There hasn’t been a ton of sports news over the last month or so outside of Notre Dame football recruiting developments. Wednesday, however, the Notre Dame sports world was delivered a shocker. Fighting Irish women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw announced she was retiring. At the same time, the University also announced that one of her former star pupils – Niele Ivey – would replace a legendary coach.
In a statement released by the University, McGraw stated the following:
“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 basketball coach,” McGraw stated. “I want to thank Monk Malloy and Father Jenkins for giving me the opportunity to coach the game I love at a university I love. I have 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.
As a coach, McGraw is in rare company. She won over 930 games, went to nine Final Fours, and won two national championships. The only other coaches – men’s or women’s – to do that in the NCAA? Pat Summitt, Tara VanDerveer, Geno Auriemma, and Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Almost all of that came from her time at Notre Dame, including both of the titles and all nine of the Final Four appearances. That is the kind of career that gets you a statue somewhere on campus – a distinction that should be given to McGraw sooner rather than later.
On top of her success on the court, McGraw was universally loved by fans and everyone associated with the University. It’s rare for any coach of any sport to have both the kind of success McGraw had both on and off the court.
Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly tweeted a congratulatory message to McGraw on Wednesday following the sudden news of her retirement.
Congratulations on your retirement @MuffetMcGraw #ThankYouMuffet pic.twitter.com/w8X4onYXnc
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) April 22, 2020
Kelly is right, McGraw is in a category with other Irish legends that Kelly referenced in his tweet.
Niele Ivey replaces McGraw after taking a role as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies before the 2019 season. Before taking that role, Ivey spent 12 seasons on the Notre Dame sidelines as an assistant on McGraw’s staff. She played on two of McGraw’s Final Four squads and was a coach on all seven of Notre Dame’s trips to the Final Four during McGraw’s tenure.
Notre Dame lost a legendary coach on Wednesday, but it replaced her with a legendary former player who was considered an up and coming assistant coach.
How Notre Dame pulled all this off without there being any leaks or indications that this was coming was impressive. The University managed to keep McGraw’s retirement under wraps all while locking up Ivey as her replacement and then seamlessly announced McGraw’s retirement and her successor without any leaks. That is some impressive management of the situation by Jack Swarbrick and the Notre Dame athletic department.
McGraw was a great coach, to be sure… but she embarrassed herself and the university when she made that stupid comment last year about how she would never hire a male assistant coach. If a male head basketball coach had said he would not hire a female assistant coach he would have been fired on the spot. But because she was a woman McGraw got away with.
Therefore, I’m glad she’s gone and good riddance to her!
McGraw was not only a worthy HOF success as a coach, but an outspoken advocate for advancing women in sports, and that often alienated her from some yo boys among ND fandom. She belongs among those BK mentioned as
“Irish royalty” indeed. I’m very excited about her replacement, and wonder if the other members of McGraw’s coaching staff will remain, and how Muffet’s retirement will impact those players returning, especially the Frosh who hadn’t played for Coach Ivey, as well as the recruits headed to ND this fall.
I guess landing the #1 point guard recruit in the country ur first day on the job as Ivey did answers one of my questions!
I don’t follow the women’s team as closely as the men’s BB team and FB team, but I always tried to make sure to watch the games with UConn (there were some legendary games) and their last NC win. It was nice to see ND win a NC at something that gets some media attention.
McGraw’s a great coach though. I remember commenting a few times over the years about maybe she should coach the men’s team at those times whenb Brey would become more frustrating as a coach. She was definitely someone you couldn’t judge by appearances. She’s a lot tougher than she appears, but her players loved her too.