Lindsay Whalen Day

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared today to be Lindsay Whalen Day in Minnesota, a fitting tribute to one of the state’s most popular athletes, male or female.

Whalen announced her retirement from playing basketball last week, but she will continue to contribute to the state as coach of the University of Minnesota Gophers, the team she led to its one and only NCAA Final Four appearance in 2004.

Whalen’s personal accomplishments are mind-boggling, to be sure. She led Hutchinson to three conference titles in high school. She and Janel McCarville helped build the Gopher women’s program from the nothing to a Final Four appearance, filling Williams Arena and dragging women’s basketball from the inside of the sports section to the front page. As a member of the Minnesota Lynx, she helped win four WNBA titles in seven years, and will retire as the player involved in the most wins in league history.

But Whalen’s greatest accomplishment may be the respect and interest she gained for women’s athletics across the state. She made the guys sit up and take notice with her skilled, hard-nosed play. She has inspired thousands of girls to hit the gym, practice the game and strive to play like Lindsay. As a result, the level of play has grown with the number of players in girls basketball across the state.

Today is her last regular season game as a member of the Lynx. The WNBA playoffs lie ahead, and then, back to her beloved U of M. We wish her nothing but victories ahead, and thank her for her contributions to the state.