Lindsay Whalen noted a big difference between participating in practice and coaching it: It’s nice to not have to run the sprints.

That drew a few laughs. The new Gophers women’s basketball coach appears to be settling in nicely. At the team’s first official fall practice Monday, media members got a glimpse into the program’s new era and the chance to witness Whalen fully entrenched in her new role.

Whalen is comfortable being called “Coach” around campus, and she isn’t tempted in the slightest to jump into drills. The former Lynx star’s playing days are officially in her rearview mirror.

But that doesn’t mean the coaching staff isn’t willing to demonstrate when needed. Sophomore wing Destiny Pitts said the coaches “bring it,” and the players have followed suit.

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Senior guard Kenisha Bell said practices are “very intense” and “really competitive.” Bell and her teammates found out last spring that Whalen would be the program’s new coach, and the early experience hasn’t disappointed. Players described Whalen as “a players’ coach.” Bell said the energy in practice is “very positive.”

“It’s been fun in practice every day,” Bell said. “She brings a lot of drills to us that we’ve never done and it’s all fun. She reminds us every day to continue to have fun while we’re playing, because this is why we’re here and we’ve got to make it fun to be better as players as well.”

Whalen was around for some of the summer workouts but had to miss a few things — including the team’s trip to Italy — as she finished her final season with the Lynx.

“It was kind of hard, because she was still in season and she had to miss some practices and she didn’t really want to do that,” Bell said. “We kind of adjusted to that, too, and she did. She wanted to be here every chance she got, and since she was putting in that effort and we noticed it, we respected her for what she was doing for us.”

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Whalen admitted she had to “catch her breath” after a summer of pulling double duty.

“It was good, but it was a lot,” the former Gophers star said. “I took like a week (after the Lynx season), then got to it. It’s a little bit of both. But now that I’m here, it’s great. I’m here with everybody every day, so that’s a lot of fun.”

Now Whalen is on campus full time. She is at every practice, and Pitts said Whalen’s office is open for players to come in and watch film or anything else. Pitts said Whalen now appears to be “way more comfortable” in her position.

Still, Whalen is the first to admit she’s learning on the fly. She considered dialing up a rebounding drill after her team gave up a few offensive rebounds early in practice, then decided against it. This is her show now, and she’s figuring out how to write the script.

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“Being the coach and making the decision is just a little different,” Whalen said, “but I’m getting there.”

She has an experienced staff to help. Often, Whalen will point out one of her team’s deficiencies, then her assistants will pull up potential drills to help remedy the problem.

“I’m still getting the teaching part … down,” Whalen said. “That’s why it’s great we have all of us. We complement each other in terms of being able to teach and instruct.”

But as time moves on, Whalen continues to learn, adjust and adapt, just as she did in her playing days.

“I’ve been able to find a little more of what works,” she said, “to get people in the right spot.” 

This article is written by Jace Frederick from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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