West Virginia has found its new women’s basketball coach. Following the retirement of longtime coach Mike Carey – and a search that lasted just a hair over two weeks – the Mountaineers announced Dawn Plitzuweit as the new leader of the program.
She agreed to a five-year contract worth a total of $3 million, not including incentives. Her base salary in the 2022-23 season will be $550,000, plus bonuses.
Carey made $720,000 last season — his 21st on the job — according to USA Today’s database.
Plitzuweit, 49, is the sixth coach in the history of WVU women’s basketball. The native of Wisconsin comes to Morgantown after leading South Dakota to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Sweet 16 this season in which the Coyotes beat No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 2 Baylor along the way.
“Dawn is a proven winner everywhere she has been, and her track record for sustained success is impressive,” WVU AD Shane Lyons said in a statement. “When we started our search, it was quite obvious that her reputation as a program builder and championship coach put her at the top of our list. Watching her lead her team to the Sweet 16 this year with wins over Ole Miss and Baylor brought her program a lot of new national attention, but those in the know about women’s basketball were not surprised by her success.”
Multiple sources close to the situation say that Plitzuweit emerged as the top candidate for the job over the past week. At the start of the search, WVU’s top target was Joanna Bernabei-McNamee, a West Virginia native and former assistant under Carey who has been the head coach at Boston College since 2018. Bernabei-McNamee chose to stay at Boston College instead of returning to West Virginia though.
Nitra Perry, who WVU named as the interim head coach immediately following Carey’s retirement, was also considered for the job and was interviewed, sources said. Melanie Balcomb – who was the head coach at Vanderbilt when WVU president E. Gordon Gee was the chancellor there – was also a candidate.
“She brings a 73% career winning percentage with her to Morgantown… I can’t wait for her to start leading our women’s basketball program to its next chapter,” Lyons said of Plitzuweit. “Our fans will not only be impressed with her character and leadership, but they will also enjoy the brand of basketball she will be bringing to the coliseum.”
Indeed, Plitzuweit has won at just about everywhere she has coached.
She started her coaching career as an assistant at her alma mater, Division II Michigan Tech, in 1995. After a stint there and at Green Bay, she became the head coach at Grand Valley State in 2002, where she went to the Division II NCAA Tournament in four of five seasons and won the national championship in 2006.
Plitzuweit then went back to assistant coaching, but this time at the Power 5 level at Michigan, where she helped the Wolverines reach the post season in four out of five years. Plitzuweit then became the head coach at Northern Kentucky in 2012, where she led the Norse to winning records and WBI appearances in each of her four years.
South Dakota hired Plitzuweit in 2016 and the Coyotes experienced tremendous success under her reign. She went 158-35 in six seasons, winning three Summit League regular season titles, three conference tournament championships, taking two trips to the WNIT, and three to the NCAA Tournament. At the end of the 2019-20 season, the Coyotes finished the year ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll.
Coaching sources in the industry told West Virginia Sports Now that Plitzuweit has long coveted a Power 5 head coaching job.
“I am so incredibly excited and humbled to be your women’s basketball coach at West Virginia University,” Plitzuweit said in a statement. “A very special thank you to Coach Mike Carey and the tremendous foundation which he built and congratulations on his retirement. I am absolutely thrilled to lead our Mountaineer program.
“I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank our players, administration and all of Coyote Nation at the University of South Dakota for everything they have done for me, my family and for our program. I will miss you all so much and hope that we can recruit you to cheer for the Mountaineers now.”
Plitzuweit will be tasked with restocking a roster that had two starters – KK Deans and Kari Niblack – enter the transfer portal.
WVU finished Carey’s final season on the job with a 15-15 record. The Mountaineers were invited to the WNIT, but eventually pulled out of the tournament and declined the invite.