MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - There will be a lot of "firsts" this season for new University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit.
Monday marked her first appearance as the new head of the Gophers at Big Ten Media Days. Plitzuweit was hired March 18, following Lindsay Whalen’s departure after five seasons with the Gophers. Plitzuweit led West Virginia to the NCAA Tournament last season, and has been in the postseason in 15 of her 16 years as a head coach.
Before speaking to reporters Monday morning at Target Center, Plitzuweit was walking in the back area of the arena and spotted a sign that read, "Hard hats available upon request."
"I think that’s what our team is at this point in time," Plitzuweit said.
She enters her first season with 10 of her 14 players being either freshmen or sophomores. It’s a new year for everyone on the team, learning new systems under a new coaching staff. They’ll be led by four sophomores, Minnesota natives, who all stayed with the program after Whalen’s exit.
Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer and Amaya Battle all saw significant court time for the Gophers last season. Nia Holloway missed the season with a knee injury. Braun led Minnesota in scoring, is a Preseason All-Big Ten pick and spent the summer playing internationally in the 3-on-3 circuit for Team USA, bringing home gold.
The Gophers want that competitiveness to translate into this season.
"We talk a lot in our program about being highly-competitive and learning what that looks like. We use terms like find a way, and in playing 3-on-3 basketball at that pace, you don’t have a chance to stop competing," Plitzuweit said. "For us, learning how to have that short term memory and move onto the next play is something we spend a lot of time working on. It’s something she had to do in 3-on-3 basketball."
Talking about competing, learning how to compete and doing so over the course of a full season summed up much of Plitzuweit’s news conference. She led the Mountaineers to a 19-12 record last year, has 365 career coaching wins and holds the Summit League record with an .814 win percentage.
She’s a winner. All but one of her 16 seasons has ended with a winning record, has two 30-win seasons and nine 20-win seasons. She also wants her team to be versatile and tough.
"Ultimately that’s what we want to be known for. We want to be a team that is versatile in how we do things, and a team that also plays with a great deal of toughness," Plitzuweit said.