Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen finalized her coaching staff Wednesday with the announcement of the return of Danielle O’Banion as assistant coach. Previously, Whalen had named Kelly Roysland and Carly Thibault-DuDonis as assistant coaches on her debut staff.
O’Banion was an assistant coach for the Golden Gophers during its best five-season run in school history from 2002-03 to 2006-07. In that span, Minnesota posted five straight winning seasons, including three 25-win campaigns. The Golden Gophers earned postseason berths all five seasons, including four-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2003-06. Minnesota advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2003 and 2005 and made the program’s first and only Women’s Final Four in 2004.
“Ever since I got to play under Coach O’Banion during my junior and senior years here, she has been one of the best people and coaches I’ve come across in all my years,” Whalen said. “It always stuck to me how great she was with all the players on the team and how we could go to her and talk to her about anything on or off the court. She’s always been a tremendous resource for me, but now I think she’ll add a lot to our coaching staff and to this team having all those years of experience and having been a head coach at the Division I level and an associate coach at Memphis.
“I think she’ll bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, but at the end of the day, she’s just an amazing person. I know she’ll bring a big spark to the whole program.”
While at Minnesota, O’Banion worked with the Golden Gopher backcourt, which included Whalen and Roysland. O’Banion also monitored the team’s academic progress and assisted in recruiting.
“My first five years at Minnesota were so special because of players like Lindsay and Kelly,” O’Banion said. “I am honored to have the opportunity to return to The U and once again represent a world-class university with world-class people.”
O’Banion returns to Minnesota after the second of two stints at the University of Memphis, where she served as associate head coach. Previously, she was at Memphis from 2008-12. She was as an assistant her first two seasons, before being promoted to associate head coach following the 2009-10 campaign.
Following the 2011-12 campaign with Memphis, O’Banion spent four seasons (2012-16) as Kent State’s head coach.
At the 2016 NCAA Women’s Final Four in early April, O’Banion was presented the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award for women’s basketball. The Summitt Award is presented by USBWA annually to players, coaches, officials or administrators in women’s college basketball that have demonstrated extraordinary courage in the face of adversity.
O’Banion received the prestigious honor for her fight against cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 lymphoma cancer in 2014 and went through a series of chemotherapy treatments. Six months after being diagnosed, O’Banion announced on Twitter that the cancer had gone into remission. She entered the 2015-16 season cancer free and still is to this day.
O’Banion’s friends attribute her remarkable recovery to her overall fitness and upbeat attitude. She did not want her illness to be a distraction to the 2014-15 Golden Flashes squad, so she did not tell the players the news until nearly three weeks after the diagnosis.
From 2009-10 through 2011-12, the Tigers posted a 66-25 overall record and a 31-17 Conference USA mark and earned three-consecutive postseason appearances. The combined 66 victories over three seasons were the most for that span of time in over 30 years.
In those three seasons, the Tigers posted two second-place finishes in the Conference USA regular season and advanced to the C-USA Tournament semifinal round twice. Memphis earned three straight postseason berths (2010 Women’s Basketball Invitational; 2011, 2012 WNIT) and advanced to the 2010 WBI championship game.
In between her collegiate coaching stops at Minnesota and Memphis, O’Banion spent the 2007-08 season at the prep level, coaching at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.
O’Banion got her collegiate coaching start with the Harvard Crimson in 2001-02, the season after she completed her college playing career. As an assistant, O’Banion helped guide the Crimson to a 22-6 overall record, the Ivy League title and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
As a student-athlete, O’Banion was a standout for the Boston College women’s basketball program from 1997-2001. She helped lead the Eagles to the program’s first two NCAA Tournament berths in 1999 and 2000, and Boston College advanced to the tournament’s second round both seasons. O’Banion was voted a team co-captain her senior campaign.
O’Banion graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May of 2001. She earned BIG EAST Conference Academic All-Star recognition and also participated in the NCAA Foundation Leadership Conference in the summer of 2000.Big Ten Minnesota