Associate Head Coach
Beth Cunningham, a former two-time All-America guard at the University of Notre Dame and the program’s third all-time leading scorer, completed her eighth season on the Fighting Irish staff for the 2019-20 season. Associate Head Coach Beth Cunningham returned to her alma mater in 2012 following 11 seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University, the final nine as the Rams’ head coach.
At Notre Dame, Cunningham’s primary focus is working with the Fighting Irish wing players, as well as coordinating future game schedules and constructing game strategy and scouting reports. She also helps develop daily practice plans and spearheads the program’s nationally-ranked recruiting efforts.
“Beth was a phenomenal shooter as a player here at Notre Dame, and she has the respect of all the players that are now in our program because they know she’s done exactly the same things that she’s teaching them,” head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s had great success as a head coach and she’s able to help me during games because she’s always been a poised and level-headed kind of person and never gets too high or low emotionally.
“Beth sees the game from more of an objective view, so she’s really good on the bench during timeouts with comments and suggestions we can use,” McGraw added. “Understanding what the head coach is going through all the time makes her a great assistant because she helps make things easier for me in so many ways. All of us on the staff depend on her when it comes to managing the little things, the added details that come up, both on and off the court.”
Cunningham has helped mold Notre Dame’s perimeter offense into one of the nation’s best. The Irish broke the program record for most made three-pointers in the 2016-17 season (217), but also have claimed the top-five spots in the record book in five of the past seven years (190 in 2013-14; 186 in 2014-15, 207 in 2015-16 and 185 in 2017-18).
When the Irish went to back-to-back NCAA title games in 2018 and 2019, Notre Dame’s offense operated at its best in program history. The 2018 national championship squad ranked second all-time in points (3,234) and scoring average (85.1 ppg), and fifth in field goal percentage (.502). During the Big Dance, the Irish poured in 523 total points, which ranked fourth all-time in the history of the tournament and the best in program history.
The Irish followed that up with a runner-up finish in the 2019 NCAA Championship, finishing the year with the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, averaging 88.6 points per game. The Irish also posted the second best shooting percentage (.508) and scoring margin (23.6). In fact, Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Young, Turner and Shepard made NCAA Division I history by amassing the most points by a starting five with 10,230 over their careers.
Two major players on the championship squad whom Cunningham guided were Marina Mabrey and Jackie Young. Both Mabrey and Young were selected in the 2019 WNBA Draft — Young went No. 1 overall to the Las Vegas Aces, while Mabrey was chosen at No. 19 by the LA Sparks (now with the Dallas Wings).
Mabrey, a two-time All-ACC selection, two-time NCAA All-Regional member and 2019 All-Final Four honoree, finished her career as the program’s all-time leading in made three-pointers with 274. Mabrey knocked down 85 three-pointers as a junior (which ranked as the second most for a single season) and 80 threes her senior year (ranked fourth all-time). Mabrey made a three in 24 consecutive games, which ranks second all-time to Beth Morgan’s 35. In addition, she shot a career 40.0 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked fifth. During the 2018 NCAA Tournament run, Mabrey knocked down 19 three’s, which marked the most of any Irish player all-time and fifth most in Division-I history. Ultimately, Mabrey joined Lindsay Allen, Skylar Diggins, Niele Ivey, Mollie Peirick, Karen Robinson and Megan Duffy in the 1,000 points and 500 assists club, finishing her career with 1,896 points and 500 assists.
Then, there was the dynamic Young, who averaged 16.3 points on 47.9 percents shooting during the 2018 NCAA Tournament, which included her heroic 32-point career high performance vs UConn in the National Semifinal – The 32 points were the seventh most in a women’s Final Four contest. In her final season her junior year, Young was named an AP All-American, Cheryl Miller Award finalist and the ACC Tournament MVP. Young made history when she became the first Irish player to record two triple-doubles in the same season. The ‘Pride of Princeton’ achieved 12 double-doubles, which broke the program record for a guard, while accumulating 17 over her career which tied Lindsay Schrader for the most by a guard. All-in-all, she also became the program’s second No. 1 overall WNBA Draft pick.
However, Cunningham’s most notable protege could arguably be 2017 Ring of Honor inductee Kayla McBride. Under Cunningham’s steady hand, McBride became a two-time All-American, earning consensus first-team honors as a senior in 2013-14. She also was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year after averaging career highs of 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in her final season. What’s more, McBride was the 2013 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player after leading Notre Dame to its first-ever BIG EAST tournament title. McBride was dominant on the biggest stages, reflecting Cunningham’s own cool demeanor from her playing days, averaging 18.7 points per game against ranked teams in her final two seasons.
McBride was a first-round selection (No. 3 overall) in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the San Antonio Stars (now Las Vegas Aces) and earned WNBA All-Rookie Team honors and posted the highest scoring season for a San Antonio rookie since the franchise relocated from Salt Lake City in 2003. In addition, McBride was San Antonio’s leading scorer (22.5 ppg.) during the 2014 WNBA playoffs. Now with the Las Vegas Aces, McBride is a three-time WNBA All-Star. Furthermore, she is in the USA Basketball Senior National Team 2017-20 player pool.
