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Minnesota Women’s Basketball: Potential Gopher WBB Coaching Candidates

Here are several possibilities for who Mark Coyle could go after

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Notre Dame
Niele Ivey was a finalist for the Gopher job four years ago? Could she get it now?
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As you know by now, Marlene Stollings resigned after four years as the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s basketball team to take the head coach job at Texas Tech. Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle will once again get the opportunity to make a notable hire at one of the University of Minnesota’s more noticeable sports. As he is fond of saying during coaching searches...every athletic director always has a list of potential candidates in his back pocket in case he needs to make a hire. Here are several potential candidates that may be on his list. Please note—this is not anywhere close to a comprehensive list. This is just a quick look at some of the more obvious names who may have some reason to be interested in the job. There are several other potential coaches and former coaches who may be interested in the job who Coyle may have on his radar. Only he knows who actually is at the top of his list.

Non-Current College Women’s Basketball Coaches:

Lindsay Whalen—Minnesota Lynx point guard

Ok...lets start with the 800-lb gorilla in this search. Whalen is already the darling of many members of the Twin Cities sports media. Like this one. and this. and this. And this. You get the picture. She also is still a member of the Minnesota Lynx and doesn’t really seem to be losing too much of a step or appears too interested in retirement at this moment. While Whalen did announce about a month ago that she was retiring from international competition, the 35 year old gave absolutely no indication she had any inkling of retiring from the WNBA anytime soon.

Even if she was thinking of retirement, Whalen has been getting into broadcasting work this offseason. She has done color commentary for several Minnesota Timberwolves games as well as appeared on TNT NBA broadcasts and on other local tv projects. She seems much more inclined to go the broadcasting route rather than the coaching route as this moment in time.

Additionally, while I’m sure Whalen could get the hang of it very quickly as she has shown herself to have a huge basketball IQ and is adapt at interpersonal relationships, she has zero coaching experience. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It would be nearly unprecedented for an active player to make this big a leap into a head coaching job in a Power 5 conference with absolutely no coaching experience.

The only reason Whalen would be a serious candidate as the current time for this job is that Mark Coyle knows he needs to win a PR battle and get more butts in the seats at the expense of coaching experience. Whalen would need at minimum one very experienced assistant if not two to help her acclimate herself to the coaching ranks. So is it possible—yes. Is this likely in my opinion—nope.

Jim Peterson-Minnesota Timberwolves Color Analyst/ Former Lynx Assistant

Here is another candidate with lots of local ties, but probably isn’t really a serious candidate. Peterson played for the Gophers from 1980-1984 and was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the NBA. He played eight seasons in the NBA for three teams and did radio color commentary for the Timberwolves from 1998-2003 and has been the tv color man from 2003 to the present. So why would Peterson be a candidate?

Peterson was a Minnesota Lynx assistant coach from 2008 through 2017 and helped the Lynx to three WNBA titles. Peterson stepped down to spend more time with his family. That doesn’t scream I want to be a Big Ten Head Coach to me. But he definitely does have the requisite coaching experience needed for the job—just not at a collegiate level.

Current College Women’s Basketball Coaches:

Nikita Lowry Dawkins-Minnesota Gophers Associate Head Coach

Lowry Dawkins has been an assistant for the Gophers for all four years of the Stollings regime, and was promoted to associate head coach after the 14-15 season. She currently also serves as the Gophers recruiting coordinator and co-defensive coordinator. Dawkins was in charge of working with the Gophers post players and helped coach Amanda Zahui B to a First Team All-American spot in 2015 and helped get Shae Kelly to the WNBA.

Dawkins has extensive experience as a collage assistant. Prior to Minnesota she spend two years with Stollings at VCU, and prior to that spent seven seasons as an assistant at Old Dominion. She also has spent time as an assistant at both Michigan and her alma matter Ohio State, She was a first team All-American for the Buckeyes and has won four gold medals, three as a player and one as a coach in international play with USA Basketball.

Dawkins supposedly has a good relationship with Mark Coyle as well. It’s unknown whether she has any interest in following Stollings down to Lubbock, but one would assume if offered the Gopher top job she would stick around rather than follow Stollings once more.

Niele Ivey—Notre Dame Fighting Irish Associate Head Coach

Niele Ivy is another candidate you can be pretty sure Coyle has on his list. Ivy has been an assistant coach for her alma matter for 11 seasons and currently is the Irish’s recruiting coordinator. Ivey was reportedly one of the three finalists for the Gophers job four years ago when former Minnesota AD Norwood Teague hired Stollings.

