Gophers introduce Dawn Plitzuweit as new women’s basketball coach

It was more than a festive atmosphere on Monday as the University of Minnesota introduced Dawn Plitzuweit as the school’s new women’s basketball coach at a news conference at Athletes Village.

In front of family, friends, Gophers’ supporters and at least seven current players, Goldy the Gopher and cheerleaders, Mark Coyle and Plitzuweit took the stage on the court she'll soon lead practices on and talked about taking Minnesota to the next level. Plitzuweit just finished her first season as a head coach in Power 5 basketball, leading West Virginia to an NCAA Tournament and 19-12 finish.

Before that, she spent seven seasons at South Dakota and led the Coyotes to three straight NCAA Tournaments, including a sweet 16 appearance in 2022. The Wisconsin native is coming back close to home on a six-year contract.

"Today is not about me, today is about Minnesota women’s basketball. The most important people in this room are the young ladies sitting in front of us," Plitzuweit said.

She’s replacing Lindsay Whalen, who stepped down after five seasons, a 71-76 career record, 32-58 mark in the Big Ten and an 11-19 mark in 2022-23. One of Plitzuweit’s first messages on the podium was thanking Whalen.

"Thank you to Coach Whalen and to her staff for what they’ve done for Gopher women’s basketball. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lindsay as a player, as a coach and most importantly as a person," Plitzuweit said. "Lindsay is one of our own, and I look forward to honoring her and all of our alumni and coaches who have come before us, and who have laid the foundation upon which we want to build."

Coyle took a gamble on Whalen, who had no previous coaching experience. He changed routes this time, as Plitzuweit has 16 years under her belt as a head coach. She’s got an above .500 record in 15 seasons, won 158 games at South Dakota and was a three-time Summit League Coach of the Year.

Coyle oversaw basketball programs at Syracuse and Kentucky, and knows what winning looks like. That includes Syracuse going on a run to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

"It played a part. That’s addicting to get to that level, to have that opportunity. We felt it was important to find a coach who has won at a high level," Coyle said. "We feel really confident that we got the right coach, we’ve got the right young ladies here that our program can start to see some significant success."

A good coach can only go so far as having good players, and Plitzuweit won’t have an empty cupboard to work with in her first season in Dinkytown. In the days after Whalen stepped down, the highly-touted class of soon-to-be sophomores in Minnesota natives Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer and Nia Holloway all made public their intentions to return to the Gophers next season. That was before Plitzuweit was hired, and regardless of who the next coach would be.

"They’re incredible young ladies and I think what’s really special is that they have chosen to come to the U to represent themselves, their families, the program, the entire state of Minnesota. You can feel it when you’re around them. That makes this really special," Plitzuweit said.

Amaya Battle hasn’t made a public announcement, but was at Monday’s news conference, talked about the excitement for next season and made it all but official that she'll be back. The players met with Plitzuweit over the weekend, and will have their first practice with her on Tuesday.

"Right when we heard, super excited. Just the success that she’s had, her enthusiasm. When she came in on Saturday night, we were thrilled," Braun said. "She’s just got this energy, it matches our energy so we’re ready to get to work."

"She’s a winner, that’s super important. She’s very knowledgeable, has great energy already so I’m very excited," Heyer said.

Plitzuweit calls herself a process-driven person, and if you stick to that process, the results will speak for themselves. Her three pillars as a head coach are for a team to be driven on toughness, togetherness and finding a way.

She says a lot of that comes from growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, where she and her sister did a majority of the work.

"There are times you come home from school and you want to go hang out with your friends, do all those things. But you have to do the job at hand first. Find a way to get it done," Plitzuweit said.

She said all the right things Monday in winning the news conference, and has the track record to go with it. Now her challenge is for it to translate to the Big Ten.