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Minnesota Women’s Basketball: Potential Gophers Women Basketball Coaching Candidates

Could the next Mark Coyle hire be on this list of names?

Syndication: Argus Leader Erin Woodiel / Argus Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK

It has been a full week since Lindsay Whalen coached her final game as the head coach of the Minnesota Gophers Women’s basketball team. On Thursday it will be a week since the U of M officially announced that she would be stepping down and that the search for her replacement would begin.

Earlier this week, whomever steps into Whalen’s shoes got some good news as Minnesota star freshmen Mara Braun and Mallory Heyer both confirmed they would be staying at the U and would not be entering the transfer portal. Braun said that Whalen had urged her former players to stay and finish what they started. Fellow freshman Nia Holloway who missed the entire season with a torn ACL also stated on Tuesday that she would be sticking around. Additionally incoming 2023 recruit Kennedy Klick of Bloomington confirmed she was still planning on playing for the U beginning in the fall.

More announcements may come out in the future, or they may await and see who Mark Coyle hires to replace Whalen as the head coach of the Gophers. We take a look at some of the names below who have been mentioned in various places in the Twin Cities and college basketball media below. We have a list of sixteen potential candidates below: twelve current college coaches and four power 6 assistants who seem ready to step into a head coaching job for the first time. It would probably be expected that after Whalen Coyle will be looking for someone with some college head coaching experience, but the assistants on our list have learned from some of the best.

There has been some chatter among pundits that Mark Coyle would only hire a female coach for the job. There has never been a male head coach of the Gopher women’s basketball team. He was asked about it in the press conference he had last Thursday after Whalen’s departure and was quoted as saying only “There will be a national search”. We have both male and female candidates on the list below, but only Coyle knows exactly what criteria he will be using to hire the next Gopher women’s coach. Get to know some of the potential candidates below in no particular order, and let us know in the comments if you have a favorite, or have someone else who is not on our list who you think has a chance at the job.

Current Division I Head Coaches:

Megan Duffy—Marquette: Age 38

Duffy is the current coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles. In four seasons in Milwaukee Duffy has lead the Golden Eagles to an 87-36 record and has four Big East top 5 finishes in all four seasons. This season Marquette is 21-10 overall and 13-7 in the Big East and was eliminated in the Big East Semifinals by UCONN. Marquette made the NCAA Tournament in Duffy’s first two seasons and are projected to make it again this season.

Prior to her time at Marquette, Duffy was the head coach at Miami, Ohio for two seasons where she led the Redhawks to back to back 20 win seasons for the first time since the 1980s. Prior to that she was an assistant for ten years with stops at Michigan, George Washington and St. Johns. Duffy played at Notre Dame from 2002-2006 and a pair of seasons for the Minnesota Lynx.

Tammi Reiss—Rhode Island: Age 52

Reiss is in her fourth season as the Head Coach of the Rhode Island Rams. Reiss turned around a team that went 13-16 in her first season into one that went 23-11 a season ago and 24-6 this year setting a new record for wins in a season. URI was upset by St. Louis in the A-10 Semifinals last week and are most likely WNIT bound for the second consecutive season. Reiss was named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year the past two seasons.

Previous to her time at URI, Reiss was an assistant at Syracuse for four seasons helping the Orange to four straight NCAA Tournaments including a runner-up finish in 2016. She did overlap at Syracuse with Mark Coyle when he was the Orange’s AD. Prior assistant stops included Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, the WNBA, and her alma mater Virginia. She was an All-American for the Cavaliers from 1993-1996 leading them to three NCAA Tournaments and two Elite Eights.

Dawn Plitzuweit—West Virginia: Age 50

Plitzuweit is completing her first season as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers but has lots of Midwest experience. This season she led WVU to a 19-10 record and a fifth place finish in the Big 12. The Big 12 Tournament takes place this weekend. West Virginia sets squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble as selection Sunday approaches.

