Karen & Kevin Keyes Family Head Coach
One of the finest point guards ever to wear the Notre Dame uniform, Niele Ivey (first name pronounced knee-L) was announced as the fourth Karen & Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach on April 22, 2020, just mere minutes after Muffet McGraw stepped down from her post after a Hall of Fame career.
Ivey was the common link to all nine of the program’s Final Four appearances, two as a player and seven as an assistant coach, logging a combined 17 years on Notre Dame’s campus. Ivey spent the 2019-20 season honing her craft as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies before returning home.
“I am so honored to be able to follow in the legacy that Coach McGraw built here at Notre Dame,” Ivey stated. “My love and appreciation for Coach McGraw is beyond anything I can express. She’s more than a mentor, more than a friend, she’s one of the most influential people in my life. I am full of gratitude for Coach McGraw and what she has done for me. She was the first to give me an opportunity to play for Notre Dame and coach here as well. I will forever be grateful for her love and support. I would also like to thank Jack Swarbrick and Father Jenkins for having the faith to move this program forward with me. I can never thank you enough for this incredible opportunity.”
The Irish went 386-55 (.875) during Ivey’s time patrolling the sidelines as an assistant. Notre Dame’s recent decade of dominance (2010-19) had Ivey’s handprints all over it – no other program had produced more trips to the national title game (six), and the Irish posted the third-most wins in that span, as well (339).
That decade also consisted of 14 conference championships (eight regular-season plus six tournament titles split between the BIG EAST and ACC), seven Final Fours and a 2018 national championship.
“I am thrilled Niele will be the next leader of the Notre Dame basketball program,” Muffet McGraw said. “She’s one of the best young coaches in the game today and her success with the Grizzlies has helped make her even more prepared for her new role.
“What sets Niele apart is her ability to connect with all generations — alums, her current team and future student-athletes. She will be a fantastic role model and a leader in the women’s empowerment movement, and she will represent Notre Dame in a way that will make our fans proud.”
Ivey expanded her basketball prowess when she stepped away from Notre Dame to accept an assistant coaching position with the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2019-20 season. Ivey proved to be a true trailblazer, becoming the ninth active female coach in the NBA.
Over the past year, Ivey helped develop a young team, with a new coaching staff, into a playoff contender. Ivey worked with several different position groups with the Grizzlies, but primarily with standout guards Jarien Jackson and Ja Morant, as the latter won 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
“Father Jenkins and I have every confidence that Niele Ivey is the perfect person to build upon the legacy established by Coach McGraw,” Swarbrick stated. “As a player and as a coach, Niele helped Notre Dame women’s basketball perform at a championship level. She understands Notre Dame and what it takes to help young women reach their potential here. We look forward to working closely with her in the years ahead.”
Ivey originally joined the Fighting Irish women’s basketball coaching staff in May 2007 (she added the title of recruiting coordinator in 2012 and was promoted to associate head coach in the summer of 2015). Ivey went on to spend 12 seasons under Coach McGraw before departing for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Over her last eight years in particular, Notre Dame ranked in the top-12 in field goal percentage (led the country in 2013-14 season), scoring offense and assists. In fact, Notre Dame’s offense over its back-to-back title game runs in 2018 and 2019 was one for the record books. The 2018 championship squad ranked in the top-five in all the afore mentioned categories. Meanwhile, the 2019 Irish took home the statistical championship for top scoring offense in the country, averaging a program record 88.6 points per game. In addition, they broke the program record for assists (804) while finishing second in shooting percentage (50.8 percent). The stat that is the icing on the cake to all of this — the 2019 starting five of Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Shepard, Turner and Young went down as the most prolific scoring fivesome in the history of NCAA Division I basketball (men’s or women’s), amassing an astonishing 10,230 combined career points.
