Associate Head Coach
One of the nation’s premier coaches, Carol Owens enters her 21st year on the Notre Dame women’s basketball coaching staff for the 2020-21 season, and her 12th as associate head coach for the Fighting Irish, having originally been elevated to that position by head coach Muffet McGraw prior to the 2002-03 season (holding that role through the 2004-05 campaign), and then again in the summer of 2012.
Throughout her tenure at Notre Dame, Owens has focused on working with the Fighting Irish post players, while also assisting with the program’s nationally-ranked recruiting efforts (Notre Dame has attracted 24 consecutive top-20 recruiting classes from 1997-2020 something only two other schools achieved).
During her 20-year combined stint at Notre Dame (first from 1995-2005, then again since 2010-11), Owens has played an important role in the Fighting Irish’s rise to national prominence. As the senior member of the program’s assistant coaching staff, Notre Dame has posted a 575-124 (.823), averaging over 28 victories per season in her tenure.
More notably, the Fighting Irish have won two national titles, with the first coming in 2001, followed by the second in 2018. In addition, Notre Dame has appeared in seven NCAA title games and have reached the Final Four nine times (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) – which ranks as the fifth most of any school.
Owens was named the 2019 WBCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year along with being inducted into the inaugural STEP UP Assistant Coach Hall of Fame. In 2014, she was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the A Step Up Assistant Coach of the Year Award, presented by Felicia Hall Allen & Associates. In 2001, she was named one of the top five assistant coaches in the country by Women’s Basketball Journal, and in 2011, CollegeInsider.com named her as one of the top 15 active assistants in the nation.
Owens has had the magic touch when it comes to developing elite post players over the years, with no fewer than seven of her pupils (Natalie Achonwa, Jacqueline Batteast, Katryna Gaither, Ruth Riley, Devereaux Peters, Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner) earning a combined 34 All-America honors during their college careers. Six of her post protegees went on be drafted into the WNBA – as Riley, Peters and Batteast all went on to claim WNBA titles.
2019 marked a special year for Owens with two of her post proteges from the back-to-back NCAA Title game runs in Shepard and Turner both being selected in the WNBA Draft. Turner went 12th overall to the Atlanta Dream (traded to Phoenix Mercury), while Shepard went 16th overall to the Minnesota Lynx. While Shepard’s first year ended early due to injury, Turner went on to being named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team.
At Notre Dame, Turner wasted little time in emerging as one of the nation’s top posts. In the 2014-15 season, the ACC Freshman of the Year led the nation with a .652 field-goal percentage (second-best in school history), becoming the first Division I freshman since 1996-97, and third rookie all-time to lead the country in that category. In addition, Turner became the first Notre Dame player to win an NCAA statistical national championship since 2000-01.
Turner went on to have a record-breaking career at Notre Dame, becoming the program’s all-time leader in rebounds (1,048) and blocks (372). A three-time All-American and three-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Turner also finished with the second best shooting percentage (.624). Turner and Riley are now the only two players in program history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds (all while in an Irish uniform).
Shepard emerged onto the scene for the 2017-18 season (after being cleared to play immediately after transfer from Nebraska) and helped guide the Irish to their second national title. Shepard was named to the All-Final Four Team after averaging 17.0 ppg in Columbus on 62.5 percent shooting. A 2019 AP All-American and Wooden Award National Ballot honoree, Shepard transformed into an even bigger star in her senior year, tallying 19 double-doubles which tied Achonwa for most in a single season. A two-time First Team All-ACC selection, Shepard produced 34 double-doubles at Notre Dame in just two seasons, which tied for fourth all-time. Shepard also broke the single-season rebounding mark in both total (390) and average (10.3). Like Turner, Shepard was highly efficient from the field, knocking down 58.0 percent of her shots at Notre Dame, which ranked sixth all-time. All-in-all, Shepard collected 2,340 points and 1,248 rebounds over her collegiate career.
