Lindsay Whalen steps down as Gophers head coach

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The University of Minnesota women’s basketball team is now in need of a new head coach.

Thursday, a day after the team was eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament, the program announced that head coach Lindsay Whalen is stepping down from her role. She’ll remain with the program as a special assistant to the athletics director through April 12, 2025 — when her contract was set to expire — the university says.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lindsay,” U of M Director of Athletics Mark Coyle . “I want to thank Lindsay for her hard work and dedication as a player and as the head coach of our women’s basketball program. She is one of the greatest alums and ambassadors this University has ever produced and her legacy of being a Minnesota icon is etched in stone.”

“I want to thank Mark and the University for giving me the opportunity to lead this program five years ago,” Whalen said in a statement. “It was an honor of a lifetime. I am grateful to my assistant coaches and staff and want to thank them for everything they did for our student-athletes during the last five years. We did things the right way and created a lot of memories, but now is the right time for me to step aside and return to being a proud alum. I look forward to supporting and cheering on the next head coach.”

Whalen coached the Gophers from 2018-2023 and compiled an overall record of 71-76, including 32-58 in conference play across five seasons. The team lost to 13th-seeded Penn State 72-67 in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament Wednesday afternoon at Target Center, putting the team’s record for the season at 11-19 (4-14 in conference play).

In her first season at the helm, Whalen’s team went 21-11 (9-9 in conference play) and made it to the second round of the WNIT. However, the promising start quickly started going downhill and was never quite able to recover, finishing 16-15 in the 2019-20 season, 8-13 in 2020-21, and 15-18 last season, all with sub-.500 records in conference play.

Under Whalen, the program inked its highest-ranked recruiting class in history during the fall of 2021 but frequent transfers from the roster also subtracted key contributors, including Sara Scalia last spring.

This year, the team was led by some young talent and, despite its record, showed some promise to create more hope going into next season. That makes Whalen’s announcement that much more surprising.

Coyle says he and Whalen had multiple discussions in recent weeks and both felt that now was the best time for her to step down. While she was scheduled to appear at a joint press conference with Coyle Thursday afternoon, Whalen didn’t attend, which Coyle attributed to a miscommunication, saying she was still having discussions with her staff.

Whalen later cleared up any misconceptions with a frank, honest post on Twitter saying she simply needs some time to process things before she’ll be ready to discuss the situation.

Whalen played for Minnesota from 2000-04, was the program’s first three-time All-American in school history and led the Gophers to their only Final Four in program history. The Hutchinson native then went on to star in the WNBA, including for the Minnesota Lynx, whom she helped lead to four WNBA championships. She also is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year.

The university says it will conduct a national search for Whalen’s replacement, who will be the 13th head coach in program history.

Below, watch the Thursday, March 2, 2023 press conference following the announcement that Whalen would step down.

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