Previous to West Virginia the Wisconsin native was the head coach at South Dakota from 2016-2022. In her six seasons in Vermillion, South Dakota, she amassed a 158-36 record, including an 83-10 mark in the Summit League. The three-time Summit League Coach of the Year, Plitzuweit led the Coyotes to three regular-season championships, three conference tournament championships, four NCAA Tournament appearances and a berth in the 2022 NCAA Sweet 16 during her tenure at USD. She recruited several players from Minnesota to play for the Coyotes.

She was also the head coach at Northern Kentucky from 2012-2016, and DII Grand Valley State in the 2000s. She has assistant coach experience at Wisconsin, Green Bay and Michigan. She is a member of the Kevin Borseth coaching tree and followed him from her playing days at Michigan Tech to Green Bay and Michigan.

Lindy La Rocque- UNLV : Age 33

LaRocque is in her third season as the head coach of the UNLV Lady Rebels and is one of the hottest potential coaching candidates in the country. In just two seasons she took a team that had not made the NCAA Tournament in 20 years to back to back NCAA Tournament appearances going 26-7 in 2021-22 and sweeping both the Mountain West Regular Season and Tournament Championships. The Rebels lost as a 13 seed by just five points to #4 seed Arizona last spring. This year UNLV is even better going 30-2 and are into the Final of the Mountain West Tournament. She has produced with both home grown products and by using the transfer portal gaining players who would win the Mountain West Player of the Year, 6th Player of the Year, and tournament MVP honors.

Prior to returning to her native Las Vegas, La Roque was a four year assistant at Stanford under Hall of Famer Tara VanDerveer. She also was an assistant at Belmont for two seasons. LaRoque played for Stanford for four seasons from 2008-12.

Kristen Gillespie- Illinois State : Age: 46

Gillespie is in her 6th season as the coach of the Redbirds. She took Illinois State to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in 14 years by winning the MVC Tournament as the #4 seed. This season was even better with the Redbirds going 23-7 overall and 17-3 in the MVC to win the regular season conference title with the conference tournament this weekend.

Gillespie has moved up the ranks from D3 to DI. She started her coaching career at Benedictine a D3 school in Illinois before moving to D2 Lewis University for two seasons before heading to Illinois State.

Gillespie played for legendary coach Kay Yow at NC State from 1996-99, and spent time on the staff as a grad assistant and a full assistant for a pair of season.

Aaron Johnston—South Dakota State: Age 48

One of the names that may be the most familiar to casual women’s basketball fan is Aaron Johnston of South Dakota State. Johnston is in his 23rd season at SDSU and is a Pine Island, MN native and Gustavus Adolphus graduate. Johnston’s name has come up previously when the Gopher job has come open after both Marlene Stollings and Lindsay Whalen were hired. Johnston has been one of the most successful mid-major coaches in the country and has guided SDSU to 15 postseason appearances, including 10 NCAA Tournament berths, since the program made the jump to Division I in 2004-05. The six-time Summit League Coach of the Year (2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022) has guided the Jackrabbits to a winning record in all 22 years at South Dakota State, and has led SDSU to 19 20-plus win seasons, including 15 of the last 16 years.

Johnston’s name has been a favorite of the Twin Cities media elite, and once again his name made it to the forefront once Whalen stepped down.

His lead assistant is Carissa Thielbar who is the wife of Minnesota Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar.

South Dakota State had another excellent season in 2022-23 going 28-5 and easily sweeping the Summit League Tournament Championships. They are projected as a #12 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year after winning the WNIT.

Johnston is said to really love the Brookings community and may not want to move onto Minnesota even if he was to be offered the job. But he is definitely one of the favorites of many in the fan base.

Carolyn Kieger—Penn State: Age: 39

Kieger just finished her fourth season at Penn State and will go down as the final coach to defeat Lindsay Whalen doing so in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Roseville, Minnesota native is trying to revitalize a Pen State program that had hit bottom. She has slowly raised the Nittany Lions win totals all four years in Happy Valley going from seven in 2019-20 to 14 this past season.

