Gophers hire Dawn Plitzuweit as next women’s basketball coach

The university and Plitzuweit have agreed to a six-year contract pending Board of Regents approval and the completion of a background check.

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South Dakota coach Dawn Plitzuweit speaks to the media during practice day at the NCAA women's basketball tournament Wichita Regional at Intrust Bank Arena on March 25, 2022 in Wichita, Kansas.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

MINNEAPOLIS — Just more than two weeks after Lindsay Whalen stepped down as basketball coach at her alma mater, Minnesota has hired her successor, Dawn Plitzuweit, who led South Dakota to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2022.

The university and Plitzuweit have agreed to a six-year contract pending Board of Regents approval and the completion of a background check. A native of West Bend, Wisconsin, she will be introduced at a news conference scheduled for Monday afternoon.

“I am extremely excited,” Plitzuweit said in a statement.

Plitzuweit became West Virginia’s head coach this season and led the Mountaineers to 19 victories and an NCAA tournament berth. Her team lost a first-round NCAA tournament game to Arizona, 75-62, on Friday.

She was head coach at Grand Valley State (2002-07), Northern Kentucky (2012-16), South Dakota (2016-22) and for one season at West Virginia (19-12). Plitzuweit also was Michigan’s associate head coach from 2007-12 and served as an assistant at Wisconsin (1997-98).


“This is a homecoming of sorts, and Minnesota is a program that I am very familiar with from my previous time in the surrounding area and in the Big Ten,” she said in a statement. “I am looking forward to getting back to the area and to meet(ing) the team, alumni and fans. I am also looking forward to reconnecting with local high school and club coaches. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Plitzuweit’s 2021-22 South Dakota team, which upset No. 7 Baylor on the way to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, included five Minnesotans. Redshirt senior Hannah Sjerven (Rogers) led the Coyotes in rebounding (7.7) and averaged 15.1 points a game. Redshirt senior Liv Korngable (Rochester) led the team in assists (3.8) and scored 12.5 points a game for a team that finished 29-6.

“Dawn is a process-driven coach and has coached winning teams at every step of her career.” athletics director Mark Coyle said in a statement. “She has recruited Minnesota and has consistently produced teams that compete for championships. Dawn has Big Ten coaching experience and knows how competitive and strong the conference is.”

That experience was clearly a major plus for Coyle, who hired Whalen right out of the WNBA, without coaching experience at any level, in 2018. Whalen’s teams were 71-76 overall, 32-58 in the Big Ten. Her last team finished the season 11-19 overall, 4-15 in the Big Ten after losing to Penn State in the first round of the conference tournament on March 1 at Target Center.

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Less than 24 hours later, Whalen was out. Hours after announcing the decision Coyle told reporters the decision was a mutual agreement between Whalen and himself. But Whalen, a former Gophers All-American who helped lead Minnesota to its first Final Four and later won four WNBA titles with the Lynx, has yet to address the decision except to say on Twitter that she missed the initial news conference because she was overcome with emotion.

Coyle told reporters that he and Whalen had been having “very open and honest conversations” for about a year and that on March 2 it was decided “now was the right time.”

That evening, Whalen posted from her Twitter account that she will appear at a news conference “in the near future.”

In the wake of her exit, three of Whalen’s prized freshmen — Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer and Niamaya Holloway — have declared they will remain at Minnesota. On Thursday, sophomore center post Rose Micheaux announced on her Instagram account that she is entering the NCAA transfer portal.


Whalen made a base salary of $547,000 with raises to $575,000 and $600,000 due the next two years. After announcing Whalen’s decision, Coyle said she will remain with the department to help with fundraising and efforts to build the school’s National, Image, Likeness opportunities — NCAA-sanctioned ways that student-athletes can earn money from sponsorships, advertising and appearances.


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