In addition to her achievements in player development with such proteges as All-Americans Skylar Diggins, Jewell Loyd, Lindsay Allen and Arike Ogunbowale, Ivey emerged as a rising star on the recruiting trail, with a sharp eye for young up-and-coming talent. In fact, she helped Notre Dame attract top-12 incoming classes in nine of her last 10 years. In her last class, Coach Ivey nabbed No. 6 Samantha Brunelle and No. 18 Anaya Peoples.
What’s more, Ivey displayed brilliant prowess when it came to scouting and in-game strategy. In her last six years alone, she was directly responsible for creating the game plans that led to victories over Duke (12 times), Tennessee (8 times), Florida State (7 times), Connecticut (5 times), Maryland (three times), Louisville (8 times), Syracuse (7 times), UCLA (three times), Baylor (twice), Texas A&M (3 times) and South Carolina, among many others.
In fact, Notre Dame is 5-3 all-time against UConn in the NCAA Tournament, which more than doubles the next best team’s win total. Overall, over her last 11 years, the Irish have knocked off the Huskies nine times, while all other Division I teams combined for eight wins.
All things considered, it was no surprise when Ivey was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division I National Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2016.
A former All-America point guard at Notre Dame and a five-year WNBA veteran, Ivey brought her considerable experience to bear on the Fighting Irish floor generals, most recently on display with two-time All-American, two-time Ann Meyers Drysdale Award finalist and 2018 Final Four MVP Arike Ogunbowale. The 2019 graduate will forever be known for her “Ice Twice” shots, knocking down back-to-back buzzer beaters over UConn and Mississippi State to lift the Irish to the 2018 national title. Ogunbowale also just happened to reel in a runner-up finish to the 2018 AP Female Athlete of the Year Award behind the legendary Serena Williams. Upon graduation, Ogunbowale left as the program’s all-time leading scorer, accumulating 2,626 career points, along with the program’s top marks in double-figure scoring games, 20-point games, and 30-point games, plus top season marks in scoring average and points. Ogunbowale was selected fifth overall in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings, joining fellow Ivey protege Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Before Ogunbowale, came Lindsay Allen, who was a three-time All-American and three-time Nancy Lieberman Award finalist, as the latter was an accolade Ivey herself received during her senior season at Notre Dame in 2000-01. Allen set both the school and ACC records for both single season (282 in 2016-17) and career assists (841), and ranked 22nd in NCAA history in career assists. Allen was also one of just two Notre Dame players with three 200-assist seasons and led the ACC in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio from 2015-17. Allen was named MVP of the 2017 ACC Tournament, setting a tournament record with 33 assists, all while leading Notre Dame to its fourth straight title. All-in-all, Allen’s superb Irish career led her to be drafted 14th overall by the New York Liberty in the 2017 WNBA Draft.
Along with working with Allen, Ivey helped mold Loyd into one of the country’s top players from 2012-15. In that three-year period, Loyd developed an offensive package unlike any seen in Notre Dame history, capped in 2014-15 by her 772 points and 19.8 points-per-game scoring average. Loyd’s best performances came against Top 25 teams, in which she averaged 22.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, including a school record-tying 41 at DePaul, 34 against Tennessee and 31 against Connecticut. Loyd ultimately finished with 1,909 points and a 17.0 career points-per-game average. Loyd was chosen as the 2015 espnW National Player of the Year, while also ending as the runner-up for the AP National Player of the Year honor and the John R. Wooden Award. As a direct result, Loyd elected to forego her senior season to enter the 2015 WNBA Draft and wound up being the first Fighting Irish player chosen No. 1 in the league’s annual college draft and then later selected as the WNBA Rookie of the Year. Furthermore, Loyd was a 2018 WNBA All-Star before claiming the 2018 WNBA title with the Seattle Storm.
Most notably in Ivey’s tutelage career was Skylar Diggins. Ivey was primarily responsible for supervising the growth of popular South Bend native, who blossomed into one of Notre Dame’s legends in any sport and one of only five inductees from women’s hoops into the school’s prestigious athletics Ring of Honor.
