Excellence on and off the court
Russell King | Monday, March 17, 2014
Coach Muffet McGraw is the reason for this season’s success and I got to witness it first hand last week as part of the band.
Undefeated, ACC champions and 32 wins including only two games with a margin of victory in the single digits. Notre Dame women’s basketball has been dominant for so long that we have grown to expect it as students. Obviously we cycle in tremendous athletes who come to Notre Dame ready to immediately compete so that we do not have any “rebuilding” years.
However, the secret is in the coach. We all know what she has done for this University and her record speaks loud and clear that she is one of the best in the game. The reason I felt compelled to write this piece was because it is important to share that Coach McGraw does not have a false façade. She is an all-around coach and demonstrates integrity and excellence even when the spotlight is not on her.
Over spring break, I had the privilege of travelling down to Greensboro, N. C., for both the men’s and women’s ACC basketball tournaments, playing in the band. Our first night down there it snowed, but slowly warmed up over the weekend as the team got hot.
As a drum major and clarinet, I have been able to travel all over to play with the band at different sporting events. It is always fun to spend time with my fellow band members and the cheerleaders regardless of where we go. However, Greensboro is not an ideal destination compared to other places we have been. So what made this one of the best trips I have been on? Coach McGraw’s leadership.
After the championship, the balloons fell, confetti shot up in the air and it was another Notre Dame win. I have been to other big wins before. I was there at the CCHA Championship last year, at the Pinstripe Bowl and at the men’s soccer team won their playoff home games. So what made this one so special? For once I felt truly appreciated, all due to Coach McGraw.
The confetti was still falling at the end of the championship game and we were confined to the pen at the end of the basketball court. The entire team came over to celebrate with us. Then, in an unprecedented move, Muffet McGraw walked over and told the band to come out on the court with them along with an invitation to cut down the net. She even asked for a picture with us. We in the band are accustomed to fans asking for pictures or autographs, but for the coach to want to celebrate by taking a picture with us was incredible. It exhibited that she truly cares and appreciates what we do.
Cutting down the net was an experience I will never forget. Apparently, stuff like that does not happen at other schools. We have a special coach who has set herself ahead of the pack, both in wins and in graciousness. As a good leader, she takes the blame when we lose and spreads the wealth when we win.
On the chartered flight home, she immediately dropped her stuff at her seat and ran through the plane high fiving the band and cheerleaders while thanking us for the support. Over the three games, I witnessed a passion in my fellow band members that is more than I have ever seen. They were truly invested in the game and helping the team win. It is all because of the coach and the appreciation the team shows us. They truly want us there and we will work hard to help them.
Now, most of the time you do not need the band and cheerleaders because of your dominance. However, the next time you find yourself tied with a team like Duke at half, we will do everything in our power to swing the momentum and atmosphere of the arena back to our side. The Fighting Irish are strong this year and it truly is a special team with an outstanding coach. You have six more games and believe me, we will be with you every step of the way, playing louder than ever. I think I speak on behalf of the band and cheerleaders in saying that we feel a connection with this team and will scream and play until we run out of breath to help you get the ultimate goal, a championship. Coach McGraw deserves another one.