Right now, Coach Cunningham is molding Sam Brunelle, Abby Prohaska and Destinee Walker. Brunelle led all freshmen in the ACC in scoring as her 13.9 ppg ranked fourth all-time in ND freshman history. An ACC All-Freshman Team selection, Brunelle scored a career high 31 points vs. DePaul, tying the individual scoring record for a ND freshman. Her 58 made three-pointers ranked second all-time among ND freshman. Brunelle also picked up an espnW National Player of the Week honor after draining seven three-pointers to knock off No. 19 Florida State.
Walker also shone bright in her first year under Coach Cunningham after being named All-ACC Honorable Mention. Walker led the Irish in scoring with her 14.5 ppg. She tallied eight 20+ scoring performances, which marked a career best for the grad transfer. In addition, Walker ended the season strong with 10 straight games in double figures, posting the fifth highest scoring average in the month of February (18.1 ppg).
Prohaska was Notre Dame’s primary and lone guard option off the bench during the 2019 NCAA Tournament. She provided a +8 in plus-minus vs UConn (4/5) in the National Semifinal and was a huge spark off the bench in the Elite Eight vs. Stanford: the Irish trailed 44-41 with 2:51 left in the third quarter – enter Prohaska who ignited a 13-4 scoring run to end the quarter up 52-46. Prohaska tallied four points, three boards and one assist in the game. She took a medical redshirt her sophomore year.
Before returning to Notre Dame in the summer of 2012, Cunningham took the VCU women’s basketball program to new heights in her 11 seasons in Richmond, Va., spending one year as an assistant coach (2001-02) and another as associate head coach (2002-03) before assuming the head coaching duties prior to the 2003-04 campaign. She is the Rams’ all-time leader in women’s basketball coaching wins, having successfully piloted VCU to a 167-115 (.592) record and postseason appearances in each of her final five seasons, including the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship berth (an at-large selection in 2009). Under her tutelage, VCU also averaged better than 22 wins per season from 2007-08 through 2011-12, amassing three consecutive 20-win campaigns from 2008-10 (including back-to-back school-record 26-win seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09) as part of the most successful four-year run in Rams’ history.
A two-time Virginia Coach of the Year honoree by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Cunningham coached three WNBA Draft picks and two All-Americans, as well as two Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Players of the Year and 18 all-conference selections during her tenure at VCU. Among her more notable pupils were Quanitra Hollingsworth, a first-round selection (ninth overall) in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, and Courtney Hurt, a 2012 third-round selection by the Indiana Fever, who was among the nation’s leaders in scoring and rebounding during her final two seasons.
Much like her coaching career at VCU, Cunningham was a trailblazer during her playing days at Notre Dame from 1993-97 (when she competed under her maiden name of Beth Morgan), not only helping the Fighting Irish transition from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) into the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, but then leading the program to the first NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance and a (then) record-setting 31-7 campaign as a senior in 1996-97. A two-time Associated Press and WBCA honorable mention All-America choice, four-time first-team all-conference selection and two-year team captain, Cunningham sparked Notre Dame to a 97-32 (.752) record in her four seasons under the Golden Dome, including a pair of MCC regular season titles and the 1994 MCC postseason crown, as well as three NCAA Championship appearances (1994, 1996, 1997).
When all was said and done, Cunningham departed as the all-time leading scorer in Fighting Irish women’s basketball history with 2,322 points (now second behind Skylar Diggins), having set or tied 28 school records during her career.
Following her successful college career, Cunningham spent three seasons in the American professional basketball ranks, playing two seasons with the Richmond/Philadelphia Rage of the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL) from 1997-98, and then one year with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics in 2000 before embarking on her coaching career.
Cunningham also was a fixture in USA Basketball circles as both a player and coach, first suiting up for Team USA four times from 1996-99 (winning three medals including a gold with the 1997 USA World University Games Team) and serving as the athlete representative on the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee since 2009 after spending time in a similar role on the USA Basketball Women’s Collegiate Committee from 2005-08.
Cunningham graduated from Notre Dame in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the top-ranked Mendoza College of Business. She then went on to earn her master’s degree of education in sports leadership from VCU in 2003.
Originally from Bloomington, Ind., Cunningham was a standout two-sport performer at Bloomington South High School, earning all-state honors in both basketball and tennis and subsequently being inducted into the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame in June 2011. What’s more, her father, Bob Morgan, was the longtime baseball coach at Indiana University from 1984-2005, leading the Hoosiers to more than 1,000 victories during his career.
Cunningham and her husband, Dan (a former practice player for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program and a 1996 graduate of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business), are the proud parents of three daughters (Margaret, Carly and Gretchen) and one son (Danny).