Lindsay Whalen and Mark Coyle announced the right decision yesterday regarding Whalen stepping down as the University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach. Whalen had five seasons to make winning progress with the program and she was unable to do so.
On the street and among media there was a common view that Whalen was going to receive one more year to show she was the right coach for Minnesota. But Coyle is justified in moving on now from Whalen who had never coached before accepting the job at her alma mater.
The women’s program is capable of not only more on court success but coming closer financially to operating in the black. The program has never paid its own way, and now the disastrous season by the men’s basketball program has resulted in revenues being far less than the potential for that cash cow. Maybe Coyle, who waited too long to part ways with former men’s coach Richard Pitino and made an iffy hire in Ben Johnson, wanted to move on from Whalen and not wait a year when he could be dealing with change in the men’s program, too.
Whalen remains one of the most revered sports heroes in state history for her on-court play for the Gophers, Lynx and U.S. Olympic teams. The Hutchinson native had an emotional day yesterday and understandably chose at the last minute not to participate in a news conference with Coyle who described the departure of his coach as a mutual decision.
Maybe not. Whalen posted this on Twitter last night: “I will be ‘appearing’ and ‘showing up’ for a press conference in the near future. My sincere apologies for not being there today as I was overcome with emotion in the elevator on my way to the press conference. I am a human being.”
The season ended with a thud Wednesday afternoon. Playing in the opening game of the Big Ten Tournament—a home environment in front of supporters at Target Center—Whalen’s team lost to Penn State, another bottom feeder in the league who the Gophers had defeated twice earlier in the season.
It wasn’t a pretty loss. The Gophers trailed by as many as 18 points and struggled against a full court press. Minnesota rallied late in the fourth quarter before losing, 72-67, and the team received obligatory praise for its efforts from Whalen.
The Gophers finished the season with a record of 11-19. Their regular season conference record was 4-14. That landed Whalen’s fifth Gopher team in next to last place in the Big Ten.
Not an uplifting way to recognize 50 years of women’s basketball at the U.
Since taking over the Gophers Whalen’s teams never finished above .500 in the Big Ten, with the best showing 9-9 her first season. A legendary Final Four player for the Gophers, she never coached her team to the NCAA Tournament. Whalen’s three predecessors this millennium have all been more successful by far than she has been.
Whalen will stay with the department as a special assistant to the AD through April 12, 2025. That is the date her five-year coaching contract ends. It’s not known what her compensation will be in the new role.
Starting in contract year four (was to begin next month) her base salary was to be $574,761. Most recently she earned $547,391.
St. Thomas is fast earning respect and attention for its success in Division I sports. With wealthy alums and admirers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see NIL become a bigger success with the Tommies than the Gophers.
The No. 1 ranked U men’s hockey team has a talented line for the ages in freshmen Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud, and sophomore Matthew Knies, but all three could be gone to the pros next season. Cooley might be the most likely returnee, with chances greatest that Snuggerud and Knies will leave.
Former MLB umpire and St. Paul native Tim Tschida speaks to the Capital Club March 8 at Mendakota Country Club. More information about the club is available from Patrick Klinger, email@example.com
Burl Oaks Golf Club is the Minnesota Golf Association’s Club of the Year for 2022. The Minnetrista course hosted the MGA Players’ Championship last year.
Minikahda pro Jeff Sorenson recently won the Pebble Beach ProAm at Pebble Beach and Spyglass, earning his 157th career win in harsh conditions including cold, wind and snow.
Rod Carew, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva, a trio of Cooperstown Hall of Famers, entertained a recent crowd of about 500 at a Minnesota Breakfast Club gathering in Naples, Florida. The former Twins all played together including on the West Division championship teams of 1969 and 1970. Baseball’s efforts to speed up the game is welcome news to Carew who said he has lost interest.
Players earn a lot more now than when Carew, Kaat and Oliva played. MLB player salaries averaged a record high $4.2 million last season, per Front Office Sports.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell will give a video presentation at the 2023 Minnesota Football Coaches Association Clinic. The nationally admired annual clinic will again feature Gopher coaches including P.J. Fleck. Clinic dates are March 30, 31 and April 1 with more information available at https://www.mnfootballcoaches.com/
The U Athletic Department has suites available for the upcoming football season starting at $4,500 per game. The home schedule is attractive with games that include Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Elite Ink is promoting a Kirill Kaprizov memorabilia sale that includes a signed $890 white jersey.
Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, Gopher forwards and native Minnesotans, are two of 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award given annually to the top player in Division I women’s college hockey.
Former Gopher Jamal Mashburn Jr., now at New Mexico, leads the Mountain West in scoring at 19.4 points per game. The Lobos, led by coach Richard Pitino, are 21-9 overall but only 8-9 in league games and are questionable to make the NCAA Tournament.
Former Viking Herschel Walker is 61 today.
I am speaking to the CORES lunch group about my column and career Thursday, March 9 at the Bloomington Event Center. Reservations can be made by emailing Jim Dotseth, firstname.lastname@example.org. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.