Iowa coach Lisa Bluder’s response to Caitlin Clark WNBA Draft announcement speaks volumes. It’s not just that Caitlin Clark is leaving, it’s also a colossal failure for Iowa women’s basketball.

Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder lent her public support to superstar Caitlin Clark after the guard’s program-altering decision to leave college for the WNBA


Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder issued her first comments about Caitlin Clark’s 2024 WNBA Draft decision – and the response spoke volumes about how their relationship transcends what happens on the court for the Hawkeyes.

There was no bitterness or regret in Bluder’s voice as she spoke about Clark opting to leave Iowa following this campaign to pursue her professional dreams. “She’s ready for a new challenge,” Bluder said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Clark confirmed that she announced her imminent departure before the end of the season in part to relieve teammates from uncertainty and speculation. She told reporters: “I think going into senior night having that decision clear not only for myself, but our fans, my teammates, I think that was super important.”

As expected, Bluder did her best in recent months to convince Clark to stay at Iowa even as she showed respect to the player’s own motivations. The guard was eligible to return for a fifth season, and had she come back, the Hawkeyes would have again been considered national title contenders.

“My role is to kind of point out the pros and cons of both,” Bluder said last December via KWQC. “I know that she is really intelligent, and she’s got great parents who are gonna help her make the right decision for her. All of us can think we know what the right decision is, but ultimately, it has to be her decision.”

Bluder added: “You know, none of us can make that. We all think we can, we think we know what’s best for her, but ultimately it has to be her gut feeling. So I think my role is to point out the opportunities that Iowa can provide and the benefits of staying for another year. Obviously [the Indiana Fever] are going to be doing the same thing.”


Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark is WNBA-bound.
Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark is WNBA-bound. 
Image:
Getty Images)

Even though Clark ultimately chose to leave Iowa, she’s said the whole way that it was a difficult decision not taken lightly. The 22-year-old’s relationship with Bluder was a big part of what’s made it tough to leave, with the coach overseeing her rise to superstardom. It was Bluder who helped protect her from the weight of media scrutiny and even road environments that crossed a line into becoming potentially dangerous.

“I can go and kind of live out a lifelong dream, or I can stay here and be in college, start working on my masters, or start working on another degree and still play college basketball with some of my best friends,” Clark said earlier in the season when still undecided about her future.

Clark’s departure will hurt Iowa on the court in the immediate future, but the spotlight she’s brought to the school could still help bring in top talent going forward. The Hawkeyes have four top-100 recruits for 2024-25.

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