Nov. 8, 2004
University of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has signed a two-year extension to continue as coach of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program through the 2010-11 season.
McGraw, who begins her 18th season with the Irish in 2004-05, most recently signed a four-year contract extension in July 2002 that took her through the 2008-09 season. Her 17 seasons at Notre Dame have been highlighted by 15 20-win campaigns (including a current string of 11 straight), 11 NCAA tournament appearances (including a current streak of nine straight) and the 2001 NCAA title. Entering the 2004-05 season, she has a 384-149 (.720) record at Notre Dame.
“Muffet McGraw’s highly-successful record during the past 17 years at Notre Dame clearly speaks volumes. Given that, Muffet has, at the same time, conducted herself with an inordinate amount of class and distinction, and is universally held as one of the truly premier coaches in intercollegiate athletics. Quite frankly, she embodies all that is unique and special about Irish athletics,” said Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White.
“Coaching at Notre Dame has been a dream come true for me. There’s no better place in the country to experience the perfect blend of both athletics and academics. I’m so grateful for the tremendous confidence and support Kevin White has shown in me and our program. We have built something very special here and I’m thrilled to continue working to achieve the highest degree of success that we have come to expect from Notre Dame women’s basketball,” said McGraw.
In 2003-04 McGraw skillfully guided her team to a 21-11 record and a second consecutive berth in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen (the fourth for the Irish in five years). McGraw’s charges placed second in the BIG EAST Conference, their eighth top-two finish since joining the league nine years ago. In addition, the Irish went 15-0 at home, their third perfect record at the Joyce Center in the past five seasons, and extended their overall home win streak to 20 games, the second-longest in school history and eighth-longest active string in the nation heading into the 2004-05 campaign.
McGraw has continued to enhance her reputation as one of the nation’s outstanding big-game coaches and tacticians, piloting Notre Dame to a school-record seven wins over top 25 teams during the 2003-04 regular season. During her 17-year tenure with the Irish, McGraw has compiled 40 victories over nationally-ranked opponents, including 30 in the past six seasons (an average of five per year).
Under McGraw’s guidance, the past nine years have been the most successful in Notre Dame’s history as the Irish have compiled an impressive 225-69 (.765) record, including a sparkling 124-28 (.816) regular-season mark in BIG EAST play, the best winning percentage in league history. Notre Dame also has averaged 25 victories per campaign during that span, with two 30-win seasons to its credit. The Irish have won at least one NCAA tournament game every season over that time, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen six times (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004) and the Final Four twice (1997 and 2001).
The night of April 1, 2001 will be one McGraw will never forget. On that memorable evening in St. Louis, Mo., Notre Dame defeated Purdue 68-66 as McGraw’s 14th Irish team won the school’s first NCAA women’s basketball national championship. It was the second Final Four appearance in five years for McGraw’s squad, which became the only NCAA champion to erase double-figure deficits in both of its Final Four contests.
Having coached the Irish to their best ever regular-season record at 26-1 and a school-record 34 wins (the second 30-win campaign in school history), and having guided Notre Dame to its best record (34-2) and season winning percentage (.944), McGraw earned numerous national awards for her efforts. For the first time in her 20-year career, she won national coach-of-the-year honors from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Sports Illustrated for Women and Associated Press, as well as the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which named her the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year. All-American Ruth Riley joined McGraw for the latter two honors, earning AP and Naismith player-of-the-year laurels. Riley also was honored as the nation’s top student-athlete when she was named the Verizon Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year.
In addition, the New York Athletic Club honored McGraw with the Winged Foot Award, which is presented annually to the coach of the NCAA champion. She also was selected as the WBCA District I Coach of the Year and was voted the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the first time. She has earned coach-of-the-year honors in all four conferences with which she has been associated during her head coaching tenure — the East Coast Conference, North Star Conference, Midwestern Collegiate Conference and BIG EAST.
Success for McGraw also has meant coaching great players. Riley, the 2001 BIG EAST player of the year, became the third Notre Dame player to earn AP All-America honors when she was named in ’99 to the third team. She also was a unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST selection in 2000 and was the ’99 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to earning WBCA/Kodak honorable mention All-America honors that year. She has gone on to represent USA Basketball on three occasions, most recently as a member of the 2004 U.S. Senior National Team that won the gold medal at the Athens Olympics.
Prior to Riley’s arrival, two players whose names forever will be linked to elevating the Notre Dame program to national prominence are ’97 graduates Beth Morgan and Katryna Gaither. The two-time Kodak and AP honorable mention All-Americans both scored more than 2,000 points during their careers, becoming the first two players from the same team in NCAA history (male or female) to reach that milestone. After stints in the now defunct American Basketball League (ABL), both played in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Thanks to McGraw’s ability to get the best out of her players, Notre Dame has developed a solid presence in the WNBA in recent years. In addition to Gaither, Coquese Washington, a ’92 graduate and current Irish assistant coach, recently retired after a seven-year stint as a point guard for the New York Liberty, Houston Comets and Indiana Fever. In the ’01 WNBA draft, three starters from Notre Dame’s national championship squad — Riley, Niele Ivey and Kelley Siemon — were chosen. Riley was the fifth pick overall by the Miami Sol, and when the Sol folded in 2003, she was the No. 1 overall choice in the WNBA dispersal draft by the Detroit Shock, helping lead that team to the league title with a storybook, worst-to-first finish in 2003 (she was the WNBA Finals MVP that year). Meanwhile, Ivey has been a mainstay in the backcourt with the Indiana Fever the past four seasons, helping guide that team to its first-ever playoff berth in 2002. Both Siemon and Ericka Haney, a fourth starter from that ’01 team to be drafted in the WNBA, have since retired to begin coaching careers.
Fourteen of her former players and/or assistant coaches currently are serving as coaches at either the high school or college level. In addition, five of her former assistants are presently collegiate head coaches, including Kevin McGuff at Xavier.
McGraw received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) in 1977. Following graduation, she coached for two seasons at Philadelphia’s Archbishop Carroll High School where she guided her teams to a 50-3 record.
McGraw then played point guard for one year with the California Dreams, a team in the since-folded Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL). She returned to her alma mater in 1980, serving as an assistant coach under Jim Foster.
Two years later, McGraw was named head coach at Lehigh University, her teams finishing 88-41 (.683) during her five-year tenure. She was named East Coast Conference coach of the year following her first season as a collegiate coach in 1982-83.
Born Dec. 5, 1955 in Pottsville, Pa., McGraw was named an honorary alumna by the Notre Dame Alumni Association in 1997 and received an honorary monogram from the Notre Dame National Monogram Club.