HUTCHINSON – What do you get the woman who has everything?
A high school gym, apparently.
Which brought, it seemed, just about everyone from this town to Hutchinson High on Tuesday night. In the same space where she signed her national letter of intent to attend the University of Minnesota 19 years ago this month, Lindsay Whalen came home to have the school’s remodeled gym named after her.
“You spelled it right,’’ Whalen said in classic deadpan. “We’re off to a good start.’’
It has been a festive, tribute-filled few months for Whalen, a favorite daughter with, it seems, an endless extended family. It began when she took the job coaching the Gophers women in April. There was her announced retirement from the Lynx and her playing career — which included four WNBA titles and two Olympic gold medals — in August. A tribute on the Target Center floor at the end of the Lynx season, a filled Williams Arena for Whalen’s first game as Gophers coach Nov. 9.
Add this to the list.
Hutch High just got an extensive remodel, one that doubled the size of the gym; Whalen, at one point Tuesday, talked about all her great memories in the gym.
“Well, not this gym,’’ she said. “But this space. The whole school is just beautiful.’’
It was a pretty nice ceremony, too. Short, affectionate, sweet. Family and friends. Done in time for the first game of the season to get going. The school’s seventh-grade team sat behind her on the floor, and the varsity girls team sat cross-legged at midcourt, with yellow warmup T-shirts emblazoned with a huge No. 13.
There was a video of Whalen highlights from high school to the Gophers to the WNBA. It was heavy on the 2004 run to the NCAA Final Four.
Daron VanderHeiden, superintendent of Hutchinson schools, emceed. Arlyn DeBruyckere, one of her favorite teachers, spoke of how hard Whalen worked.
“You gave respect, and you earned it,’’ he said.
Andy Rostberg, her old high school coach, had to pay tribute via a video, as he was away on an elk-hunting trip. (How Minnesotan is that?)
He talked about Whalen’s first varsity game.
“Someone grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Coach, I hope you know what you’re doing with this experiment with this little Whalen kid,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘If you don’t, there will be a storm that rains down on you.’ Little did they know. And you were the storm that was raining down on everybody. You did it with grace and grit and courage.’’
Whalen spoke with what you’d expect: humor, honesty, humility.
She recalled crossing the Crow River on her bike as a kid, coming to the school for a summer workout after a trip to SA to get a doughnut. Then she quickly pointed to the varsity team, telling them doughnuts were not a good pregame meal.
“To think the gym would be named after me?’’ she said. “I never thought of that when I was in line getting that doughnut.’’
Whalen referred to the video of her career highlights and noted that her coaching staff was there with her.
“Those were pretty cool highlights,’’ she said. “We have to do that again. That Final Four was fun.’’
“I want to thank my parents for moving to Hutchinson,’’ Whalen said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be from than Hutchinson, Minnesota. There is no better place to grow up.’’