When former West Virginia University women’s basketball head coach Mike Carey declared his retirement on Mar. 16, the stage was set for a new program ambassador. Carey’s retirement came after 21 seasons at the helm, gathering the all-time winningest coach moniker, 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, and a 447-239 record with the gold and blue. When news of his retirement hit Mountaineer Nation, University of South Dakota head coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s name began to circulate.
“We looked for somebody with high character, somebody with previous head coaching experience, a proven winner with NCAA Tournament experience, a program builder that will provide out student-athletes with a great experience, a leader of young women who will provide our student-athletes with a great experience overall, with an emphasis on academic and graduation success,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said. “As we continued through this process, a name that kept coming to the top was Dawn Plitzuweit.
“Dawn’s name kept coming to the top every time we looked at it, and unfortunately for us and fortunately for her, it slowed the process down because she continued to play in the NCAA Tournament. Good problems. I was excited to get her here on campus, show her what we had to offer here at West Virginia, and now she’s here.”
Plitzuweit had been the head coach of the Coyotes since 2016 and had quite a record in the Summit League. She’s a three-time Summit League Coach of the Year and last week, was named the Kay Yow Award winner, denoting the national Coach of the Year. Her 129-30 record with the Coyotes handed her the best winning percentage in school history. The Plitzuweit era also brought the University of South Dakota women’s basketball its first wins over Top-25 programs (23/22 Iowa State and 22/24 Missouri) in 2019. That season, the team was ranked for the first time in the Associated Press Top 25 (17) and USA Today Division I Coaches Poll (11) and saw an NCAA Tournament berth.
Her time in Vermillion capped a 14-year head coaching career that amassed a 317-123 record.
“You look at Dawn’s resume. Seventy-three percent of overall games, she has won. Seventy-two percent of those Division I games,” Lyons said. “She lead her teams to four NCAA Tournaments at South Dakota and eight overall as a head coach. She reached the Sweet 16 this year with wins over Ole Miss and Baylor, had been a head coach for 475 career games, and she’s had five 20-win seasons in Division I and nine overall. Fourteen winning seasons. Six Coach of the Year awards. Six regular season conference championships. Five tournament championships. A national reputation as a great tactician, program builder, and leader. Those are just a few of the things that kept popping out as we talked to Dawn.”
Plitzuweit now assumes the title of the sixth WVU Women’s Basketball head coach in program history. She brings along three of her 2021 assistant coaches: associate head coach Jason Jeschke, assistant coach Aaron Horn, and assistant coach Ariel Braker.
During Plitzuweit’s first press conference in the role, six members of her 2022 WVU roster were in attendance, and despite the wealth of fans, former WVU players, and media present in the WVU Coliseum, she spoke directly to her new team.
“To you ladies, we commit to giving you everything that we have,” Plitzuweit told the six. “Our goal is to do everything we can to assist you in your development on and off the court. On the court, we will strive to grow you into the most versatile, complete version of who you can be as a basketball player. Our style, if you will, is to play positionless basketball, and that’s something that we’re going to continue to grow each one of your skillsets… Ladies, we have a rich tradition here. We have 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, four conference championships, three All-Americans, and many, many former players that have played professionally, here in the WNBA, or overseas. We have a strong foundation that has been laid for us by those who came before us… Now the question becomes, how do we take this great foundation and build upon it? It all comes down to people. We are on a mission to surround ourselves with high-energy individuals who are going to focus on the details on a daily basis. Our goal is really quite simple: we aim to do the little things well, both individually and collectively.”
“To our fans,” she continued, “when we connect with each other, it makes the experience of watching and cheering for your team even more fun. We will commit to building that relationship over time. We believe in, and we will invest in, the motto that, ‘Every moment matters.’
“West Virginia women’s basketball is a national brand, and it’s a brand of basketball that has a great legacy and history behind it, so to have an opportunity to be here and to be the next head women’s basketball coach is something that is a dream,” Plitzuweit said.
Plitzuweit’s brand of “positionless basketball” is similar to the process of cross-training a group of athletes, and it’s a philosophy, dating back to her Grand Valley State head coaching role, which has also served her South Dakota teams well. South Dakota ranked No. 2 nationally in fewest points allowed and fewest turnovers per game in 2021.
When asked about that approach, she said, “First of all, we find that it’s a style that a lot of young ladies enjoy playing… I do think it’s something that’s really fun for players to work on their whole game, and from a recruiting standpoint, it is something that a lot of players want to play in that type of a style and that type of a system. It’s a strength of our staff to develop players and to continue to help them grow their games and stretch their games, whether that’s stretching it on the perimeter or handle it better or push it up the court, different kinds of things along those lines.”
Plitzuweit’s first coaching experience will kick off tonight at the team’s first practice of a three-week, pre-finals period.