Lindsay Whalen has been thinking about this for a while, ever since she and the rest of her USA teammates walked off the floor with the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Now she’s made it official.
Whalen, who has won two Olympic gold medals and two FIBA world championships, is retiring from USA Basketball. Whalen, who has helped the Lynx win four WNBA titles in the past seven seasons, informed USA Basketball of her decision just days before the team will hold a minicamp in South Carolina.
Whalen, 35, wasn’t sure she could make the four-year commitment leading up to the 2020 Olympics. And so she felt it was time to step away and let a younger player get an opportunity.
“I want to play for the Lynx as long as I can,” Whalen said. “If I’m not going to be sure about 2020, I’d rather a younger player take a spot, get used to playing for USA Basketball.”
Whalen was talking while at the Twin Cities airport, awaiting a flight to Louisiana, where she will help call a game between Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette for ESPN3 Saturday.
In recent years, Whalen has cut back on her playing. She no longer goes overseas to play over the winter to keep herself fresh for the WNBA season. This is another step in that direction. But also, with the end of her playing career closer than the beginning, she has been branching out. She is doing some Timberwolves games for FSN this season. And she reached out to both ESPN and the Big Ten Network trying to get more work. The result? She will work Saturday for ESPN’s streaming service in Louisiana. She’ll be doing a game in Maryland for the Big Ten Network later this season as well as some in-studio work for the network.
“I’m really enjoying this,’’ Whalen said of her work on-air. “It keeps me near the game, a part of the game.’’
Still, it was a difficult decision. She has been a part of USA basketball since 2002, when she and Louisiana State star Seimone Augustus were part of a U20 team that won a FIBA title in Brazil. To begin and end her USA basketball experience in Brazil seemed right to her.
And she’s got her memories. Whalen remembers being amazed at what Augustus could do in 2002. She cherishes playing on national teams with Lynx teammates and coach Cheryl Reeve, on the staff. She remembers scoring six consecutive third-quarter points against Australia in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics, giving Team USA the lead for good.
“It’s all been special,’’ Whalen said.
She will be missed, starting next week in South Carolina. Lynx teammate Maya Moore will be there. Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, who are playing overseas, will not be.
“Lindsay Whalen is probably my favorite point guard of all time, nothing against Sue Bird,” said Team USA head coach Dawn Staley in a statement. “Lindsay, I like her swag. I like her toughness. I like her mind-set. She’s always thinking about ways in which to outfox the opponent.
“I’m just sad I don’t get an opportunity to coach her in this capacity. But I’m glad I got a chance to coach her when I was an assistant coach on the 2014 and 2016 teams.”