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Ex-Big Green Coach Takes Post at UMass

Former Dartmouth women's basketball coach Chris Wielgus has taken a job as the director of women's basketball operations at the University of Massachusetts. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Former Dartmouth women's basketball coach Chris Wielgus has taken a job as the director of women's basketball operations at the University of Massachusetts. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Chris Wielgus is returning to basketball.

Six months after coaching her final game as women’s basketball coach at Dartmouth College, Wielgus is back on the court as Director of Operations at the University of Massachusetts.

It was announced on Wednesday that she will join a staff headed by former Dartmouth assistant coach Sharon Dawley, now in her fourth year at UMass.

“I’m having a blast. I’ve never been happier,” Wielgus said from her office, one day after the official start of practice. “I’m a basketball coach; that’s what I do. I love the game and I love the kids. It’s a wonderful place.

“This opportunity came at just the right time.”

Wielgus signs on at a good time. UMass is currently in the process of updating its basketball facilities. The new $28.5 million Basketball Champions Center will be 53,000 square feet, with practice courts, a film room, offices, locker rooms and training facilities for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The project is expected to be completed in the summer or fall of 2014.

“We are thrilled that Chris Wielgus has joined our staff at UMass,” Dawley said in a UMass news release. “Chris is a three-time Hall of Fame coach with over 400 wins, 14 conference titles, a pair of WNIT appearances and seven trips to the NCAA Tournament. Our UMass family will certainly benefit from her knowledge and expertise as we move the program forward.”

In her 28 years leading Dartmouth, Wielgus had 20 winning seasons and 393 victories while leading the Big Green to 12 Ivy League championships.

“I had a lot of calls (after leaving Dartmouth). Even in the Ivy League,” Wielgus said. “I am grateful to the people in the profession who reached out and offered me opportunities.

“Sharon created a position for me that gave me the opportunity to be part of a program on the upswing. I am happy to be here and hook my wagon to someone who is good, solid and knows basketball.”

Her duties, for the Mass women, while not specifically coaching basketball, include being involved in all aspects of the program. She will be breaking down film and working with players after practice sessions. She will also be part of the fundraising arm of the athletic department, in addition to managing the team’s 12 managers.

“I’ll be working with the coaches every day,” said Wielgus. “It’s really doing everything but coaching.”

The UMass program is coming off a 3-26 season, finishing last in the Atlantic-10 Conference. The women open the regular season on Nov. 8 at home against Western Michigan.

“I’m happy to be here,” said Wielgus, who has been on the job since Labor Day. “The people are very respectful, and I love working with kids again.

“Really, I’ve just changed colors, that’s all.”

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.