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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 14 2014

Bison name Walseth next head women's basketball coach

FARGO – When North Dakota State went searching for a new women’s basketball coach, women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn said she was looking for three elements:

A person who has been part of a winning program.

Somebody who can recruit the Midwest.

A coach who has a sense of leadership.

So when Penn State assistant Maren Walseth came into the picture just over a week ago, it was check, check, check.

“She met all of our expectations,” Dorn said.

The Bison made it official Monday afternoon, naming the Penn State assistant as the program’s 10th head coach. She agreed to a five-year contract for $150,000 a year with bonuses. A formal news conference to introduce her will be held on Thursday at the Fargodome.

In the 36-year-old Walseth (her first name is pronounced Marr-en), NDSU gets a coach with Big Ten Conference and WNBA experience and a Twin Cities native who was one of the greatest female athletes ever to come out of Bloomington Jefferson High School.

“The fit to the Midwest was critical to us,” Dorn said. “Recruiting is the lifeline of the program and we wanted to be sure this person came in with a sense of the Midwest.”

Walseth has been at Penn State the past seven years. She was part of a Lady Lions program that won three Big Ten titles and made the NCAA tournament four times and the Sweet 16 twice.

“North Dakota State is getting a gem in Maren Walseth,” Penn State women’s basketball head coach Coquese Washington said. “She is an outstanding coach who will work tirelessly to build NDSU into a Summit League power. She is a winner, both as a player and coach, and she will bring that winning spirit and ethic to North Dakota State women’s basketball.”

She has some work to do.

The Bison went 6-23 last season, their worst season since 1976-77, and haven’t had a winning record since going 16-13 in 2009-10. It was a steep fall for a program that was at one time an NCAA Division II power before making the move to Division I.

“The commitment to winning is well established at NDSU,” Walseth said in a statement. “I am looking forward to getting to work and starting the climb to the top.”

She replaces Carolyn DeHoff, who resigned after six seasons. Walseth was the only candidate NDSU brought to campus for an interview. She flew into Fargo last Tuesday and left a day later.

“The right choice always surfaces,” Dorn said. “I truly believe Maren is the best fit and the right choice.”

Following her pro career, she spent three years as an assistant at Navy before returning to her alma mater at Penn State, where her primary responsibilities were recruiting, scouting and academic performance.

“We’re pleased that she’s going to lead our program,” Dorn said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia