In another shift for Iowa women's basketball, long-time assistant coach Jenni Fitzgerald announced her retirement Wednesday. Fitzgerald, who spent 32 years working alongside head coach Lisa Bluder at both Drake and Iowa, has decided to retire following Bluder's retirement rather than continue under the new head coach, Jan Jensen.

Fitzgerald has been an integral part of the Hawkeye coaching staff for the past 24 years, serving as both a special assistant to Bluder and an assistant coach. Her coaching career, however, extends even further back, with eight seasons at Drake under Bluder before their move to Iowa. Reflecting on her career, Fitzgerald expressed her gratitude and bittersweet feelings about retiring.

“It's been a privilege to be a part of the Hawkeye family for the past 24 years,” Fitzgerald said, per the Associated Press. “Lisa, Jan, and I had big dreams of filling arenas and hoisting trophies when we first stepped onto campus. Because of the women that came through our program and our Hawkeye community, those dreams became our reality. Retiring is bittersweet, but I know I'm one of the few people that can say they had the honor of working alongside their best friends for 32 years.”

Throughout her tenure, Fitzgerald was primarily responsible for coaching the guards, recruiting, and devising game strategies. Under her guidance, Iowa made 22 postseason appearances, including 18 NCAA tournaments. The Hawkeyes, led by star player Caitlin Clark, reached the NCAA championship game in the past two seasons, solidifying the program's elite status.

Lisa Bluder's retirement

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder and guard Caitlin Clark (22) react in the third quarter against the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the Final Four of the womens 2024 NCAA Tournament.
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The news of Fitzgerald's retirement follows closely on the heels of head coach Bluder's own retirement announcement May 13. After 24 years at the helm of the Iowa women's basketball team, Bluder decided to step down following Iowa's second consecutive NCAA tournament championship game loss and Caitlin Clark's move to the WNBA, where she was drafted first overall by the Indiana Fever.

Bluder's coaching journey with the Hawkeyes began in 2000 when she became the team's fifth head coach. A native of Iowa, Bluder transitioned to the Hawkeyes after a successful decade at Drake University. Over her tenure at Iowa, Bluder became the all-time winningest coach in program history, amassing a record of 528-253 and a career total of 884 wins over four decades.

Bluder's contributions to the program have not gone unnoticed. She has been recognized as the Big Ten Coach of the Year three times and has received two WBCA Regional Coach of the Year honors.

In her retirement statement, Bluder expressed her deep gratitude to the Iowa Hawkeye family and reflected on her journey. “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 … 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,” Bluder stated.

Jan Jensen taking over Hawkeyes program

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Hannah Stuelke (45) embraces head coach Lisa Bluder in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the finals of the Final Four of the womens 2024 NCAA Tournament.
© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bluder's retirement marks a significant transition for the program. Her longtime associate, Jensen, who has been with Bluder throughout her career at both Iowa and Drake, will take over as head coach. Jensen expressed her gratitude and excitement for her new role, acknowledging the incredible journey she has had with Bluder and her anticipation for continuing the program's success.

“I have been so blessed to have enjoyed an incredible ride with Lisa. That ride started when I was her player and continued for 33 years as I had the privilege to work alongside her. I can’t thank Lisa enough for her mentorship, leadership, and most of all her friendship. I am now beyond elated to begin my new role … I truly love The University of Iowa and I am profoundly honored and excited to continue building on our success,” Jensen said in a university press release.

Bluder's tenure at Iowa is marked by several notable achievements, including 18 NCAA tournament appearances, five Big Ten tournament titles, and consecutive trips to the NCAA championship games in her final two seasons. These accomplishments underscore the competitive consistency of her teams and her ability to maintain a high standard of excellence.

“There is never an ideal time to retire and I am sure this fall that I will miss the games, the practices, the road trips, the atmosphere, the tremendous fans, and, most importantly, the players. But my belief in the foundation of this program, knowing that success is now an unrelenting component of women’s basketball at the University of Iowa, gives me comfort as I transition to become the program’s biggest champion,” Bluder said. “I want to thank each and every young woman who believed in our program and in our values for nearly a quarter of a century … It is my hope that now with more time and energy, I can be an asset to our basketball program and this athletics department in any way that I am able.”