Prior to her 2019 graduates, Owens worked closely with Natalie Achonwa, a two-time All-American and all-conference selection at Notre Dame from 2010-14, ranking among the top 10 in program history for career rebounds (970), double-doubles (28) and field-goal percentage (.562), while also earning 1,546 career points. What’s more, she had a school-record 19 double-doubles as a junior in 2012-13 and ranked third in the nation with a .611 field-goal percentage as a senior in 2013-14.
Achonwa went on to be selected in the first round (No. 9 overall) of the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever, for whom she made her professional debut a year later (delayed by her recovery from knee surgery). In addition, Owens helped Achonwa take her talents to the international stage and become a two-time Olympian with Canada. Achonwa was selected to the 2012 Olympic Team, becoming the second-youngest player to compete at the London Games. Achonwa later returned with Team Canada in Rio in 2016, guiding the squad to the quarterfinal round. Previously, Achonwa has collected a gold medal with Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games and a silver medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship.
Speaking of Achowna, she was the 2019 inductee into Notre Dame’s prestigious Ring of Honor, joining Riley.
Another of Owens’ success stories was two-time WBCA Coaches’ honorable mention All-American and BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year (as well as first-team all-BIG EAST selection) Devereaux Peters, who went on to be chosen in the first round (third overall selection) of the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx. Peters subsequently earned her first WNBA title with Minnesota in 2013.
As a fifth-year senior under Owens’ tutelage in 2011-12, Peters tied longstanding school records for 15-rebound games (7) and 15-point/15-rebound games (4) in a single campaign, with both marks first set nearly 35 years earlier during the program’s first varsity season (1977-78). She also amassed a career-high 12 double-doubles in 2011-12, including nine in her final 18 games. What’s more, she was the first player in program annals to pile up 75 blocks, 75 steals and 75 assists in one season, and was just the second NCAA Division I player since 2001-02 to pull off that feat at the time.
After battling back from an injury-riddled start to her college career, Owens led Peters into uncharted territory in the Notre Dame women’s basketball record books as the first Fighting Irish player to register 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 blocks, 200 steals and 200 assists in her career.
“Carol is the best post coach in the country,” McGraw said. “She’s someone who understands exactly what it’s like to play in the post because she did it herself. She’s a great teacher of the game and really has a great feel for how to develop young players. Posts sometimes take a little longer to develop than guards, and Carol is such a patient teacher. She establishes a great relationship with our posts, they know she cares about them, and in turn, they want to work hard and do all they can to please her. She also has such a great philosophy on life and has so many great things that she can teach the players from that perspective.”
Owens’ reputation as one of the nation’s premier post coaches emerged during her first stint at Notre Dame from 1995-2005. 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 went 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 10 players in women’s basketball history to earn NCAA, WNBA and Olympic championships in her career. In June of 2019, Riley was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
“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 to 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.”
Between her lengthy coaching runs at Notre Dame, Owens spent five seasons (2005-10) as head coach at her alma mater, Northern Illinois University. During her time in DeKalb, Owens’ 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 near-half century of existence (first in close to three decades) to register double-digit victories every year she walked the sidelines at Northern Illinois.
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).
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 appeared on the international coaching scene through her work with USA Basketball. In 2008 and 2009, 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 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 U.S. Senior National Team assistant coach) Doug Bruno. Owens also coached former 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 & Administrators (BCA) and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), serving on the latter body’s Executive Committee as the WBCA secretary before stepping down in 2011 to take a more active role on the BCA Board of Directors. Subsequently, in September 2012, Owens was chosen as BCA president for the 2012-13 academic year, helping that organization through a successful transition period that included the introduction of a new executive director. Owens currently serves on the Board of Directors for the WEcoach organizaton.
Owens originally came to Notre Dame in 1995 following two seasons as an assistant at Michigan, where she began her coaching career after enjoying a three-year professional playing stint in Japan, Spain and Italy.
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 Kodak (now WBCA) Coaches’ All-District IV Team 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.
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, and the Illinois High School Hall of Fame in 2014.