on the team’s on-court achievements this season, Bluder has picked up an automatic 1-year contract extension, a 15% increase in her base salary beginning next season and $310,000 in bonus pay. If Iowa wins the NCAA title, she would get another $100,000 bonus (she gets no additional bonus for team advancing to NCAA final).

What is Dawn Staley's annual income?

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is the nation's highest-paid coach at a public school this season at $3.3 million. This includes the last in a series of $300,000 split-dollar life insurance payments that carried over from her previous contract. Staley's current deal comes with a $1 million base salary plus $2 million in supplemental pay for this season.