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ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw earns 500th victory against the Wolverines

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 21, 2005

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s over.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw finally got her 500th win on Friday night and then 501 on Sunday.

But the coveted 500 came only after a devastating loss in the NCAA Tournament last year that ended the Irish season abruptly. Friday against Michigan, the Irish found a way to get their coach 500 wins before the age of 50, a feat that only 10 Division I coaches have accomplished.

After the game was over, McGraw immediately ran to University President Emeritus Father Edward “Monk” Malloy to hug him. Malloy was the president of Notre Dame in May of 1987 when McGraw was hired.

“It’s really an honor to be coaching at Notre Dame,” McGraw said after the game. “I just am so thankful. That’s why I went to Father Malloy first because I’m just so blessed to be here at such a great place.”

McGraw was then greeted by athletic director Kevin White, her husband Matt and son Murphy. Her team waited at center court, well-aware of what the win meant to its coach. For McGraw it was a moment in her 18 years at Notre Dame she won’t soon forget.

“I am overwhelmed at the moment,” she said. “It’s just such an honor to be at Notre Dame and be here with so many great people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and work for, particularly Father Malloy – somebody that’s been with me for every one of them.”

McGraw is grateful to be at Notre Dame, but the Irish should consider themselves lucky to have McGraw. The soon-to-be 50 year-old (her birthday is Dec. 5) has led the Notre Dame women’s basketball program to heights it had never seen before her tenure.

Everyone knows about the 2001 National Championship, but what about the six Sweet 16 appearances in the last nine years? Or the two Final Four appearances? Better yet, the way her players conduct themselves on and off the court? Or the 6,000-plus fans that she brings to the Joyce Center day-in and day-out, a rarity in collegiate women’s basketball?

McGraw has embraced the community of South Bend and it has responded. Although students don’t support the team in abundance, those from the community do, and it is in large part due to McGraw. She has embraced her job as the women’s basketball coach and as the mainstay of the program, and she appreciates every bit of fan support the Irish get.

“I think we have the best fans in the country, and it’s so great that we were able to win at home,” she said Friday night. “I think that was added incentive for the team to really get that one tonight for the fans.”

And on the court, McGraw runs a tight ship, one she doesn’t let sink.

Her players play defense, first and foremost, and everything else takes a backseat. They play hard, like they did on Friday. And if they don’t play well, she is the first to tell them and the media how she felt about how they played.

McGraw is the true captain of Notre Dame women’s basketball, 413 wins at Notre Dame later.

Now all that’s left is for Notre Dame to name the court for her like Mike Krzyzewski of Duke’s men’s team and Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Vols. Sure McGraw doesn’t quite have 600 wins, but she’s well on her way. Even legendary Notre Dame men’s coach Digger Phelps “only” had 393 wins for the Irish.

And so one day, maybe it really will be Muffet’s court.

Contact Heather Van Hoegarden at hvanhoeg@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.