The search for the next Gophers women’s basketball coach is full speed ahead.
Texas Tech’s search for its next coach ended Monday, when Marlene Stollings agreed to leave Minneapolis for Lubbock.
“I have to tell you from the moment I met Kirby [Hocutt, Texas Tech athletic director], I was sold,” Stollings said Wednesday while being introduced as the Lady Raiders coach. “Because we share the same vision for the program. We share the vision of winning Big 12 titles again. And winning a national championship again. I took this job believing we can and will do it again.”
Minnesota AD Mark Coyle is driving the Gophers’ search to replace Stollings. Coyle has not been made available to the Star Tribune for an interview since Stollings resigned on Monday. But Coyle told WCCO Radio during his regular appearance this week that there is “a lot of interest in our opportunity.”
Coyle said he met with the team Monday and asked the players for their patience.
“We’ll move efficiently and we’ll move quickly,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to put a timeline on the search.
A search committee has been formed for the Gophers search. Some fans and voices on social media, however, are hoping that only a phone call, not a committee, is needed, and that Lindsay Whalen is on the other end of that call. The former Gophers star and current Lynx point guard is Candidate No. 1 for some, despite being an active WNBA player, giving no public hints of retirement and having no coaching experience.
When asked by WCCO’s Dave Lee if Whalen, 35, might be a candidate, Coyle only offered praise.
“I have a great deal of respect for her in what she does and how she represents this intuition,” he said. “We’re going to find the best fit for our program and do everything we can to provide the young women on that basketball team every opportunity to compete at the highest level.”
A clue, perhaps, of the U’s interest in Whalen can be found in the official job requirements, listed at the top of the job posting for Gophers women’s basketball coach. The job posting has two predictable requirements, a bachelor’s degree and “three to five years” of coaching experience, followed by this: “or a professional basketball player in the WNBA or NBA for five to 7 years.” Whalen has played 14 seasons in the WNBA.
Other names to watch include South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston, Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey, Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk and Connecticut assistant coach Marisa Moseley, a former Gophers assistant under Pam Borton.
Some thought Gophers assistant Niki Lowry-Dawkins could be a candidate, but Stollings said Wednesday she is joining her in Lubbock.
At Texas Tech, Stollings replaces Candi Whitaker, fired in January after 4½ seasons. Contract terms for Stollings, who made $500,000 per season at Minnesota, have not been announced.
On Wednesday, Stollings called the Lady Raiders a “sleeping giant.” That didn’t make leaving Minnesota easy, though.
“It was tough walking in that [Gophers team] room and talking to my student athletes,” she said. “A very emotional moment because of what we had done.”
Stollings said she ultimately chose Texas Tech because it gives her the “platform and the ability” to reach her ultimate goal: a national title.
“I want to be able to on a national scale do even bigger things than what we were able to accomplish [in Minnesota],” she said.