Lady Lion assistant coach Walseth bound for Fargo

For many, the word “Fargo” conjures up images of the quirky 1996 Coen brothers movie featuring dark comedy and a distinct Minnesota dialect.

For Maren Walseth, Fargo is now home.

On the heels of the Lady Lions’ appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16 and third-straight Big Ten regular-season championship, the long-time Penn State assistant has accepted the position of head women’s basketball coach at North Dakota State University.

It’s a move that’s been a long-time in the making.

Walseth was recognizable as an undergrad, not only by her quality play in the post, but also by the white hair ribbon she always wore so her nearly-blind grandmother could pick her out on the floor.

A first-team all-Big Ten honoree, Walseth was part of Penn State’s historic Final Four squad of 2000, though teammates Helen Darling and Andrea Garner seemed to garner more attention at the time.

When her college days were over, the Minnesota native began her professional basketball career in the WNBA, and later played overseas before taking her place on the bench as an assistant coach at Navy and then her alma mater.

Now, after seven years as a Lady Lion assistant coach under Coquese Washington, Walseth begins another new chapter, with a move closer to her mid-west roots.

While she says she’ll always be Penn State proud, Walseth should feel right at home in Fargo, which is less than four hours from her Bloomfield, Minnesota home.

Walseth’s sister played basketball for NDSU, and her brother-in-law was a Bison football player, so she’s gained some inside knowledge about the university over the years. But more than the new location and the family connections, Walseth’s new gig allows her to begin to build a coaching legacy of her own.

Even though she won’t officially be introduced to the Bison nation until Thursday, Walseth is already featured on the team website in a videotaped interview. She’s hitting the ground running, saying her first job is to recruit the players already wearing the Bison yellow and green.

“They came to NDSU because of somebody else’s vision,” she says in the interview. “Now they’re here and they have a great opportunity. It’s my responsibility to meet them individually, get to know them and gain their trust on an individual basis.”

From one land grant university to another, Walseth takes a mountain of experience as a player and coach from Happy Valley to North Dakota State, where the Bison won only six games this season.

Walseth knows it will be an uphill climb, but throughout her basketball career she’s shown persistence, loyalty and a pursuit of excellence.

After being part Penn State’s most successful squad ever as a player, and working to return the Lady Lion program to national prominence on staff, can Maren Walseth blaze a new trail at NDSU?

As they’d say in Fargo you betcha!

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.