Whalen says coaching at U of M will be ‘the thrill of my lifetime’

Published 7:28 am Monday, April 16, 2018

By Peter Cox

MPR News/90.1 FM

Lindsay Whalen was introduced Friday as the head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team.

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On a stage set up at center court of Williams Arena, the former Gopher player described how her past guides her goals as a coach.

In particular, Whalen recalls what it felt like to play on a successful college basketball team. “That experience changed my life,” she said. “The university changed my life. I want the women on the team to have that same feeling of running out in this building with 14,000 screaming and chanting, and then going to a Final Four.”

Whalen signed a five-year contract, which will pay her $400,000 in her first year, with increases each year that end with $547,391 in her fifth year. There are also incentives for academic and athletic performance.

Whalen also will continue to play point guard for the Minnesota Lynx, where she’s won four WNBA championships.

University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle said Whalen was on his shortlist for coaches, and that he took her out for lunch last summer to get a sense for how she saw her future.

When Marlene Stollings left Minnesota for the head coach job at Texas Tech University, Coyle quickly called Whalen. They spoke Monday, met on Tuesday, and by Thursday she was named head coach.

Coyle believes Whalen’s name will be huge when it comes to recruiting, especially in Minnesota.

“There’s not a living room she won’t be able to get into,” he said. “Who she is, how she represents not only our institution, the Lynx, women’s basketball in the state of Minnesota — she is the Mount Rushmore.”

Whalen also had strong references. Coyle said he spoke with legendary University of Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma, who coached Whalen at the Olympics, as well as four-time WNBA championship winning coach Cheryl Reeve. Both strongly recommended Whalen’s leadership skills as a player.

Whalen said coaching was something she’d been encouraged to do, both by Reeve and by fans. She said it was a little surreal to be standing again at center court.

“I can’t say what a privilege it is to be here back at the University of Minnesota coaching these young women,” Whalen said. “It’s going to be the thrill of my lifetime to do this.”