One message was clear on the Williams Arena video board above the podium where Lindsay Whalen was introduced as the next Gophers women's basketball coach.
The words "Welcome Home" loomed larger than anything else the eyes could see.
Whalen, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time All-America point guard and four-time WNBA champion, definitely felt at home on her old court while addressing a crowd of a hundred gathered Friday afternoon.
Much like during her playing days when she led the Gophers to a Final Four more than a decade ago, the moment didn't seem too big for Whalen. Her teammates call her "Whay," and she approached her first public appearance as a coach in her own way, for sure.
After calmly walking up to the mic waving and looking comfortable in her gray suit, Whalen cracked jokes about the frigid spring weather, it being Friday the 13th, and not wanting to let go of her old uniform after posing with athletic director Mark Coyle.
Whalen humor. Get used to it, as she takes on with seriousness this new challenge, perhaps her biggest yet, of coaching her alma mater.
"I always figured at some point in my life this would happen," Whalen said about coaching the Gophers. "When I decided to take this job, my main thing is I want to [help] this university, and what we were able to do going to the Final Four, filling this place with 14,000 people. That experience changed my life. I wouldn't be standing here today without those opportunities."
The 35-year-old Hutchinson native said she wants current and future Gophers to have the experience of playing in front of packed crowds and reaching the Final Four like she did.
Fan buzz is already here. Ticket sales were up 600 percent from this time last year and 178 season tickets were sold in the first 23 hours after her hire.
"Winning, that's what it's all about," Whalen said. "Having fun and doing it together. That will be my main objective and main goal is to make sure it's always fun. That's what we do with the Lynx."
Whalen, who starts training camp with the Lynx at the end of the month, gave no timetable on when she plans to retire from the WNBA. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and teammate Seimone Augustus were there for support Friday.
"We'll just continue to talk after every season," Whalen said. "We'll just talk about where we're at and how I'm feeling and how we're doing. We'll just take it with this season and then we'll see."
Whalen signed a five-year deal with an annual base salary that increases from $400,000 in Year 1 to $547,000 in Year 5. Her predecessor, Marlene Stollings, will go from making $500,000 in her fourth year at Minnesota this season to a base salary of $700,000 as Texas Tech's new coach.
But it wasn't about the money for Whalen. She envisions the Gophers taking another step forward after finishing 24-9 this past season and reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
"They were so fun to watch," Whalen said. "I really loved that win in the NCAA tournament and just getting there; the way they played in the Big Ten tournament was a lot of fun. We'll get together and we'll see what we need to do to continue to get better and continue to have successful seasons. I'm excited."
Whalen looks forward to "calling the pick-and-roll plays" and not just "running them" this season as a point guard. Stollings ran a system that was heavy on three-pointers and pushing the pace. Whalen didn't get into specifics about her style, but she talked about day-to-day goals for her program to get to a championship level.
"There's no real magic thing that's just going to happen, that you're just going to all of a sudden start winning, and start winning championships," she said. "I think having that mentality, whether it's shootaround, video session, practice, warmup for the game, in-game stuff — just conduct yourself as a professional and a really positive way, that slowly over time creates that culture and that becomes a lot of wins on the floor."
Hiring a staff is priority No. 1 for Whalen, who will need to lean on her assistants to recruit and do a lot of the administrative work with the program when she's playing. Coyle is confident she will make the right hires.
"You want to make sure you get the right people here that fits what she wants to do and the long-term goals for the program.," Coyle said. "We're working closely with her to identify those people. [College experience] is helpful, but I let our head coaches figure out what's the best fit for them."
Whalen plans to talk to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who was the last coach to successfully juggle playing and coaching at this level. Staley played for the Charlotte Sting and coached Temple for six years (2000-2006). She reached six NCAA tournaments with the Owls, and from there won a national title in 2017 with the Gamecocks and last year also was named the U.S. national team coach.
"I'd say she's been pretty successful," Whalen said. "Some of the things she did while she was playing and coaching will definitely be things I'll try to follow."