Women's watch: Whalen's double-duty as coach, player intriguing but is it feasible?
So far, the University of Minnesota gets the win for most interesting basketball coaching move in the country this off-season. And there have been some good ones.
The women's basketball program landed one of the biggest names in the game in the state of Minnesota. Former University of Minnesota star Lindsay Whalen, now a champion point guard for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, will be taking over at her alma mater.
I like the idea of Whalen as a head coach. She will probably be very good. Point guards usually make good coaches, and she seems to have a good teaching and leadership persona. She'll probably be a good fit from a recruiting standpoint, too, a name brand in the state who should be able to keep many of its best high school players at home.
But, I question the practicality of the move. At least at this moment.
Whalen can give a part-time commitment at this point. Could Minnesota, a desirable Big Ten destination, not find anyone else who could be a home-run hire and be all-in at the same time?
Summer is the busiest recruiting time in college basketball. And Whalen, who has never been a head coach at the Division I level, already has all kinds of things on her to-do list. It's going to take her some time to set up shop there before summer recruiting begins. And Whalen, like any new head coach, will be swamped.
The thing is, Whalen already will be a little sidetracked this summer. OK, maybe a lot sidetracked.
Whalen will still be playing point guard for the defending champion Lynx.
At age 35, Whalen still wants to play. Great for the Lynx -- not so great for the Gophers.
To my knowledge, Whalen will be just the second person to coach a Division I basketball team while also playing professionally at the same time.
Dawn Staley, a former WNBA great who got the Temple coaching job while she was still playing in the league, was the first. While Staley proved it could be done, it will require much juggling and delegating on Whalen's part.
On one hand, Whalen's continued involvement in the WNBA could be a major selling point, intriguing and unique. On the other, it could be a major liability, pending her attentiveness to the new job.
Having covered women's basketball for decades, I know there are hundreds of coaches out there who are deserving of jobs like the one at Minnesota. And they are ready, willing and able to jump all-in.
It's a shame they got passed over.
Yet, Whalen clearly has that "it factor" that many of them probably don't have.
Minnesota's choice certainly makes for interesting fodder. We'll have to watch over the coming months to see how this all shakes out for Whalen and the Gophers. It should make Big Ten women's basketball an interesting story next winter.
Star power at Virginia:
Another interesting coaching move this spring involves another WNBA great.
Tina Thompson was recently named the new head coach at Virginia. When Thompson retired from the WNBA in 2013 after 17 seasons, she was the league's all-time leading scorer. Thompson joins Virginia after being an assistant coach at Texas for three years.
New volleyball tour:
According to espnW, five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings has announced plans for a new beach volleyball circuit that will bring a sports and music festival to eight cities.
The p1440 series will open in September in San Jose, California, and over the next four months will visit Las Vegas, San Diego and Huntington Beach, California. Four stops in early 2019 are planned, including Chicago.
Tour stops will also include a wellness festival, where fans can watch the matches, and also work out, do yoga and meditation, eat and listen to live music.
The name p1440 comes from Walsh Jennings' desire to live all 1,440 minutes in each day with purpose.
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