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ND Women’s Basketball

Muffet McGraw announces retirement, Niele Ivey to assume mantle

and | Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Muffet McGraw will be stepping down from her post as head coach of Notre Dame women’s basketball, she announced in a tweet Wednesday.

McGraw has helmed the Irish since 1987 and built a Hall of Fame career in South Bend. In terms of individual accolades, she collected 842 of her 6th-ranked all-time 936 career wins at Notre Dame, she is the fourth fastest coach to reach 900 wins in Division I history and has been named consensus National Coach of the Year three times. In 2017 she became just the 13th female coach to ever be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

McGraw held a press conference shortly after the announcement and began with a statement of gratitude.

“It has been my great honor to represent the University of Notre Dame these past 33 years, but the time has come for me to step down as your head coach,” McGraw said. “I want to thank [Edward] Monk Malloy and Father [John] Jenkins for giving me the opportunity to coach the game I love at a University I love. I’ve learned much about leadership from the many athletic directors with whom I have served. And in particular, I want to thank Jack Swarbrick for his unwavering support. I’m grateful to have worked with the best assistant coaches in the business. I have been blessed to coach so many phenomenal women to the best fans in the country. It was my honor and privilege to play for you, Matt, and I want to thank everyone who has touched our lives and shared apart of our amazing journey and we will treasure the memories for the rest of our lives.”

McGraw also oversaw 31 20-win seasons in her career, including 11 30-win seasons, made more impressive by the fact that she has 174 career wins over ranked teams. Her five postseason wins over UConn are more than double the next closest team’s total.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish head coach and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Muffet McGraw crouches beside the court during Notre Dame’s 88-82 overtime win over Purdue on March 19, 2017, at Purcell Pavilion.

She is one of only five coaches in men’s or women’s Division 1 history with 930 wins, nine Final Fours and multiple national championships — along with Mike Krzyzewski, Tara VanDerveer, Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt.

She has also had much success developing players, including 36 All-Conference players, 22 All-Americans, 20 WNBA players, two Olympians and one women’s basketball Hall of Famer. The Irish were the first program to have five players drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft in 2019.

As head of the Irish, McGraw led her teams to 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, a streak which is uninterrupted per the NCAA’s decision to cancel the 2020 postseason. The program’s 67 NCAA Tournament wins and nine Final Fours rank fourth and fifth all-time, respectively.

Observer File Photo
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw and her husband, Matt, sing the Alma Mater to celebrate Notre Dame’s win to advance to its second consecutive national championship game.

Notre Dame’s success during McGraw’s tenure has not been limited to wins though, as the women’s basketball program has grown exponentially. The program’s first sellout occurred in 2001 when the Irish knocked off No. 1 UConn for the first time in their history. Notre Dame has since recorded 56 sellouts and has been top-10 nationally in attendance for 14 consecutive seasons.

Former Notre Dame guard Niele Ivey, who was a member of the 2001 national championship team and served under McGraw for 12 seasons, left last summer to take a job as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. She will return to Notre Dame as just the fourth head coach in the history of the program.

As for advice for the new head coach, McGraw quoted Elenor Roosevelt.

“I think the first thing is that you got to believe in yourself,” she said. “I think Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘Do what you want, because you’re going to be criticized anyway.’ So you would look at what your ideas are, and you want to follow through on them. You want to stay the course. Even when when things get a little rocky, you have to be that voice and that one constant in the player’s life that they’re looking to you to lead and you can always kind of count on them to follow you but you have to be consistent in your message. You have to communicate it.”

McGraw also reflected on the impact of her message to women both in basketball and around the world.

“I think last year at the Final Four, I was a little amazed that my speech just kept on going out,” McGraw said. “I don’t really know where it started coming from. But it was something that I think I needed to get out. I was really happy with the response across the country, from women in every single profession. I’ve heard from so many men with daughters and so many people that it really was an important thing for people to hear. And I’ve tried to build on that and really talk about that in all the speaking engagements that I’ve had since then, just to talk about women’s empowerment, what we can do to help women lead we need so many more women leaders in our country. We need women to have positions of power and what better way to start that then in sports, and now that I’m transitioning over, I hope I can continue that in every facet.”

This report was updated at 6 p.m., April 22.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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