Under Ivey’s guidance, Diggins made a seamless transition from shooting guard to point guard during her final three seasons, emerging as one of the nation’s elite players to become one of just three two-time recipients of the Lieberman Award and a two-time consensus first-team All-America and BIG EAST Player of the Year selection, all before being chosen third overall in the first round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock (now known as the Dallas Wings). She went on to be a three-time All-WNBA honoree after earning WNBA All-Rookie Team honors in 2013, in addition to being a four-time WNBA All-Star selection.
Thanks to Ivey’s mentorship, Diggins became the first Fighting Irish player and one of only four NCAA Division I players during the 10-season period from 2001-02 to 2012-13 to register 600 points, 200 assists and 100 steals in a single campaign, pulling off that feat in each of her final two seasons (2011-12 and 2012-13). She also owns the top two single-season steals totals in school history (114 in 2012-13, 102 in 2011-12), as well as the fourth and fifth best single-season assist marks in the Notre Dame record books (225 in 2012-13, 222 in 2011-12). What’s more, her 657 points in 2011-12 ranks eighth on the school’s single-season chart, one spot higher than her 631 points as a senior in 2012-13. In addition, she posted the fourth-best assist-turnover ratio (2.16 in 2011-12) by a Fighting Irish player in one season.
Besides her seasonal awards, Diggins was a three-time NCAA Regional Most Outstanding Player (2010-Dayton; 2011-Raleigh; 2012-Norfolk) and was a member of the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Women’s Final Four All-Tournament Teams, becoming the first Notre Dame player to be selected for either honor twice in her career. Diggins graduated in 2013 as the holder (or co-holder) of no fewer than 32 game, season or career records at Notre Dame, and ranks among the top five on an astounding 105 of the program’s game, season or career charts.
Ivey came back to Notre Dame following two seasons (2005-07) as an administrative assistant on the women’s basketball staff at Xavier University, where she served under former Notre Dame assistant coach Kevin McGuff (now the head coach at Ohio State). During Ivey’s two seasons at Xavier, she coordinated film exchange and assisted in many of the daily operations of the Musketeers’ program, including travel, academics and community outreach.
Ivey sat out most of her freshman season at Notre Dame (1996-97 Final Four campaign) after suffering a season-ending knee injury five games in. However, she was awarded a fifth year of eligibility in 2000-01 and made the most of it, earning third-team AP All-America honors, the first Fighting Irish point guard to be so recognized. She also was the recipient of the 2001 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (nation’s top senior player standing 5-foot-8 or under) and was a finalist for the 2001 Lieberman Award. In addition, Ivey made the 2001 NCAA Women’s Final Four All-Tournament Team after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 steals per game as the Fighting Irish defeated Connecticut and Purdue to win their first national title.
All told, Notre Dame went 109-22 (.832) during Ivey’s last four seasons, reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 three times (1998, 2000, 2001) and rolling up a (then) school-record 34 wins in 2000-01. The Fighting Irish also won a share of their first BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2000-01 and were ranked in the top 10 of either or both the Associated Press and WBCA/USA Today polls for all but two weeks during her final three campaigns. While at Notre Dame, Ivey was a three-time all-BIG EAST selection (1999-2001), collecting first-team honors in 2001, and was tapped as the BIG EAST Player of the Week five times. She also led the Fighting Irish in steals in each of her final four seasons (1997-98 to 2000-01) and was the team’s assist leader in her last three years, setting school records with 95 steals in 1999-2000 (since topped by Diggins) and 247 assists in 2000-01, along with a school-standard 2.67 assist/turnover ratio the latter season.
Ivey went on to play five seasons in the WNBA, beginning with her selection by the Indiana Fever in the second round (17th overall pick) of the 2001 WNBA Draft. She spent four seasons with the Fever, helping them to the first playoff berth in franchise history in 2002. Ivey signed with the Detroit Shock as a restricted free agent in 2005, and subsequently was acquired by the Phoenix Mercury later that season.
A native of St. Louis, Ivey graduated from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in history.