Whalen takes charge, wants role in selecting next coach

By Ray Richardson

Knight Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- As emotions inflamed by Brenda Oldfield's move from Minnesota to Maryland level off, Gophers All-America point guard Lindsay Whalen has taken to leading the team off the court as well.

The sophomore from Hutchinson, Minn., believes it's time for her to become more vocal in decisions affecting the program's future. Minnesota doesn't have a coach, and Oldfield's four assistants have no official duties as they await word on whether they'll join Oldfield at Maryland.

Minnesota women's athletics director Chris Voelz is in charge, but Voelz's future is uncertain because her one-year contract expires June 30.


If the program had an interim "coach," it would be Whalen.

"I want to become more of a leader on our team; I feel I've earned that right," said Whalen, the Big Ten Conference player of the year. "I want to be more involved in the search process this time for a coach. Last year, I wasn't involved much. I was just coming off my freshman year and I didn't think I had much of a say.' "

Whalen and her teammates want to make sure they don't become another springboard for the next coach. The players gathered at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Sports Pavilion for a meeting with Voelz that lasted about 40 minutes. Voelz told the players she would seek their input in the search process.

Whalen already has taken steps to help keep the program intact. She made calls Tuesday night to two of the Gophers' three recruits -- all-state guard Shannon Schonrock of Blue Earth Area High School and Marshall's Shannon Bolden, the 2002 Miss Minnesota Basketball. Whalen spoke with Schonrock and left a voice-mail message for Bolden. Whalen also hopes to contact Eden Prairie center Christina Collison.

"Shannon (Bolden) was impressed with Whalen's message," said Lionel Bolden, Shannon's father. "She was at a track meet and heard the message when she got home. Whalen told her that the team is sticking together. That made Shannon feel a lot better about the situation."

Whalen and Oldfield developed a close relationship. Oldfield often left certain game strategies to Whalen, and said several times during the season that she had great trust in Whalen to run the team on the floor. With two years remaining at Minnesota, Whalen was looking forward to learning more from Oldfield, which might explain why Whalen has been so vocal about her disappointment.

When Oldfield cried at Tuesday's emotional meeting with the players, Whalen said she looked around and saw everyone in tears but herself. She was too upset to cry.

"I just sat there and looked at the floor," Whalen said. "The only time I've ever cried about basketball was when we lost to North Carolina (in the NCAA tournament), and that was because I was mad that the season was over."

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