Ivey is responsible for recruiting the bulk of the players who just won the 2018 NCAA Championship for Notre Dame. Her roles with the Irish include working closely with the development of the point guards, while also serving as the architect of the program’s remarkable recruiting success. She also makes major contributions to game scouting, practice planning and summer camp coordination. She has helped Notre Dame attract top-10 incoming classes in seven of the past eight years.

The St. Louis native has played a part in all seven of Notre Dame’s Final Four berths. She was a player for two of the trips in 2000 and 2001 and five trips in her 11 years as an assistant coach.

The one reason why Ivey may not consider the job now compared to four years ago is that she is seen as the Irish coach in in waiting. Notre Dame Head coach Muffet McGraw is 62 and Ivey may want to stay put and ease into the job when McGraw decides to retire.

Aaron Johnston—South Dakota State Head Coach

Johnson is the head coach of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits who are a mid-major powerhouse. Johnston just completed his 18th season as the head coach of SDSU and has a 415-142 career record. Johnston also was reportedly one of three finalists for the Minnesota job when Stollings was hired four years ago. Johnston led the Jackrabbits transition from Division II to DI in 2004-05 and in 12 seasons of DI play he has led SDSU to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and Summit League Tournament Championships. SDSU most recently lost as a #9 seed in the First Round of this year’s NCAA Tournament to Villanova this season. He won the 2002-03 Division II NCAA Title with the Jackrabbits as well.

Johnston is a Pine Island, Minnesota native and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus.

Jennie Baranczyk—Drake Head Coach

Baranczyk has been the head coach of the Drake Bulldogs since 2012 and has brought Drake from the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference to the top of the list of mid-major teams. Drake was won the last two MVC Championships and has gone 18-0 in conference play both seasons. Baranczky was named the MVC Coach of the Year in both 2017 and 2018. Prior to being hired at Drake, Baranczyk spend time as an assistant coach at Colorado Buffaloes, Marquette, and Kansas State.

Baranczyk is a Des Moines, Iowa native and was a standout for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 2000-2004. She was a three-time captain, three time All-Big Ten Conference selection and an honorable mention All-American in 2003. She graduated as the only player in Iowa history in the top 10 of five major statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, and is one of only two Hawkeye players to score more than 1,700 points and grab 800 rebounds.

Carolyn Kieger—Marquette Head Coach

Kieger just finished her fourth season as the head coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles. Kieger has taken the Marquette program from the bottom of the Big East to back to back NCAA berths in 2017 and 2018. Marquette won the Big East Tournament in 2017 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a #5 seed, and this year advanced to the 2nd round of the tournament before being eliminated by Louisville.

Prior to being hired by Marquette, Kiegeer was an assistant for the Miami Hurricanes for six seasons. She was a four year standout player for Marquette. She was a three-year captain and is the Golden Eagles’ s all-time assists leader. She is the only player in program history with at least 1,200 career points, 400 career rebounds and 600 assists.

Kieger is a Roseville, Minnesota native. One drawback to Kieger would be that Minnesota’s best player, Kenisha Bell transferred from Marquette to Minnesota after having issues with Kieger. It could be quite the messy situation.

Aaron Roussell—Bucknell Head Coach

Aaron Roussell just completed his seventh season as the head coach of the Bucknell Bison. He has a 101-56 record and is a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year. Prior to Bucknell, Roussell was the head coach of the University of Chicago team for eight seasons and took the Maroons to four Divison III Tournament berths. Roussell is a Minneapolis native and went to Iowa for college. He began his coaching career at Breck High School and then Minnesota State-Mankato before getting hired at Chicago.

Marisa Moseley- UConn Assistant Coach

Marisa Moseley completed her ninth season as an assistant coach for Gino Auriemma and the perennial #1 UConn Huskies. Prior to her time at UConn, Moseley spent two seasons from 2007-2009 as a Minnesota assistant under Pam Borton.

Moseley works primarily with the post players for the Huskies. She helped Brianna Stewart become the #1 overall selection in the WNBA Draft in 2016.

Prior to her two seasons at Minnesota, Moseley was an assistant for the Denver Pioneers. She played at Boston University where she was a defensive specialist and ranks #3 all time in the school in blocked shots.

Nikki West—Associate Head Coach North Carolina State

Nikki West completed her fifth season as the associate head coach of the NC State Wolfpack. In her five seasons with the Wolfpack, they have made three NCAA Tournament appearances including a run to the Sweet Sixteen this past season.

Previously to her tenure with the Wolfpack she spend nine seasons as an assistant/associate head coach with the Chattanooga Moccasins. It was at this spot where she met her husband, Minnesota Gophers football assistant coach Marcus West.

West played four seasons for the Clemson Tigers from 1996-2000