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Player-coach: Gophers hire Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen to lead women's basketball program

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (13) dribbles in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Sparks in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Oct. 4, 2017. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
The University of Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen, left, chats with head coach Pam Borton at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 20, 2004. Whalen as of April 12, 2018, is the new head coach of the Gophers’ women’s basketball program. Nathan Berndt / St. Paul Pioneer Press file photo2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS — With her No. 13 jersey hanging in the rafters of Williams Arena, Lindsay Whalen now will pace the venue’s sideline as the new head coach of the Gophers’ women’s basketball program.

Whalen, 35, the second-leading scorer in University of Minnesota history and winner of four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx, will succeed Marlene Stollings, who left after four seasons Monday to take the same job with Texas Tech. Whalen’s hiring was announced by Gophers Athletics Director Mark Coyle on Thursday, April 12.

The U said as part of Whalen’s agreement to become the Gophers’ coach, she will continue to play for the Lynx, which won the 2017 WNBA title with her at point guard. The WNBA season runs from May to October, with the Gophers season stretching from November to March. Whalen enters her 14th WNBA season; she retired from USA Basketball in February and doesn’t play for another club overseas.

“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,” Coyle said in a statement. “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.”

Whalen, of Hutchinson, Minn., will be introduced at a news conference Friday afternoon at Williams Arena.

“I have so many special memories at the University of Minnesota,” Whalen said in a statement. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to have the opportunity to make more. Becoming the head coach here at the U and being a Gopher again is a dream come true. At every level, basketball has given me so much. I’ve learned from so many great players, coaches and mentors, and now I have a chance to share that knowledge and help shape the new generation of Gopher stars. I’m ready to get started.”

Whalen thanked Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve for her support in this move. “As I started this process with the University of Minnesota, it was important to me that I returned to the Lynx this season,” she said in a separate statement from the WNBA team. “I’m very excited about our upcoming season and I look forward to returning to a renovated Target Center and playing in front of our great fans.”

Reeve commended Coyle for “his swift movement” in hiring Whalen. “Lindsay is a proven leader at every level of her illustrious career and I know she will continue to excel as a head coach of the Gopher program,” Reeve said. “The Minnesota Lynx hold a special place with Lindsay and we are excited to see her back on the court this summer.”

Whalen was a leader of the best era in Gophers women’s hoops. As the first three-time All-America selection in school history, she took the U to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and to the only Final Four in school history in 2004.

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