West Virginia’s Plitzuweit emerges as the top candidate for Gophers basketball job

West Virginia coach Dawn Plitzuweit has emerged as the leading candidate for the Gophers women's basketball coaching job, according to sources familiar with the search, and an announcement on Minnesota's decision could come as soon as Saturday.

It would be a return to the Midwest for Plitzuweit, 50, a native of West Bend, Wis., who had a successful run at South Dakota, coaching the Coyotes to the NCAA's Sweet 16 a year ago.

After that run, Plitzuweit signed a five-year, $3 million deal with West Virginia, whose 2022-23 season ended Friday, with the 10th-ranked Mountaineers losing to seventh-seeded Arizona in the NCAA tournament.

Plitzuweit (pronounced PLITTS-zoo-white) had a 158-36 record in six seasons at South Dakota, including an 83-10 record in Summit League play. The Coyotes won 28 or more games in four of her six seasons there. Prior to that, she coached at Northern Kentucky for four years, compiling a 71-54 record. Before that she was associate head coach at Michigan for five seasons.

Her first job as a head coach came at Grand Valley State, where she went 117-39 and won an NCAA Division II title in 2006.

After taking over from longtime coach Mike Carey, Plitzuweit guided the Mountaineers to a 19-12 overall record, including a tie for fourth place in the Big 12 at 10-8.

And she has strong ties to the Minnesota high school and AAU scene. Her 2021-22 South Dakota team that reached the Sweet 16 included five Minnesotans, including center Hannah Sjerven — who was drafted by the Lynx — and Liv Korngable.

The next Gophers coach should inherit some talent. Three of the four members of former coach Lindsay Whalen's highly mregarded, all-Minnesota 2022 recruiting class — Mara Braun (Wayzata), Nia Holloway (Eden Prairie) and Mallory Heyer (Chaska) — have said they are returning. There is reason to believe the fourth member of that class, Hopkins' Amaya Battle, will return as well.

On Thursday, center Rose Micheaux, who had a strong sophomore season, announced her decision to enter the NCAA transfer portal. Sophie Hart, a 6-5 former Farmington star who transferred to the Gophers from North Carolina State during the season, has not yet announced her plans. Neither have redshirt freshman Katie Borowicz or sophomore Maggie Czinano.

But the cupboard won't be bare for the coach the Gophers ultimately hire. Minnesota got 47.3% of its scoring from freshmen last season, the most in Division I, on a team that went 11-19 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten.

It would be an abrupt change for Plitzuweit should she emerge as the new coach after having spent just one season at West Virginia. The Mountaineers hired her on March 31, 2022. She and her husband, Jay, have a son, A.J., who plays basketball at South Dakota, and a daughter, Lexi, who plays basketball at Grand Valley State.