Gophers coaching staff assembled

From left to right; Womens basketball assistant coach and defensive coordinator Fred Chmiel, assistant coach John Motherwell, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Niki Dawkins, in their offices on June 27, 2014.

From left to right; Women’s basketball assistant coach and defensive coordinator Fred Chmiel, assistant coach John Motherwell, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Niki Dawkins, in their offices on June 27, 2014.

by Jack Satzinger

After Marlene Stollings was hired in April to replace Pam Borton as head women’s basketball coach, she worked quickly to assemble a coaching staff.

The resulting combination of Niki Dawkins, John Motherwell and Fred Chmiel offers Stollings a diverse group of assistants who possess a variety of strengths.

“What I looked to do initially with the staff in some ways is putting together a puzzle,” Stollings said. “One of my biggest priorities is to solidify any weaknesses that any one member of the staff has with bringing in someone who has a strength in that area.”

Niki Dawkins, the recruiting coordinator

It’s difficult to find time to speak with Dawkins because she’s often on her phone talking to recruits.

But when sitting across the table from Dawkins, the playful attitude she uses to woo players over the phone is evident. When asked about what types of players she looks for, Dawkins pulled out a flier created when she was at Virginia Commonwealth University with Stollings.

“Considered one of the finest scorers to ever play in the basketball rich state of Ohio, VCU Head Coach Marlene Stollings still holds the state’s high school scoring record (both boys and girls) with 3,514 points, 857 more than LeBron James,” reads the flier, which has pictures of Stollings and James side by side.

Since she was such a prolific scorer, Stollings likes coaching players that share the same quality, so Dawkins recruits to fit that preference.

“She clearly likes offense,” Dawkins said. “If you’re a person that likes offense, you’d like to play here because we’ll shoot a lot of threes and score a lot of layups.”

After serving as an assistant coach at Michigan and Ohio State, Dawkins followed Stollings from VCU to Minnesota to get back to the Big Ten.

“Winning, Big Ten, great city, Coach [Stollings] — I mean, it’s a no brainer, and that’s why I’m here,” Dawkins said.

Fred Chmiel, the defensive coordinator

Chmiel has Big Ten ties just like Dawkins and Motherwell. He left a successful Penn State program to join Stollings at Minnesota, where he’s focused on both developing the team’s guards and improving its defense.

Stollings said Chmiel has a great X’s-and-O’s mind. He’s already working to push Gophers star Rachel Banham to the next level.

She was the team’s leading scorer last season, but Chmiel said she’s started stepping up her defensive game in summer workouts.

“We want her to do [that] all the time,” Chmiel said, laughing. “She’s capable.”

Before Penn State, Chmiel spent time as an assistant at San Diego State and Temple. He has also worked as a scout for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and Detroit Shock. Chmiel was an assistant for the Charlotte Sting and a head coach in the National Women’s Basketball League for the San Jose Spiders.

John Motherwell, the man with the connections

While Dawkins will have a heavy hand in recruiting, so will Motherwell, who has established relationships with high school coaches in the region.

“I’m a known commodity around here,” Motherwell said. “At least from the get-go, that’s huge, and it’s not just Minnesota. I’m probably equally well-known in Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and even Michigan and Ohio.”

Motherwell graduated from Michigan and has gone on to coach at North Dakota, Milwaukee, Minnesota State-Moorhead, Concordia-St. Paul and the College of St. Scholastica.

Before that, he was a high school coach in Michigan.

Having spent a good chunk of his life in Minnesota, Motherwell became an avid follower of the Gophers women’s program, and he said he’s excited to work with players he cheered for last season.

“I’m probably the one person who came in here as a Gopher fan,” Motherwell said.