Entering her 10th season at Notre Dame in 2016-17 (she added the title of recruiting coordinator in 2012 and was promoted to associate coach in the summer of 2015), Ivey is the common link between all seven of the school's Final Four appearances (five as a coach, two as a player) and works closely with the development of the Fighting Irish point guards, while serving as the architect of program's remarkable recruiting success, and making major contributions to game scouting, practice planning and summer camp coordination.
Since Ivey joined the Notre Dame coaching staff nine years ago, she has helped the Fighting Irish post a 283-44 (.865) record, including five NCAA Women's Final Four berths, four NCAA title game appearances and nine conference championships (five regular season, four tournaments split between the BIG EAST and ACC). In that same span, Notre Dame has been ranked among the top 20 in the nation in scoring offense, assists and assist/turnover ratio six times, punctuated with a school-record 86.1 points per game (second in the nation), 765 assists (second in the nation) and 1.39 assist/turnover ratio (fifth in the nation) in 2013-14.
In addition to her achievements in player development with such proteges as former two-time consensus first-team All-Americans Skylar Diggins and Jewell Loyd, as well as current senior (and two-time honorable mention All-American) Lindsay Allen, Ivey has emerged as a rising star on the recruiting trail, with a sharp eye for young up-and-coming talent. In fact, she has helped Notre Dame attract top-10 incoming classes each of the past seven years, including top-five groups during the last five seasons (incoming classes of 2012-16).
What's more, Ivey has shown the ability to quickly flourish when it comes to scouting and in-game strategy. In the past five years alone, she has been directly responsible for creating the game plans that led to victories over Duke (eight times), Tennessee (six times), Florida State (five times), Connecticut (three times), Maryland (three times), Louisville (four times), Syracuse (three times), UCLA (three times), Baylor (twice), Texas A&M and Purdue, among many others.
Thus, 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 2015-16.
A former All-America point guard at Notre Dame and a five-year WNBA veteran, Ivey has brought her considerable experience to bear on the Fighting Irish floor generals, most recently taking Allen under her wing and helping the Mitchellville, Maryland, native to become a two-time honorable-mention All-American. Allen has led the ACC in assists the past two seasons (career-high 5.8 apg. In 2015-16) while becoming the third player in program history with 200 assists in multiple seasons (along with Diggins and Mary Gavin). What's more, Allen has led the conference in assist/turnover ratio the last two years (career-high 2.52 in 2015-16) and was one of only four players in the nation from a Power Five conference to rank in the top 20 nationally in both assists and assist/turnover ratio.
That came on the heels of a stellar 2014-15 season when Allen boosted her scoring output by more than 67 percent from her freshman year (up to 10.4 ppg.) and added career highs in rebounds (3.5 rpg.), steals (1.3 spg.), field-goal percentage (.522), three-point percentage (.370) and free-throw percentage (.854).
In both 2015 and 2016, Allen was among five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard, an accolade Ivey herself received during her senior season at Notre Dame in 2000-01. However, it was Allen's performance at the 2015 NCAA Oklahoma City Regional that opened eyes nationally, as the then-sophomore was named the regional's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 25.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds with a 2.75 assist/turnover ratio and .576 field-goal percentage during the two-game regional.
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 (second-most on the program's single-season charts) and 19.8 points-per-game scoring average (third in school history). The Lincolnwood, Illinois, product also tied the school record with 20 20-point games and set a new mark with four 30-point outings, and her best performances came against Top 25 teams, against 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, who 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 selected as the WNBA Rookie of the Year), finished fifth on Notre Dame's career scoring list with 1,909 points, while her 17.0 career points-per-game average is second-highest in school history behind current Fighting Irish associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, who averaged 18.6 ppg. from 1993-97. Loyd holds the school record with seven career 30-point games and ranks fifth with 35 career 20-point games, as well as seventh with 99 career double-figure scoring games (out of 112 times she took the floor in a Notre Dame uniform).
It was no surprise Loyd was chosen as the 2014-15 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 and emerging as the program's fifth consensus first-team All-America selection, among many other national accolades. Loyd was named the ACC Player of the Year last season and became only the seventh player in ACC history (second in Notre Dame annals) selected as the conference tournament's Most Valuable Player twice. She went on to make the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team for the second year in a row, joining Diggins as the only Fighting Irish player to pull off that feat.
Speaking of Diggins, Ivey was primarily responsible for supervising the growth of the South Bend native, who blossomed into one of Notre Dame's legends in any sport and one of only seven inductees 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 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 first-team All-WNBA selection in 2014 after earning WNBA All-Rookie Team honors a year earlier, and she is a two-time WNBA All-Star selection.
Diggins and Loyd also were part of the 2014-16 USA Basketball Senior National Team player pool and were finalists for the 2016 USA Basketball Olympic Team that will compete for the gold medal at this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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 two of the top three 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 rank seventh 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 (only eclipsed by Ivey herself - 2.67 in 2000-01 - and Allen in both 2013-14 and 2015-16).
In each of her final two seasons at Notre Dame, Diggins ranked among both the NCAA and BIG EAST leaders (all games) in assists, steals and assist/turnover ratio. She also wrapped up the 2011-12 BIG EAST regular season (conference-only) statistical titles in assists (5.8 apg. - the second Notre Dame player to win the BIG EAST assist title, and first since Ivey in 1999-2000), steals (2.6 spg.), and assist-turnover ratio (2.3).
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 cager 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, including school records for career points (2,357), steals (381), games started (144) and double-figure scoring games (121), just to name a few.
Ivey's success with Diggins came on the heels of her work with two other standout Notre Dame point guards -- Tulyah Gaines (2007-08) and Melissa Lechlitner (2008-10) -- who enjoyed the best seasons of their careers under Ivey's experienced eye. Lechlitner was at the helm to begin Notre Dame's recent string of some of the more efficient offensive seasons in program history, including her senior season (2009-10) when Notre Dame posted a 1.11 assist/turnover ratio, one of six times in Ivey's tenure the Fighting Irish have had a positive ratio (after doing so once in the program's first three decades -- Ivey's final season in 2000-01).
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.
"Niele is really a rising star, a rock star if you will, in the coaching profession," McGraw said. "She does so many things for us, from recruiting to working with our guards, and every year she continues to grow and develop as a coach. She's gotten more involved in adding new wrinkles to our offense and defense, and expanding her knowledge by going out and talking to other coaches about different aspects of the game.
"She's got to be known as one of the best recruiters in the country and certainly with our point guards, she does just a phenomenal job," McGraw added. "Like Beth (associate coach Beth Cunningham), Niele is another former player from our program who went on to play professionally and now is showing our current players how to get there, and our players really respect her for that."
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.
For her career, Ivey has a place on 16 of Notre Dame's all-time top 10 lists, including the Fighting Irish records for steals (348, since topped by Diggins). She also among the program's all-time leaders with 727 assists, a 5.5 assist-per-game average, a 2.6 steals-per-game mark and 132 career games played.
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. She and her son, Jaden (14), make their home in South Bend.
-- updated April 2016