Potential names to replace Lindsay Whalen as Gophers HC

–> Lindsay Whalen reportedly stepped down as head coach of the Gophers women’s basketball program Thursday afternoon. I thought there is no better time than the present to look at some potential names to replace Whalen as head coach.

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Aaron Johntson (S. Dakota St. HC)

  • South Dakota State head coach (since 2000)
  • Age: 48 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • South Dakota State asst. (1999-2000)
    • South Dakota State GA (1997-1999)
    • NDSCS (JUCO) asst (1996-1997)

Johnston will likely be the hottest name to replace Whalen. Born in Pine Island, Minnesota he attended Gustavus Adolphus College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. After only seven years as an assistant coach, he has turned SDSU into one of the most consistent mid-major programs in women’s college basketball. He has gone to 10 NCAA Tournaments in the 17 years since the Jackrabbits made the transition to DI, each of those coming in the last 14 since they’ve entered the Summit League. He has won 4 NCAA Tournament games, made one Sweet 16 (18-19), and won the WNIT Championship last season.

Johnston would be a home-run hire in every sense of the term. He nearly left Brookings for Green Bay in 2007, but he has been loyal to the Jackrabbits for nearly 24 years. Prying a coach away from a program he’s been at for nearly a quarter century will never be easy. Johnston would be the first man to coach the women’s basketball program in the school’s history if Mark Coyle does pull the trigger.

Kelly Rae-Finley (Florida HC)

  • Florida head coach (since 2021)
  • Age: 37 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • 2008–2009 Harvard (volunteer assistant)
    • 2009–2012 Harvard (assistant)
    • 2012–2016 Colorado (assistant)
    • 2016–2017 Arizona (assistant)
    • 2017–2021 Florida (assistant)

Kelly Rae-Finely would fall under as another home run hire for the Gophers. Born in Edina, Minnesota, she starred at Breck High School where she played basketball under her father, Ray Finley, and led the team to the Minnesota Class 2A State Championship as a senior in 2004. She played for Northwestern and Colorado State before transitioning into coaching. Currently, in her second year as head coach with the Gators, she has compiled a 37-24 record. The biggest hurdle for this hire would be finances. Finley is one year into a five-year contract worth $740,000 annually, much more than Whalen is making ($547,000). And if Finley bolts Florida, she owes the school $1 million — $250,000 for each year remaining on the deal.

Megan Duffy (Marquette HC)

  • Marquette head coach (since 2019)
  • Age: 38 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • 2009–2012 St. John’s (assistant)
    • 2012–2014 George Washington (assoc. HC)
    • 2014–2017 Michigan (assistant)
    • (HC) 2017–2019 Miami (Ohio)

After a four-year college career at Notre Dame, Megan Duffy was drafted 31st overall by the Minnesota Lynx in 2006. After two years in the Twin Cities, she transitioned into coaching in 2009. Quickly climbing the ranks, Duffy became the head coach at Miami (OH) where she was 44–20 across two seasons, with two WNIT appearances. In her three previous seasons with Marquette, she has compiled a 64-23 record (.736), highlighted by one NCAA Tournament appearance. This year she has the Golden Eagles at 20-9 fighting on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Carly Thibault-DuDonis (Fairfield HC)

  • Fairfield head coach (since 2022)
  • Age: ~32 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • Florida State asst. (2013-14)
    • Eastern Michigan asst (2014-16)
    • Mississippi State asst. (2016-2018)
    • Minnesota asst. (2019-2022)

Thibault-DuDonis has only one year of head coach experience. She currently has Fairfield at 15-13 and the Stags are in fifth place in the MAAC. Most recently as an assistant coach with the Gophers for three seasons, she has gained a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country. She was instrumental in bringing in Minnesota’s impressive 2023 class headlined by Mara Braun, Amaya Battle, Mallory Heyer and Nia Holloway. Carly’s father Mike Thibault is currently the head coach of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Depending on how Thibault-DuDonis liked her time in Dinkytown and how much the program will prioritize keeping their current core together, Carly Thibault-DuDonis makes sense.

Karen Blair (Maryland Associate HC)

  • Maryland Associate HC (since 2018)
  • Age: ~43 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • SMU asst. (10 yrs)
    • Colgate asst. (2009-11)
    • UT Arlington Associate HC/interim HC (2011-13)
    • North Texas asst. (2014-16)
    • VCU asst. (2015-2018)

Blair was named one of the Most Impactful Assistant Coaches in Women’s Basketball by Silver Waves Media in 2022 and the National Assistant Coach of the year before the season ended in 2020. She does not have direct head coaching experience, but she has become one of the most well-respected assistants in the country alongside former Gophers head coach Brenda Freese. Based on the Gophers’ current track record of hiring head basketball coaches with no previous experience, I would not expect her to be an incredibly likely candidate, but a simple recommendation from Freese could go a long way.

Janel McCarville (Stevens Point High School asst.)

  • Stevens Point High School asst. (since 2022)
  • Age: 40 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • Alviks BasketKlubb HC (2021-22)

Any fan of Gophers women’s basketball knows Janel McCarville. After an impressive college career alongside Lindsay Whalen, she was drafted No. 1 overall by the Charlotte Sting in 2005. After her storied playing career in the WNBA, she made her name for herself in Europe, ending with Alviks BasketKlubb in 2018. She transitioned into a coaching role with the program shortly after. She has since returned home to Stevens Point High School where she is currently an assistant coach. I would be very surprised if Mark Coyle goes the route of a former player with very little experience again, but it’s worth a mention.

Tammi Reiss (Rhode Island HC)

  • Rhode Island head coach (since 2019)
  • Age: ~52 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • 1993–1996 Virginia (assistant)
    • 2001–2002 Utah Starzz
    • 2003 San Antonio Stars
    • 2011–2013 San Diego State (assistant)
    • 2013–2015 Cal State Fullerton (AHC)
    • 2015–2019 Syracuse (assistant)

Robyn Fralick (Bowling Green HC)

  • Bowling Green head coach (since 2018)
  • Age: ~40 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • 2004–2005 Appalachian State (asst.)
      2005–2007 Western Michigan (Dir. of Operations)
      2007–2008 Toledo (asst.)
      2008–2015 Ashland (asst.)
      2015–2018 Ashland

Meg Griffith (Columbia HC)

  • Columbia head coach (since 2016)
  • Age: ~48 yrs old
  • Previous stops:
    • Princeton asst. (2010-16)

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