May 12, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Carol Owens, who enjoyed tremendous success for 10 seasons as an assistant and associate women’s basketball coach at the University of Notre Dame, will fill that role once again, as she has been named associate coach for the Fighting Irish, head coach Muffet McGraw announced Wednesday.
Owens fills the vacancy on McGraw’s staff created on April 14 when Angie Potthoff was named associate director for women’s basketball operations & technology. As was the case during her initial tenure at Notre Dame, Owens will focus on working with the Fighting Irish post players, while also assisting with the program’s nationally-ranked recruiting efforts (Notre Dame has attracted 14 consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes, something only two other schools can match).
Owens returns to Notre Dame following a five-year stint (2005-10) as head coach at her alma mater, Northern Illinois University. During her time in DeKalb, Owens’s teams showed exceptional growth, as she posted a higher career winning percentage (.449) than either of her two predecessors and became only the second coach in the program’s 42-year history (first in 28 seasons) to register double-digit victories every year she walked the sidelines at Northern Illinois.
“I am so thrilled to have Carol returning to our program,” McGraw said. “She’s proven to be a excellent coach and an outstanding recruiter throughout her career, and now she brings even more experience with her success at Northern Illinois and with USA Basketball. She is very familiar with our program and philosophy, which should lead to a smooth transition. Our players will benefit a great deal from her experience, and I believe our fans join us in enthusiastically welcoming Carol back to Notre Dame.”
“I am very happy to be back at Notre Dame,” Owens said. “It’s a place that is so dear to my heart and the people there have been wonderful to me. I’ve had such a great relationship with Coach McGraw over the years, but I never thought I would have the chance to work with her again, and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. I’m really looking forward to getting started.”
Owens’ finest season at NIU came in 2006-07, when she led the Huskies to a 19-12 record, their best mark in 14 years, and the program’s first berth in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals since 2001-02. Two years later in 2008-09, Owens guided Northern Illinois to a 10-6 record in MAC play and a third-place finish in the conference’s West Division, logging the Huskies’ best regular-season league record since 2001-02. In fact, Northern Illinois has recorded 10 MAC wins three times since joining the conference in 1997-98 (including one 10-win campaign under Owens) and peaked with third-place finishes in the MAC West Division on four occasions (twice under Owens).
Northern Illinois players also made tremendous individual strides under Owens’ watchful eye. Eight Huskies collected all-conference honors during her tenure, led by first-team all-MAC guard (and eventual WNBA second-round draft pick) Stephanie Raymond in 2006-07. In addition, she helped mold Marke Freeman into the league’s Sixth Player of the Year in 2008-09.
Her NIU teams were successful in the classroom as well, with the Huskie women’s basketball program boasting a cumulative grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better every semester under Owens. What’s more, all 12 seniors that completed their careers at Northern Illinois during her tenure earned their degrees.
As if that weren’t enough, Owens is a rising star on the national and international coaching scene through her work with USA Basketball. The past two summers, she served as head coach of the United States U18 and U19 teams, guiding those squads to gold medals at the 2008 FIBA U18 Americas Championships in Argentina, and the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships in Thailand — in both cases, one of her standout players was Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Skylar Diggins. In 2008, Owens was named USA Basketball’s Developmental Coach of the Year, and prior to that, she spent two summers (2006-07) as an assistant coach for Team USA, collecting two more gold medals (2006 FIBA U18 Americas; 2007 FIBA U19 Worlds) as an aide under current DePaul head coach (and recently-appointed U.S. Senior National Team assistant coach) Doug Bruno. Owens also coached recently-departed Notre Dame point guard Melissa Lechlitner (`10) on that 2007 USA squad that took gold at the U19 World Championships.
For many years, Owens has been an important contributor within the women’s basketball coaching community. In 2008, she was selected to serve on the Board of Directors for both the Black Coaches Association (BCA) and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), serving on the latter body’s Executive Committee as the WBCA secretary. McGraw also currently serves on the WBCA’s Board of Directors, having filled the role as the group’s Division I Legislative Chair since 2005.
During her first stint at Notre Dame from 1995-2005, Owens played an important role in the Fighting Irish’s rise to national prominence. In that decade-long run with Owens on the bench, Notre Dame went 252-75 (.771), averaging better than 25 victories per season with at least 20 wins in each campaign. The Fighting Irish also qualified for the NCAA Tournament in every year of Owens’ stay, reaching the second round each time en route to six Sweet 16 appearances (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004), two Final Four berths (1997, 2001) and the program’s first national championship in 2001.
Through the years, Owens has carefully crafted a reputation as one of the nation’s premier post coaches, a label she earned primarily during her career at Notre Dame. Her most famous pupil to date has been Ruth Riley (’01), who was a three-time All-America selection (1999-2001) and capped off her Fighting Irish career as the 2001 consensus national player-of-the-year. She has since gone on to win two WNBA titles (2003 and 2006 with the Detroit Shock), as well as a gold medal with the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, becoming one of only seven players in women’s basketball history to earn NCAA, WNBA and Olympic championships in her career.
In addition, Katryna Gaither (’97) was a two-time honorable mention All-America selection at Notre Dame while working with Owens, and Riley, Gaither and Kelley Siemon (’01) all were drafted into the WNBA following their Fighting Irish careers.
“Carol Owens is one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, and in my opinion, she is the best skills coach in the country when it comes to the post position,” Riley said. “As a young player, I was very grateful to find a school where I knew I would develop fundamentally at my position. Coach Owens has personal experience of being an All-America post player, and she uses that knowledge teach and mold young student-athletes. I am very grateful for the time she invested in making me the best post player I could be.”
Named one of the top five assistant coaches in the country by Women’s Basketball Journal in 2001, Owens also helped Notre Dame land nine consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes from 1997-2005. She joined the Fighting Irish staff in 1995 following two seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan.
As a standout player at Northern Illinois from 1985-90 (she missed the ’86-87 season with a knee injury), Owens compiled a very impressive resume. A two-time WBCA Coaches’ All-District IV selection (1989 and 1990), Owens scored 2,102 points and averaged 18.0 points per game over four campaigns, covering 117 games. She also captained the Huskies for four seasons and, in her final collegiate campaign (1989-90), she guided Northern Illinois to the best record in school history (26-5), as the Huskies went undefeated in North Star Conference play (12-0) and earned the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.
Owens finished her NIU career with 13 school records, most notably standing as Northern Illinois’ all-time leader in scoring, blocked shots, free throws made, free throw attempts and field goal percentage — to this day, she remains the Huskies’ career leader in blocks, free throws made and consecutive double-digit scoring games. In addition, she was the first player (male or female) in school history to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds.
A native of Chicago, Owens received her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Northern Illinois in 1990. She was selected by the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to serve as Commencement Marshal of her graduating class and was named Northern Illinois’ Outstanding Woman. In addition, Owens was the recipient of the Student Leadership Award.
Following her graduation from NIU, Owens enjoyed a three-year professional basketball career in Japan, Spain and Italy. In 1995, Owens was inducted into the Northern Illinois University Athletic Hall of Fame and followed up that honor with her induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame in 2001.
— ND —