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ND Women’s Basketball

Edmonds: Ivey continues carrying on McGraw’s leadership on and off the court

| Monday, August 17, 2020

It’s near impossible to write about the future of sports with so much still up in the air. It seems like every day there’s a new rumor about the trend of college football as conferences debate their next steps. On the other hand, there are the few cases where we’ve seen athletes and coaches take this time off to rededicate themselves to a new craft or raise awareness for something they’re passionate about.

Back in April, I wrote a column reflecting on the storied career of Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw as a leader both on and off the court. Throughout her Hall of Fame career, McGraw continually advocated for women in leadership positions and was known to be incredibly involved in the greater South Bend community all while tallying over 900 wins over 38 seasons.

Her commitment to advocacy and inclusion didn’t stop on a personal level, either. The Notre Dame women’s basketball team and women’s basketball at large have continually voiced their support for various social justice campaigns, led by countless figures including McGraw. In the nearly four months since her former point guard and protege Niele Ivey took over as head coach, the program has demonstrated that it’s prepared to continue and develop that legacy.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish junior guard Katlyn Gilbert drives to the lane during Notre Dame’s 105-94 loss to DePaul at Purcell Pavilion.

Under Ivey’s leadership, the team has been actively involved in South Bend’s effort to address COVID-19 and assisting local schools as they prepare to return to in-person classes. Similarly, she maintained McGraw’s widely publicized tradition of only hiring women with the newest addition Coquese Washington joining Carol Owens and Michaela Mabrey as her support staff. She has also continued to use her social media presence to advocate for racial justice, specifically bringing attention to the death of Breonna Taylor. Like McGraw, Ivey’s commitment to the community and causes she’s passionate about transcend the program’s culture and is increasingly relevant at a time of such uncertainty.

The simple fact is this: McGraw didn’t simply speak out on causes she was passionate about. She was a winner, someone who demanded the respect of sports fans and athletes around the world. Similarly, I have high hopes for Ivey as she takes the torch from McGraw. There will be some bumps in the road. Whether it’s this November or whenever basketball can safely resume, there’s no question that Ivey and her cohort will have to work through some kinks. The team is still finding its footing after losing all five starters of a national championship team to the WNBA Draft two years ago.

But the young team has potential. Star sophomore forward Sam Brunelle has a year of experience under her belt and is joined by the veteran presence of Destinee Walker and a freshman class that includes four five-star commits. Add in the recent addition of transfer Dara Mabrey — the third in her family to wear the Irish uniform — and this team has all the makings to bring the Irish back to the pinnacle of ACC dominance.

And when that happens, don’t be surprised. This program is built to endure. They understand the importance of the process and did not waver throughout this past season of growing pains. But in the meantime, take note of their commitment to more than just basketball because they’re the real deal.

Also tune into the WNBA while they’re in the bubble. Many of your favorite players at Notre Dame are still playing and deserve our support.

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

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