Lindsay Whalen honored with jersey retirement

The Gophers’ women’s basketball head coach is the first player in Lynx history to have her jersey retired.

Coach Lindsay Whalen prepares to blow the whistle during Gopher womens basketballs annual exhibition versus the mens scout team on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 at Williams Arena.

Tony Saunders

Coach Lindsay Whalen prepares to blow the whistle during Gopher women’s basketball’s annual exhibition versus the men’s scout team on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 at Williams Arena.

by Nolan O'Hara

Lindsay Whalen was honored Saturday as the Minnesota Lynx retired her No. 13.

The Minnesota native spent nine seasons with the Lynx, helping lead them to four championships. Now the head coach of the Gophers’ women’s basketball team, Whalen’s jersey is the first in Lynx history to be retired.

“Her jersey is in the rafters because she is a winner,” Cheryl Reeve, the head coach and general manager of the Lynx, told reporters Saturday. “The all-time winningest player in the WNBA, just a class act on and off the court.”

Whalen was drafted fourth overall by the Connecticut Sun in 2004 after her successful collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. She left the University as the program’s all-time leading scorer. She currently sits at second in the all-time scoring rankings behind Rachel Banham, who surpassed Whalen during her time with the Gophers from 2011-16. In 2004, Whalen led the Gophers to their first ever Final Four appearance, and her No. 13 jersey was retired by the University a year later.

Whalen’s impact on the game of basketball goes beyond a successful career as a player. Annalese Lamke, a senior forward for the Gophers, mentioned the inspiration and example Whalen has been to both the team and the state of Minnesota.

“She worked hard, everything she did sets the perfect example of how you should go out and what you need to do to be successful,” Lamke said. “If you try to live the way Lindsay Whalen did and how hard she worked and how tough she was throughout the sport, I think it’s just an incredible example.”

Reeve also spoke to the impact Whalen has made on the game of basketball.

“I’ve had so many — this is my 10th season now — people that have said they’re following women’s basketball because of Lindsay Whalen,” she told reporters.

Reeve coached Whalen during Whalen’s time with the Lynx and was joined by another of Whalen’s former coaches, Geno Auriemma, in appearing in a tribute video during Saturday’s event. Auriemma is the head coach at the University of Connecticut and had the opportunity to coach Whalen for Team USA. Whalen spoke to their influence as coaches.

“Two best coaches in women’s basketball right there,” she told reporters. “I want to be that for my players.”

The University hired Whalen in April 2018 prior to final season in the WNBA. According to Lamke, it didn’t take much time for the team to find out she was the real deal.

“Our first shootaround we had to finish it with half-court shots,” Lamke said. “All of us kind of missed because it’s the first shootaround, no one really practices [half-court shots]. Lindsay just walks up to the half-court line and says, ‘Guys shootaround is for making half-court shots.’ First attempt, chucks it up there and drills one.”

In Whalen’s first season as coach, she led the Gophers to a 21-11 record to finish sixth in the Big Ten. The team will look to build upon their 9-9 record in conference play.

The Gophers will have nine nationally televised games in 2019, including home games against Iowa, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern and Penn State.