May 13, 2024 

Lisa Bluder retires after 24 years as Iowa head coach

Longtime assistant Jan Jensen named successor

On the day when three of her players were officially named to WNBA rosters, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder announced her retirement. She’s been the head Hawk for 24 years.

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In a letter to Hawkeye fans, Bluder wrote: “It is with a range of emotions that I share with you today that I have decided to step down from leading the Iowa women’s basketball team after 24 memorable years. I informed President [Barbara] Wilson and Director of Athletics Beth Goetz of my decision and I am grateful for their unwavering support and offered them my assistance in any manner in the future.”

Shortly after Bluder’s announcement, Goetz announced Bluder’s longtime assistant Jan Jensen would succeed her as head coach. Jensen has served the last 20 years as Iowa’s associate head coach under Bluder. Jensen has more than 30 years of collegiate coaching experience. She worked alongside Bluder for the past 24 years at Iowa, as well as eight at Drake University, where she also played for Bluder her senior year. 

Jan Jensen has been named Iowa women’s basketball head coach after serving as Lisa Bluder’s associate head coach for the past 20 years. Bluder announced her retirement May 13, 2024. PHOTO CREDIT/IOWA ATHLETICS

Kate Martin, who was drafted in the second round by the Las Vegas Aces, was in the middle of a Zoom press conference this afternoon announcing her appointment to the roster when she heard the news of her college coach’s retirement. 

“I’m very shocked. I mean, I’m happy for her,” Martin said after Cedar Rapids Gazette sportswriter Jeff Linder told her he had just received the email announcement minutes earlier. “She’s coached at Iowa for as long as I’ve been alive. So, she deserves a break, and she deserves whatever she’s going to have in her future. Lord knows we put her through enough. I’m really happy for her. She will be missed.”

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Martin added:

Jensen is Martin’s aunt through marriage and introduced Martin to the Iowa program when she was a young girl growing up in Edwardsville, Ill.

Martin’s former Hawkeye and new Aces teammate, center Megan Gustafson, expressed her thoughts on X about both Bluder and Jensen, who is often referred to as the “Post Whisperer”:

In another post, Gustafson also said about Jensen: “No words can describe how incredible this hire is. @goiowa has changed my life. @IowaWBB is in great hands!”

Caitlin Clark, the No. 1 draft pick who was officially named to the Indiana Fever roster earlier in the day, also took to X to shout out her college coach. 

She made a separate post on X when Jensen was announced as Iowa’s head coach: “The only option there ever was!!! You deserve this more than anyone. Can’t wait to watch you lead this program!!!”

Bluder just completed the most successful run in her coaching career. She led the Hawkeyes to three straight Big Ten Tournament championships and two straight trips to the Final Four and National Championship games, where the Hawkeyes came up short to LSU in 2023 and South Carolina in 2024. 

The team, led by phenom guard Clark, is widely credited with helping to elevate the women’s game. The 2023-24 season began with an exhibition game against DePaul at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City that drew more than 55,000 fans to the Hawkeyes’ football stadium. The team then played each home game in front of a sold-out crowd of around 15,000 people at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Besides selling out every home game, the Hawkeyes played in 37 of 39 away games that were either sold out or had an attendance record. This year’s Big Ten Tournament in the 19,000-seat Target Center in Minneapolis was sold out for the first time in its history.

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Bluder has coached two National Players of the Year in Gustafson (2019) and Clark (2023 and 2024) and was named the Naismith Coach of the Year in 2019. She was a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (2001, 2008, 2010), four-time regional coach of the year (2001, 2008, 2018, 2019), and the Carol Eckman Award winner (2015).  She amassed 884 career wins, 10th most in NCAA women’s basketball history.

In her letter to the Hawkeye faithful, she said: “It has been the honor of my career to be a part of the Iowa Hawkeye family, and to lead a women’s basketball program filled with so many talented and remarkable young women, who have gone on to do great things in their careers and, more importantly, in their lives. There is no denying that this past season was incredible for so many reasons, and we could not have accomplished our achievements without all of you. After the season ended, I spent time with our student-athletes and coaches reviewing the season and preparing those moving on for what comes next. With that also came personal contemplation about what this journey has meant to me, how to best champion this program, and what the future looks like for my family and me. After then taking some time away with my husband, David, it became clear to me that I am ready to step aside.”

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An Iowa native, Bluder, who just turned 63, played basketball at the University of Northern Iowa before beginning her coaching career in 1984 at St. Ambrose University at age 23. She was hired in 1990 as Drake University’s head coach in 1990, leading the Bulldogs to three regular season Missouri Valley Conference titles. She became Iowa’s fifth head coach in 2000, where she posted a 528-254 record over the past 24 years. She retires as the all-time winningest coach in Big Ten history with a conference record of 262-145.

Jensen, also an Iowa native, will be officially announced as the Hawkeyes’ new head coach on Wednesday in Iowa City.

“I have been so blessed to have enjoyed an incredible ride with Lisa,” Jensen said in a statement. “That ride started when I was her player and continued for 33 years as I had the privilege to work alongside of her. I can’t thank Lisa enough for her mentorship, leadership, and most of all her friendship. I am so proud of all we accomplished and grateful for all the memories we created.”

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Written by Angie Holmes

Angela Holmes is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) reporter for The Next. Based in the Midwest, she also covers the Big Ten and Big 12.

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