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Lynx star Whalen will do double duty as Gophers coach

April 12, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (13) scores on a layup and is fouled by Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker, left, during the second half of Game 2 of the WNBA finals in Minneapolis. Whalen to returning to her alma mater as the University of Minnesota’s new women’s basketball coach, athletics director Mark Coyle announced Thursday, April 12, 2018. As Gophers coach, Whalen will continue to play for the Lynx. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP, File))

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gophers fans wondered if Lindsay Whalen might retire from the WNBA when the head coaching job suddenly opened up at the school where she remains a star.

Turns out Whalen had another idea: Why not do both?

Whalen was named Thursday to take over the program she led to the Final Four in 2004, replacing Marlene Stollings, who left this week for Texas Tech. But she’ll continue to play for the Minnesota Lynx, too.

Whalen called it a dream come true.

“I have so many special memories at the University of Minnesota. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have the opportunity to make more,” Whalen said in a statement.

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle said Whalen was an easy choice.

“People talk about the ‘it’ factor, and that is always difficult to define, but everyone who has ever spent time around Lindsay Whalen knows she has it,” Coyle said in a statement.

At 35 — she’ll be 36 in May — Whalen is near the end of her pro career. At least on paper, she can make the schedules work: The Lynx open May 20 and the season can’t go beyond mid-September.

The Gophers open fall practice in early October.

Whalen, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, announced in February that she was retiring from international competition after first joining the U.S. team in 2002.

The Hutchinson, Minnesota, native finished her career as Minnesota’s career points leader, along with being second in assists and third in steals. Whalen led the Gophers to their only Final Four in program history.

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