Lindsay Whalen steps down as Minnesota coach after 5 seasons

Lindsay Whalen has resigned as Minnesota women's basketball coach, the school announced Thursday.

Whalen was 71-76 overall and 32-58 in the Big Ten in five seasons from 2018 to 2023, taking over as coach of the program just before playing her final season with the WNBA's Lynx in 2018. The Gophers did not reach the NCAA tournament under Whalen but made a WNIT appearance in 2018-19.

Minnesota was 11-19 (4-14 Big Ten) as its season ended Wednesday with a 72-67 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament first round in Minneapolis.

Whalen was scheduled to appear at a news conference Thursday afternoon with athletic director Mark Coyle but did not appear. Coyle said she was busy meeting with her staff, but Whalen later tweeted that she felt too emotional to speak to the media.

"Close circuit to all local media: I will be "appearing "and "showing up" for a press conference in the near future," Whalen posted on Twitter. "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.

"Also I've shown up every single day while playing at the U, playing for the Lynx, and coaching at the U. Add up the years. Apologies if this hasn't been enough. I'll be available when the time is right."

Whalen, 40, had signed a contract extension a year ago to take her through the 2024-25 season. The school said she will stay on as a special assistant to athletic director Mark Coyle though April 12, 2025.

"I want to thank Mark and the University for giving me the opportunity to lead this program five years ago," Whalen said in a statement. "It was an honor of a lifetime. I am grateful to my assistant coaches and staff and want to thank them for everything they did for our student-athletes during the last five years."

Coyle indicated to reporters that the decision was mutual, although Whalen gave no indication in her postgame press conference Wednesday that she was anticipating stepping down.

"Together, we just felt like now is the right time for her to step down," Coyle told reporters. "She's still going to be part of our program. She is so much loved in these hallways and these buildings. Obviously, she's an icon. She's on the Mount Rushmore in the state of Minnesota."

Whalen, a native of Hutchinson, Minnesota, was a star guard for the Gophers from 2000 to 2004 and led them to the women's Final Four as a senior. She was the No. 4 pick in the 2004 WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun and played for them six seasons, making two WNBA Finals appearances. Whalen was traded back to her home state and spent nine seasons with the Lynx, with whom she won four WNBA titles. She finished her career averaging 11.5 points and 4.9 assists per game.

She had no head-coaching experience when she took over at her alma mater as the 12th head coach in program history. She replaced Marlene Stollings, who made two NCAA tournament appearances with the Gophers but left to coach at Texas Tech, where she was fired in 2020 after player complaints.

Whalen, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last year, immediately brought a surge of excitement and season-ticket holders, but she wasn't able to translate that into enough success on court.

"I don't think we're starting over," Coyle said. "I think we have a really great core group of people here who have made progress throughout this past year and it's our job to find a coach who can continue to build upon the success."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.