The Minnesota Golden Gophers have hired Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen as the women's basketball coach—but that doesn't mean the 35-year-old's playing career is over.
The team announced the news Thursday:
Marlene Stollings led the Gophers to a 24-9 record and a trip to the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament before taking the Texas Tech job this week. Now, Minnesota has turned to a familiar face to lead the program into the future.
Although Whalen will return to coach her alma mater, where she played from 2000-04, she will also continue to play for the Lynx. The player-coach addressed the situation in a statement on the team's official website:
"I have so many special memories at the University of Minnesota. 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."
The Gophers welcomed their former star back with a video tribute:
Whalen was drafted out of Minnesota with the fourth overall pick in 2004. She was part of the Gophers' only Final Four team back in 2004 and was the first player in program history to be named team MVP in every year of her career.
Minnesota director of athletics Mark Coyle believes all of Whalen's experiences have prepared her to lead a team, per the team's official website:
"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."
Earlier this year, Whalen retired from international competition, but she still has the itch to play. That's why she and the school reached an agreement that allows her to continue her WNBA career while also handling the duties of a Division I coach.
While both playing and coaching require year-round obligations, the schedules make it possible for Whalen to do both. The WNBA regular season runs from May through August, with the championship round tipping off in late September. The college basketball season typically goes from November to early April.