Women’s hoops coach known as team-builder

David La Vaque

Lindsay Lieser was pumped. The junior guard for the University women’s basketball team already knew what was coming, but still brought her own camera to last Friday’s press conference to mark the moment.

A member of the advisory committee which helped select a coach to replace Cheryl Littlejohn, Lieser knew Thursday night exactly who would be introduced.

Yet there was Lieser, applauding and smiling along with teammates as Brenda Oldfield made her way into the Sports Pavilion.

Oldfield, 31, coached at Ball State for two seasons and has become the sixth coach in the 28-year history of Minnesota’s women’s
basketball program.

“I feel this is my strength,” Oldfield said. “I love rebuilding programs, I love bringing in new energy.”

Oldfield agreed to a five-year contract paying her $130,000 annually, along with a $10,000 media supplement. A pair of two-year extensions were included to compensate for possible NCAA sanctions and “adequate performance” beyond win numbers.

The contract is loaded with incentives, including top placings in the conference, academic performance, increased season ticket numbers and strength of recruiting classes.

Oldfield replaces Littlejohn, who was fired by the University on May 14 after investigators found 12 violations of NCAA rules.

“Some names just kept coming up over and over again in the search process,” women’s athletic director Chris Voelz said. “This woman sitting next to me was one of those names.

“She will make a difference because she is well meaning, forthright and knows what it means to be part of a team. She’s eager, energetic and enthusiastic about rebuilding the program.”

The Gophers went 29-81 in four years under Littlejohn, including a 7-57 record in the Big Ten.

“I’ll be honest with you, winning doesn’t happen overnight,” Oldfield said. “But the connection we all have is that we all chose Minnesota for the very same reason. We all have a belief in the vision of what we can create here.”

Oldfield, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, comes to Minnesota with a reputation as the cure for ailing programs. In her first season at Ball State, Oldfield coaxed a 16-13 record out of a program with one winning season in its last nine.

Her first victory with the Cardinals came Nov. 20 at Minnesota.

For her efforts, Oldfield was named the 2000 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year.

Last season, Oldfield led Ball State to a
19-9 record, the best finish in the history of the program.

Besides her penchant for winning, Oldfield’s mere presence in the Sports Pavilion, nearly five months before the season begins, proved invigorating enough for players like Lieser.

“After our first meeting with her, we walked out and said, ‘This is the first time we actually are smiling after a coaches meeting,'” Lieser said. “The past few years have been difficult, but (Oldfield) brings in excitement and a whole new attitude.”

Oldfield also hopes to shore up Minnesota’s recent problems with in-state recruiting.

Prior to Ball State, Oldfield spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Iowa State. As the Cyclones recruiting coordinator, Oldfield helped the program to four consecutive winning seasons and three-straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Among her recruits at Iowa State was Megan Taylor of Roseau, the all-time leading scorer in Minnesota prep history.

“You’ve got to start building bridges with high school coaches, AAU coaches and prospective recruits,” Oldfield said. “They have to realize the connection they have with the program here at Minnesota.”

Oldfield said she plans to have a lengthy connection with the program as well.

“This is my dream-come-true job,” Oldfield said. “I want to end my coaching career here.”

 

David La Vaque is the sports editor
and welcomes comments at [email protected]