A 2022 national coach of the year enters her first year with the WVU women’s basketball team.
written by david gignilliat
Images Courtesy of WVU Athletics Communications
In just a few short weeks last spring, women’s basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit moved mountains—on the hardwood and in her life.
On March 20, she led the South Dakota Coyotes to a stunning win over No. 2–seeded Baylor to advance to the first NCAA Sweet 16 in program history. And less than a week later, on March 31, then West Virginia University Director of Athletics Shane Lyons tapped Plitzuweit to replace longtime Coach Mike Carey and become the sixth women’s basketball coach in the school’s history.
By April 4, just two weeks after coaching arguably the best season yet of her career, Plitzuweit became a Morgantown resident, wearing the Old Gold & Blue. “West Virginia women’s basketball is a job that is known nationally,” she says. “Seeing the commitment of the athletic department and the fan base made it seem like a tremendous opportunity.”
Playing college ball at Michigan Tech in the ’90s, Plitzuweit was an immediate stand-out, starting all 29 games as a freshman during the 1990–91 season. She has shone as a coach, too. In her six seasons at South Dakota, she amassed a 158–36 record, including an 83–10 mark in the Summit League; she was Summit League Coach of the Year three times. Plitzuweit’s career record of 346–129 (.728) encompasses four winning seasons and nine 20-win seasons—including two 30-win campaigns. She has reached the post-season in 14 of her 15 seasons as a head coach. And in 2022, she was named Kay Yow National Coach of the Year, a recognition of great character both on- and off-court.
“Dawn is a proven winner everywhere she has been, and her track record for sustained success is impressive,” said Lyons on announcing the hire.
On defense, we’re focused on limiting our opponent’s shot and being tough at all times. On offense, we are going to push the ball up the court and play fast. It’s going to be an exciting team.WVU women’s basketball Coach Dawn Plitzuweit
Plitzuweit signed to a five-year contract in March worth $3 million, not including incentives, starting with a base salary of $550,000 for the 2022–23 season. Then she got to work with her new players. “This team has an incredible personality. They are fun. They are hungry,” she says. “I am seeing a lot of individual player growth.”
The university’s rabid athletic fan base has embraced the change. “I’m really intrigued to see how the women’s team evolves this upcoming season with Coach Dawn,” says Eva Smith, a civil engineering major at WVU. “I really hope that this change will draw much needed attention, funding, broadcasting, coverage, and pride to this team of amazing women.”
The opportunity for the coach and team extends beyond the court, students believe. “Sports are everywhere on this campus, but you don’t see much love for them outside of men’s football and basketball,” says Connor Gibbons, a WVU journalism major and avid basketball fan who hopes Plitzuweit’s arrival will shift some focus to another exciting and deserving team.
Coach Dawn, who turned 50 this Halloween, brings strong experience to Morgantown and a lot of great coaching years to come. She and her husband, Jay, have a son, A.J., who plays basketball for South Dakota and was All-Summit League First Teamer in 2020–21. Their daughter, Lexi, plays basketball for Grand Valley State in Michigan. The whole family has quickly developed an affection for the city on the banks of the Monongahela.
“It’s such a great feeling that our kids already call it home,” Plitzuweit says.
The Social Side of the Game
Part of the WVU women’s basketball team’s infectious personality involves the ubiquitous presence of social media combined with recent NCAA changes that allow for student athletes to be compensated financially for name, image, and likeness contracts and endorsements. All of the players have Instagram accounts, and some have signed NIL deals to promote themselves regionally and nationally.
“In our day and age, it is important for student athletes to know themselves—to learn about their brand, grow their brand, and share their brand,” says Plitzuweit, who has her own IG account where she posts regularly—and privately—for her 900-plus followers. The WVU Women’s Basketball official Facebook page is especially active, with recent posts including a Mean Girls–inspired parody involving the team, humorous Pictionary sketches, and scenes from the team’s September 29 first official practice.