This week’s most intriguing basketball news, despite the NBA Playoffs gearing up and the WNBA Draft on Thursday night, was Lindsay Whalen being named the head coach of the women’s basketball team at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota.
Whalen is a five-time All-WNBA guard and is currently still a member of the Minnesota Lynx. The 14-year veteran reportedly has an agreement to continue playing for the Lynx as she accepts the head coaching position at Minnesota.
If Whalen was retired, this move wouldn’t have as much shock value. Whalen’s no. 13 jersey is up in the rafters in Williams Arena. She led the Gophers to the Final Four in 2004 and was the program’s first three-time All-American in history. Whalen is a Minnesota sports legend.
2004: Timberwolves make it to the conference finals and Lindsay Whalen and the Gophers make it to the Final Four.
2018: Timberwolves make it to the playoffs for the first time since ‘04 and Whalen becomes the Gophers coach.
— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) April 12, 2018
If they built a Minnesota sports Mt. Rushmore, Lindsay Whalen is on it, right?
Without question, correct?
— Walt Scher (@Ctrl_Walt_Dlt) April 12, 2018
But this is uncharted territory in the NCAA, the WNBA, and in sports. A professional athlete is being given the reigns of a Big Ten basketball program. Whalen won’t be playing in the WNBA much longer and has clearly been given an early opportunity to segue into the next phase of her basketball life.
The Lynx start training camp in two weeks and their season opener is on May 20. The last potential date for the WNBA Finals is September 16, which is a couple of weeks before practice begins for the Gophers.
From athletic director Mark Coyle via the team’s press release:
“People talk about the `it’ factor, and that is always difficult to define, but everyone who has ever spent time around Lindsay Whalen knows she has it. She has excelled at everything she has ever done in her life because she’s unflappable, determined and has a legendary work ethic. She’s played for some of the top coaches in the world, she’s competed at the highest levels the sport has to offer, and I know she will be a great head coach for our women’s basketball program.”
Minnesota went 24-9 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.