Notre Dame takes home the outright BIG EAST regular-season title for the second straight year.
One of the nation’s premier coaches, Carol Owens recently completed her 15th season on the Notre Dame women’s basketball coaching staff, and her sixth 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 19 consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes, something only two other schools can match). In addition, she has played a key role in the Fighting Irish scouting efforts, helping create the game plans for some of the program’s highest-profile wins, including seven over Connecticut and five against Tennessee in the past five seasons.
During her 15-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 426-93 (.821), averaging more than 28 victories per season in her tenure. The Fighting Irish also won the 2001 national championship, played in the 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 NCAA title games, reached the NCAA Women’s Final Four seven times (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015), and made 11 Sweet 16 appearances, all with Owens on staff.
Throughout her career at Notre Dame, Owens has had the magic touch when it comes to developing elite post players, with no fewer than five of her pupils earning a combined 10 All-America citations during their college careers before four went on be drafted into the WNBA (winning three league titles as professionals to date).
Owens also has consistently appeared on lists of the nation’s top assistant coaches. Most recently 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.
The latest Fighting Irish posts to thrive under Owens’ guidance are Taya Reimer and Brianna Turner. Reimer showed terrific growth during her sophomore season (2014-15), improving her scoring and rebounding averages by more than 30 percent from her freshman year to career highs of 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, along with a personal-best .516 field-goal percentage.
Reimer was particularly sharp during the final 12 games of the season, averaging 11.3 points per game with a .560 field-goal percentage, including 16 points each against No. 7/6 Florida State in the ACC Tournament championship game (on the way to second-team all-ACC Tournament honors) and against No. 3/4 South Carolina in the NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinals.
Meanwhile, Turner wasted little time in emerging as one of the nation’s top young posts, averaging 13.8 points and team highs of 7.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game with 10 double-doubles as a freshman in 2014-15. An Associated Press honorable mention All-America pick and the ACC Freshman of the Year, Turner 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. Turner also was the third Fighting Irish post player to finish in the top five in the nation in field-goal percentage during the past five seasons, coinciding exactly with Owens’ return to South Bend.
In addition, Turner became the first Notre Dame player to win an NCAA statistical national championship since 2000-01, while her 89 total blocks were fourth on the Fighting Irish single-season list (second among freshmen) and her 10 double-doubles were third-most by a Notre Dame rookie.
Turner was strong down the stretch, with five double-doubles during the ACC and NCAA tournaments while earning all-tournament honors in both events (the latter at the NCAA Women’s Final Four). She also averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks with a .619 field-goal percentage and five double-doubles in 12 full games against ranked opponents as a freshman.
Prior to her current assignments with Reimer and Turner, Owens worked closely with Natalie Achonwa, a two-time All-America and all-conference selection at Notre Dame from 2010-14, ranking among the top 10 in program history for career rebounds (4th - 970), double-doubles (5th - 28) and field-goal percentage (6th - .562), while also ranking 13th in career points (1,546). 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, as Achonwa was selected to the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team, becoming the second-youngest player to compete at the London Games. While there, Achonwa averaged 7.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, ranking among the top four on the Canadian roster in rebounds (second), assists (third), steals (third - 0.8 spg.), field-goal percentage (third - .385) and points (fourth), while posting double-figure scoring efforts against silver medalist France (14 points, game-high eight rebounds) and a win over the world’s sixth-ranked team, Brazil (11 points) during the preliminary round — the latter victory was significant as it clinched Canada’s first Olympic quarterfinal berth in 28 years. Achonwa then collected a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico.
Another of Owens’ recent 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 posted career highs in virtually every statistical category including scoring (11.9 ppg. in 2010-11), rebounding (9.3 rpg. in 2011-12) and field-goal percentage (.593 in 2010-11), in which she ranked fifth in the nation. Peters went on to be chosen in the first round (third overall selection) of the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, becoming the highest draft choice and first WNBA Draft lottery pick in school history. 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 (tying for fifth-most in school history and most by a Fighting Irish player since 2004), 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 just the second NCAA Division I player since 2001-02 to pull off that feat, while Peters’ 78 total blocks now tie her for sixth on the Fighting Irish single-season charts.
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. Overall, she appears in the top 10 on five of Notre Dame’s career statistical lists — blocked shots (second - 227), rebounds (sixth - 937), field-goal percentage (eighth - .550), steals (ninth - 222) and double-doubles (10th - 23). She also stands among the top 20 in school history with 1,319 career points.
Another veteran who blossomed under Owens’ coaching was Becca Bruszewski, who enjoyed one of the best seasons of her college career as a senior in 2010-11. Bruszewski averaged 8.9 points and a career-high 5.3 rebounds per game, while joining Peters (and Natalie Novosel) as the first players in program history to start 39 games in one season. Bruszewski also ranked fourth on the team in field-goal percentage (.518, second-highest of her career) and was one of six Fighting Irish players to record 40 steals leading the veteran captain to earn a place on the 2011 NCAA Dayton Regional All-Tournament Team and graduate as one of the top 30 scorers in school history (1,148 points).
“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.”
“I am very happy to be 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, and I’m looking forward to continuing our work to make Notre Dame the best women’s basketball program in the country, year-in and year-out.”
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 nine 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, Peters 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 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).
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. 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 both cases, one of her standout players was Notre Dame All-America 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 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 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.