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Mulhern resigns as UWS women's basketball coach

UW-Superior head basketball coach Don Mulhern celebrates as the Yellowjackets cut down the net after winning the UMAC Tournament championship game this past season. (Jed Carlson /

Jon Garver

For The Telegram

Dr. Donald Mulhern has resigned as head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team.

Mulhern, who has been at UWS since 2006, is leaving to become the head women’s basketball coach at St. Catherine University, a private, liberal arts college located in St. Paul.

“This is a big loss, not just for the athletics department and the university but for the entire community. There is no way for us to be able to thank Don or repay him for everything that he has done in his time here,” UWS Athletics Director Nick Bursik. “He has gone above and beyond in getting his student-athletes and staff involved in the community, and you can’t say enough about the job he has done transforming our women’s basketball program into a national power.

“At the same time we respect Don’s desire to put his family first and accept a position that gets him closer to the most important people in his life. We thank him for all of his contributions to our department and university and wish him well at St. Kate’s.”

Mulhern came to UWS in 2006 and immediately began to build a resume that in the end sees him leave as the school’s all-time wins leader.

In 2012 Mulhern helped guide the Yellowjackets into the WIAC playoffs, ending a nearly-decade long drought. The following season Mulhern and the Yellowjackets enjoyed their best finish to-date in the WIAC, placing fourth during the regular season and hosting a conference playoff game, advancing to the WIAC semifinals after an emotional win over UW-River Falls.

More success followed in 2013-14, as the Yellowjackets advanced to the WIAC championship game for the first time in school history.

The 2014-15 season was UWS’s final season in the WIAC, and Mulhern’s Yellowjackets saved the best for last, riding the explosive play of WIAC Player of the Year Sally Linzmeier and a strong supporting cast to the school’s first-ever conference championship, and a second-straight appearance in the WIAC championship game.

UWS moved its sports teams to the UMAC in 2015-16 and the success has kept flowing for Mulhern and the Yellowjackets. In two seasons the Yellowjackets are 32-0 in regular season conference play, collecting a pair of conference regular season championships and two UMAC playoff championships in the process. The playoff titles thrust the Yellowjackets into the national spotlight, giving them consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Along the way Mulhern’s teams set numerous school records, including consecutive wins, a record broken several times, as well as wins in a season, conference wins in a season, and most points scored in a season.

“It’s hard to express my feeling for the current team and the players who have played for me during my tenure at UW-Superior. The student-athletes have truly been my family away from my family, and words can’t express my gratitude toward these young ladies,” Mulhern said. “I have been blessed to have the chance to coach a great group of student-athletes, and enjoyed it tremendously. Also, I want to thank the current coaching staff and former coaches at UW-Superior for the wonderful support, love, and memories.”

Mulhern leaves UWS with an all-time record of 149-142, including a mark of 101-37 over the last five seasons.

With Mulhern’s departure, assistant coach Zach Otto-Fisher has been elevated to interim head coach of the Yellowjackets. Otto-Fisher, who graduated with a degree in legal studies from UWS in 2008, joined Mulhern’s staff a year ago.

“I realize the timing of this is not ideal, and I also realize that there is never an ideal time to leave a place that you love,” Mulhern said. “The program couldn’t ask for a better person to seamlessly transition than Zach Otto-Fisher, and with his enthusiasm and knowledge, and this team’s strong leadership, the future is very bright for this year’s team.

“I will be their biggest fan, and a part of me will always be with them, rooting them on.”

Prior to coaching at UWS, Otto-Fisher spent three seasons as the head girls basketball coach at Glencoe-Silver Lake High School in Minnesota where he helped move five players on to college basketball, including two who reached the NCAA Division I level. In addition, Otto-Fisher has been a member of the coaching staff of the Minnesota Fury, one of the top AAU basketball programs in the Upper Midwest, for five seasons.

“I am very thankful to be given the opportunity to step into a position with such a competitive, driven, and passionate group of players and coaches,” Otto-Fisher said. “The support that this campus gives the program is second to none and I look forward to building on the success and culture that coach Mulhern has instilled here at UW-Superior.”