Marlene Stollings last week became the 11th women’s basketball coach in Gopher history and the sixth head coach for the longest running beat reporter of U of M women’s hoops — yours truly.
“Thank you for covering [us] for so long,” Stollings said before our one-on-one interview last Tuesday on the Williams Arena floor.
Asked about recruiting more Black players, Stollings said, “The best answer I can give you is I’m looking for people that can play and perform at a high level. We will recruit the best, whoever that might be. We will go after them.”
Asked if she will reach out more to local Black high school coaches, the new coach said, “I don’t mind you telling me if there is someone we have not connected with. I will work tirelessly to make those connections.”
Asked if she will have a diverse coaching staff, Stollings promised, “I’m going for the best available person for the job, regardless of gender or race.”
Coach Stollings said all the right things during her first press conference: “I am a firm believer that offense generates defense. This is such an exciting time for Gopher women basketball,” she declared.
“I am keeping an open mind to everything,” said U of M freshman guard Stabresa McDaniel of the new coach when the MSR asked her opinion. “I’m ready to meet her and have a conversation with her.”
With the Big Ten adding two new teams next season, 2014 WNIT Champs Rutgers and NCAA Final Four finalist Maryland, the Gophers now have two more obstacles to overcome if they wish to be among the conference’s first-division squads, which the U of M hasn’t done since 2008.
If Stollings is indeed successful in “closing the borders” and keeping in-state players in state — “It’s about building relationships and massaging that over time,” stated the new coach — then we sincerely hope this applies to all Minnesota players and not just the White ones.
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