Prior to Penn State Kieger was the head coach at Marquette for five seasons posting a posting a 99-64 overall record. She once again built the program up going from just nine wins in her first season to 27 and a Big East title her final year at Marquette. Prior to Marquette, Kieger spent six season as an assistant at Miami. Kieger was a four year starter as a point guard for Marquette from 2002-2006.

Robin Fralick—Bowling Green: Age 41

Fralick is in her fifth season at Bowling Green. She took a team that won just nine games her first season and coached them to a team that went 25-5 this past season finishing in second place in the MAC and will compete for a trip to the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

Prior to Bowling Green, Fralick was an offensive guru at D2 Ashland University. In her three seasons as head coach she led Ashland to a record of 104-3, for an incredible winning percentage of .972. The Eagles won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2016-17 before returning to the national championship game and earning a runner-up finish in ‘17-18. Ashland set the record for most points scored by any women’s college team at any division two years in a row with the 2017-18 team scoring 3,644 points to top her team from the previous season with 3,456. She was an assistant for the Eagles for seven years before getting the top job. She also has time as an assistant at Toledo, Western Michigan and Appalachian State. She played at Davidson from 2000-2004.

Carla Berube—Princeton: Age 47

Berube is in her fourth season at Princeton. She has owned the Ivy league since she took over going a perfect 28-0 over other Ivies in the two seasons that were played since he has been head coach, and is 12-2 and tied for the conference title with Columbia this season. Last year the Tigers as an #11 seed upset #6 Kentucky in the first round and then nearly took out #3 Indiana in the second round.

Prior to Princeton, Berube was the coach for 17 seasons at D3 Tufts where she led the Jumbos to a 384-96 record while reaching the NCAA Division III final twice, the Final Four four times and the Sweet 16 nine times, including each of the last eight. She was the National D3 Coach of the Year in 2015.

Berube played for Gino Auriemma at UCONN from 1994-1997.

Megan Griffith- Columbia: Age 38

Griffith has been the head coach at Columbia for the past seven seasons and since COVID has turned the Lions into an Ivy League power. She lead Columbia to their best season in school history a year ago going 25-7, taking second place in the Ivy League and going to the WNIT for the first time in program history. She was named the Women’s Coach of the Year by the Asian Coaches Association. In 2022-23 she tied with Princeton at 12-2 for the Ivy League regular season title and will try and punch the school’s first ticket to the NCAA Tournament with an Ivy League Tournament win.

Prior to taking the Columbia job she was an assistant for six seasons at Princeton and helped the Tigers to multiple NCAA Tournament berths. Griffith is a Columbia alum and played for the Lions from 2003-2007 and was a three-time captain and a two-time All-Ivy League player.

Jennie Baranczyk—Oklahoma: Age 41

Baranczyk is in her second season as the head coach at Oklahoma. In her first year as the coach of the Sooners she led one of the greatest turnarounds in the country, guiding the Sooners to a 25-9 record and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 13-win improvement from the season before Baranczyk’s arrival was the second-largest turnaround in program history. This season Oklahoma is 24-5 and tied with Texas for the Big 12 Regular Season title for the first time since 2009.

Prior to Oklahoma Baranczyk spent nine seasons as the head coach at Drake amassing a 192-96 (.667) record and leading the Bulldogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons (2014-15 through 2019-20) and three NCAA tournament berths (2017-19). She was a two time MVC Coach of the Year.

Before becoming a head coach Baranczyk was an assistant at Kansas State, Marquette, and Colorado. She played at Iowa from 2000-2004 and was a three-time All-Big Ten Conference selection, earning first-team honors as a junior (2003) and second-team recognition as a sophomore (2002) and senior (2004).

Jim Flanery—Creighton: Age 58

The oldest coach on the list, Flannery has been the head coach at Creighton for 21 seasons. He had led the Blue Jays to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2022, with last seasons run to the Elite 8 memorable for defeating both Iowa and Iowa State on their home courts. The Bluejays have reached 20-wins or more 10 times and been to the postseason 16 times, including a stretch of 11 consecutive years from 2008-2018 and won the 2004 WNIT.

