Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

Wren Baker: WVU will work quickly and efficiently to replace Dawn Plitzuweit and find the next women’s hoops coach

MORGANTOWN — Saying he’s already heard from more than 100 potential candidates, WVU athletic director Wren Baker said Monday the school would cast a wide net in searching for its next women’s basketball coach.

The initial search began Sunday, Baker said, as a university-based committee began scouring over potential names from schools in all 31 major Division I conferences.

“The search progress has already begun,” Baker said. “In fact, we spent about five or six hours holed up in the war room mining for some candidates. After today, our sole focus will be on identifying the next leader for our women’s basketball program.”

WVU is looking to replace Dawn Plitzuweit, who was hired by Minnesota on Saturday, after she spent one season with the Mountaineers.

Plitzuweit guided WVU to a 19-12 record and a trip to the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Baker said he began to hear of Minnesota’s interest just prior to the start of the Big 12 tournament. He offered to meet then with Plitzuweit, but the two agreed to focus on postseason play.

By the time they met Saturday morning, Plitzuweit’s decision to move closer to home — Minnesota is five hours from her family’s home in West Bend, Wis. — had basically been made.

“Her conversation with me was not a comparison of the two programs or resources or any of that,” Baker said. “This was close to home for her.”

Plitzuweit then met with the team at 11 a.m. Saturday to tell the players her decision and Baker said he met with the team after that.

“The gist of my message to them was: Love you, want you here, proud of you and we feel great about the opportunities here,” Baker said.

WVU is owed $612,500 on Plitzuweit’s buyout clause in her contract. She signed a five-year deal in 2022 and still had four years remaining when she left for Minnesota, where she signed a six-year deal worth $4.8 million.

“There’s a contractual amount and it’s been figured out and finalized,” Baker said. “I believe there’s a 30-day time period to pay that. I wouldn’t have the authority to take a university contract and unilaterally decide to take less money. Not sure I’d be excited to do that, even if I did. Either she or the school will be responsible to pay that.”

As to identifying possible candidates, Baker said it was too early in the process, but the school would begin to narrow down its list and begin contacting potential coaches by next week.

One potential candidate is Glenville State women’s coach Kim Stephens, a Parkersburg native who won the Division II national championship last season and has the Pioneers back in the Elite Eight this season.

“I’m familiar with her background,” Baker said. “I coached and I came from Division II, so I have a lot of respect for success that any coach has at any level.”

Another could be former WVU women’s head coach Mike Carey, who is reportedly looking to get back into coaching after retiring in 2022.

Baker said he expects to reach out to Carey, but only for his views and opinions on the program, and that it was too early to say if Carey is a candidate for the job.

“I have not had a chance to visit with coach Carey, but I’ve got a ton of respect for what he’s accomplished here,” Baker said. “I probably will try to talk to him over the next few days just about the job and the landscape and what’s changed in college athletics and get his thoughts on the program.

“I’m definitely not somebody who doesn’t want to hear the advice or opinions, especially from someone who has direct knowledge of the program.”

Baker gave no timetable for the length of the search, but stressed he hoped it would be completed in less than a month.

As for the current landscape of college athletics with the transfer portal and athletes creating revenue through Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), Baker said hiring a coach who can navigate through it all successfully would be a top requirement.

“You want someone with experience with the portal and how it works,” Baker said. NIL “is certainly becoming more of a factor in all sports. We understand that. Having somebody who understands how you mine for data in the portal and how you stay on top of it will definitely be a factor.”

In the end, Baker said the right hire would be part of a two-way commitment.

“You do want someone who is committed,” Baker said. “Somebody will have to come in and tell me why they want to be at West Virginia. It can’t just be one way about selling them on West Virginia. You need to tell me why you want to be here.”

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