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Written By Mitchell Hansen (ZoneCoverage.com)
The past year-plus has been a whirlwind for Lindsay Whalen, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It all started back in April of 2018, when she was announced as the head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s basketball program while still competing in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx.
That news obviously caught the attention of many throughout the state of Minnesota as well as the nation, with Whalen returning to coach her alma mater she helped build up in her time as a Golden Gopher from 2000-04.
A few months later, in August, Whalen later announced she would be retiring from the WNBA and the Lynx after putting together a storied 15-year career mostly with her hometown team.
Attention and buzz surrounding Whalen taking on the next step in her career haven’t really stopped since, something that has been somewhat overwhelming for the Hutchinson native, but also something she’s grateful to be able to experience.
“I think I need a nap right now more than anything,” Whalen joked on Saturday. “It’s been great, it’s been really nice. … I’ve spoken a lot and it’s been a crazy year. It’s been fun, but it’s also been a lot.”
On Saturday afternoon, the attention for Whalen continued once more, as her No. 13 Lynx jersey was retired and forever raised into the Target Center rafters next to Minnesota’s four WNBA championship banners.
— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) June 8, 2019
Whalen is the first player to have her number retired by the franchise, joining other honors consisting of her number already being retired at the University of Minnesota and her high school gym at Hutchinson being renamed as the “Whalen Gymnasium” following her playing career.
“It’s great. It’s right next to the 2017 Championship, when we beat LA at Williams (Arena). That’s my favorite championship, probably out of all four, because it was last and the hardest. It’s great,” Whalen said. “And to be up there with Malik Sealy and Flip (Saunders), who I grew up watching. It’s pretty cool.”
“A Great Ride”
During a nine-minute tribute video that was displayed on the scoreboard at Target Center, Whalen, her family, former teammates and Lynx fans in the packed arena got a chance to celebrate and look back at the point guard’s basketball journey.
With appearances by former teammates, coaches and family members who expressed their thanks to Whalen for her contributions to basketball in the state, many in the arena fought back emotions while watching the powerful tribute.
"Look up the definition of 'Warrior', and that was Lindsay through and through." pic.twitter.com/GjpzTqtbGH
— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 8, 2019
As the video played, Whalen had the chance to reflect on her basketball career and being able to spend the majority of it right here in the state of Minnesota, achieving endless accomplishments throughout the way.
“(Lynx owner) Glen (Taylor) bought the team around 20-some years ago, who would’ve thought that this would happen 20-some years later?” Whalen said. “You need an opportunity first. He brought the team here, gave all the players the opportunity and then it’s up to the players to work hard and do what they need to do to have the chance like I have to have my jersey retired. I needed an opportunity first. It wouldn’t have happened if he wouldn’t have bought the team and believed in women’s basketball and in the WNBA.
“It’s all about the opportunity and what you do with it, so I’m thankful that I worked hard and did all that, but just overall, I’m thankful that it worked out for me to play here.”
Even though the past year has been one filled with endless attention, emotions and reflection for Whalen, she is grateful to have experienced it all in her home state while now continuing to add to her basketball story as a coach.
“It was a lot of fun. I always tried to represent on the court as a player as much as I could and do my best,” Whalen said. “It’s great today to see (the fans) here and supporting as always and it was a lot of fun.
“Thanks for a great ride.”