Flanery is a Creighton lifer having spend 12 seasons as an assistant with the Blue Jays before becoming head coach and is a Creighton grad who played for the men’s team from 1985-1987. Mark Coyle would need to make one heck of a persuasive argument to get him to move from Omaha to Minneapolis at this point.

Current Power 5 Division I Assistants:

Karen Blair- Maryland: Age 47

Blair has been an assistant to Brenda Frese at Maryland since 2018. She was named the 2020 Division I Assistant Coach of the Year by the WBCA and was promoted to Associate Head Coach after that season. She is the lead recruiter for Maryland, and the Terps have made it to the NCAA Tournament in all five of her seasons on College Park.

Previously to Maryland, Blair was an assistant coach at VCU, North Texas, UT-Arlington where she finished one season as the interim head coach, Colgate, and SMU. She played for SMU from 1995-1999.

Fred Chmiel- South Carolina: Age 51

Chmiel has spent the last eight seasons as an assistant coach for South Carolina working for icon Dawn Staley. He helped USC win the NCAA Championship last season and in 2017 and is the lead recruiter for the Gamecocks helping bring in the nation’s top recruiting class in 2019 and 2021. He has worked primarily with the front court for South Carolina helping mold both A’Ja Wilson and Ailyah Boston into national Players of the Year.

Prior to South Carolina, Chmril spend one season with the Gophers under Marlene Stollings. He was an assistant at the U for the 2014-15 season where he served as the Golden Gophers’ defensive coordinator while also working with the guards. Chmiel helped the Gophers rank eighth in the nation in assists per game and 26th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. He also lent his WNBA experience to center Amanda Zahui B. as she prepared for her future in the league, beginning with being the No. 2 pick in the draft.

Prior to Minnesota Chmiel was an assistant coach at Penn State, San Diego State and Temple as well as two seasons in women’s pro basketball. Chmiel is an Alaska native and played two seasons at a Community College in California and two at Alaska-Fairbanks.

Erin Batth- Michigan: Age 44

Baath has spent the past season as an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator for Michigan helping them to a 22-9 record and an eventual NCAA berth this season. Prior to her stop in Ann Arbor, Batth spent four seasons as an assistant at NC State working with the post players. She helped the Wolfpack to three straight ACC Tournament titles for the first time in program history. In her four seasons, NC State compiled a 110-17 record, finished in the top 10 each season and reached three Sweet 16s, along with the 2022 Elite Eight. She worked with the post players, highlighted by working alongside ACC Tournament MVP and All-American center Elissa Cunane.

Prior to NC State Batth was an assistant at Georgia State, Tennessee Tech, VCU, and Towson, Director of Operations at Virginia, and an assistant to the General manager in the WNBA. Baath played at Clemson from 1997-2001 before playing professionally in Europe for a few seasons.

Calamity McEntire- Illinois: Age 42

McEntire spent the last season as the Associate Head Coach at Illinojs helping the Illini to a 22-9 record, a massive improvement from 7-20 the previous season. She has moved around a bit with he lone season at Texas as an assistant coming in 2021-22 where she helped the Longhorns to a 29-7 record and claimed the Big 12 Tournament Championship en route to an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight.

Prior to Texas, McEntire spent four seasons as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Dayton. Her time with the Flyers featured three Atlantic 10 regular-season championships (2018, 2020, 2021) and one conference tournament crown (2020). She was central to the staff’s efforts that resulted in the Flyers’ signing some of the top classes in program history, including the 2020 class that ranked in the top-25 nationally. Dayton’s 2018, 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes all ranked No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Prior to Dayton, McEntire was an assistant at Hawaii, Arizona, Boise State, UC Santa Barbara. and Fresno State. She was a team manager for two seasons at Tennessee learning from Hall of Famer Pat Summit before graduating from Tennessee in 2003.

We should find out in the next two weeks if it will be someone from this list, or another candidate who Mark Coyle decides is the best person to take over the Gophers job. When that person is named, we will have full coverage here on TDG.