I know what you’re thinking. My columns are basically me just showering praise on the players that I love. That is not a completely incorrect statement. I’m passionate about my favorite players, and I am not afraid to show it.
When I first began following the WNBA, I would routinely go on YouTube binges of games from seasons past. One night, I came across a game from the previous season where the Minnesota Lynx came back from a twenty-something deficit. I had never seen a team claw their way back like that with sheer grit and determination. At the core of this team was a tenacious veteran point guard named Lindsay Whalen.
After watching that old game, I immediately became a Minnesota Lynx fan. I was in awe of their teamwork and sheer will to win. I was also in awe of Whalen. She was the heart of that team. She wasn’t the point-scoring star like Maya Moore or the defensive powerhouse like Rebekkah Brunson or Sylvia Fowles, but she led that team like no other.
She was the coach on the floor and constantly gave pep talks and constructive criticism to her teammates.
One of my favorite things about Whalen was the way she would glare down opponents who dared to get in her way or foul her. Her death stare could rip even the toughest player’s heart out. She was passionate, and it was evident. I loved seeing her get fired up and angry. This always inevitably led to her muscling her way in for a layup. She was unafraid to get physical and to wear her passion on her sleeve.
When it was announced earlier this year that Whalen was named the new head coach of women’s basketball at the University of Minnesota, I knew 2018 would be her last season with the Lynx. She had spent the last 15 years playing in the WNBA, including the last eight playing for the Lynx. Whalen is loved by pretty much any Minnesotan because she is the hometown athlete who went to school in-state and then went on to play professionally. She came back home to Minnesota when she was acquired by the Lynx, and now she is going back to coach at her alma mater. I was sad to see Whalen leave my team but happy for her to get the opportunity to coach at a school she loved.
Once Whalen took the reins of the team, there was much speculation of how she would be as a coach. When she was hired in April, she had no official prior coaching experience. However, her four WNBA championship titles and two Olympic gold medals seemed to speak for themselves. Here was a winner who led her team to greatness.
Whalen’s regular season coaching debut drew more than 14,000 fans to Williams Arena. The Gophers defeated New Hampshire 70-47 and for the first time since 2015 earned a Top 25 ranking.
Whalen has promised to take the Gophers to the Final Four once again, a feat only accomplished in 2004 when she was a senior on the squad.
It is still way too early in the season to predict how far Minnesota can go, but with Whalen at the helm, it will only be a few years before the Gophers become a high-caliber team.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.