"If we searched for an entire year. I don't think we would find anyone better suited for our program."
With those words, former Notre Dame director of athletics Gene Corrigan announced the hiring of Muffet McGraw as the third head coach of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program on May 18, 1987. Corrigan may not have realized it at the time, but he also ushered in an era of unparalleled success in women's basketball at Notre Dame, brought to life on the shoulders of a 5-foot-6 dynamo who accepts nothing less than the very best from herself, her players and her program. Ask anyone familiar with women's basketball about Muffet McGraw and her Notre Dame program and inevitably, you'll hear the same two words -- consistency and excellence. And it's no wonder, when you consider what McGraw and the Fighting Irish have achieved in the past 30 seasons:
• The 2001 national championship, defeating Purdue in the title game, 68-66. McGraw is one of seven active Division I coaches to guide her team to an NCAA title.
• Five trips to the NCAA Division I national championship game, including four of the past seven NCAA title contests (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015). McGraw is one of just two active Division I coaches (and four all-time) with at least five appearances in the NCAA national championship game -- the other three Division I coaches (Pat Summitt,Leon Barmore and UConn's Geno Auriemma). In addition, Notre Dame is the only ACC school ever to reach back-to-back national championship games.
• Seven trips to the NCAA Women's Final Four (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). McGraw is one of three active Division I coaches (and five all-time) to lead her team to seven Women's Final Four appearances.
• One of six coaches (men's or women's basketball) in NCAA Division I history with 800 wins, seven Final Fours and five NCAA title games -- others are Summitt, Auriemma, Duke men's coach Mike Krzyzewski, the late North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith and current North Carolina men's coach Roy Williams.
• 15 NCAA Sweet 16 trips, all in the past 21 seasons (1997-2017). The Fighting Irish are one of four schools to make last eight Sweet 16's.
• Three-time consensus National Coach of the Year, sweeping the four major coaching honors (Associated Press, WBCA, Naismith Award and USBWA) in 2001, 2013 and 2014. McGraw is one-of-two NCAA Division I coaches to sweep the "Big Four" awards three times in her career.
• Seven-time conference Coach of the Year, most recently collecting her second ACC Coach of the Year trophy in 2016. McGraw has earned her seven coaching honors in five different conferences during her career (the past six awards while at Notre Dame), having also garnered accolades in the East Coast (1983 - at Lehigh), North Star (1988), Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League (1991), BIG EAST (2001, 2013) and Atlantic Coast (2014, 2016) conferences.
• Ranks 10th all-time among NCAA Division I coaches (sixth among active coaches) with 853 career wins.
• Tied for eighth all-time among Division I coaches (tied for seventh among active coaches) with a .761 career winning percentage.
• Tied for sixth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches (tied for fifth among active coaches) with 29 20-win seasons, including 27 of her first 30 seasons at Notre Dame with 20-or-more victories, as well as 23 in the past 24 years (1993-2017). The Fighting Irish also have posted 14 25-win seasons, nine 30-win campaigns and four 35-win seasons in the past 20 years (1997-2017) under McGraw's tutelage.
• Made 24 NCAA tournament appearances, including a current string of 22 consecutive NCAA tournament berths (the fourth-longest active run of consecutive appearances and fifth-longest streak at any time in NCAA tournament history). During this current streak (1996-2017), Notre Dame has won at least one NCAA postseason game 20 times.
• Won 12 conference regular-season titles, including the past six in a row outright in both the BIG EAST (2012, 2013) and ACC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). The Fighting Irish also have run the table three times in that span, going 16-0 in both the BIG EAST (2013) and ACC (2014, 2016), the latter being the first 16-0 records by an ACC school since 2002-03. What's more, under McGraw's guidance, Notre Dame has placed among the top four in the final conference standings 27 times in her first 30 seasons at the Fighting Irish helm.
• Earned 10 conference tournament championships, including each of the past five seasons as members of the BIG EAST (2013) and ACC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).
• Notre Dame became only the second ACC school ever to sweep the conference's regular season and tournament titles in four straight seasons (2014-17), along with Duke (2001-04).
• Collected 145 wins over ranked opponents, including 131 in the past 19 seasons (1998-99 through 2016-17). In addition, 54 of those wins have come against top-10 opponents, including 18 against top-five teams and four against No. 1-ranked squads.
• Made 332 appearances in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, including an active school-record streak of 193 consecutive weeks in the AP poll. McGraw is seventh among active Division I coaches and 14th all-time in AP poll appearances (through the final regular season 2016-17 poll). Notre Dame also has spent 222 weeks all-time ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation, including each of the last 124 since 2010-11.
• 20 consecutive top-20 recruiting classes from 1997-2016. Notre Dame was one of just three programs in the nation that owned an active streak of that length.
• Ranks first on the all-time wins list among single sport coaches in the 129-year history of Fighting Irish athletics.
• Earned a perfect 100-percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score from 2004-2014. In that time, Notre Dame is one of four programs in the country to record a perfect GSR and go on to play for the national title later that same season (something the Fighting Irish did in 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14)
Add all the above mentioned up and you have the framework for a Hall of Fame career - which will in fact be cemented on Sept. 8, 2017, when McGraw gets inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. McGraw is the first Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee from the Irish women's program and the seventh from the school overall.
However, McGraw's Hall of Fame inductions don't stop there. Back in 2011, McGraw was the first Notre Dame representative to be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, an accomplishment immortalized with a banner hanging high above the west stands in Purcell Pavilion. She was later then immortalized in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
With all of those accomplishments in hand, McGraw has shown no signs of slowing down any time soon. Back in July 2012, the veteran head coach signed a landmark 10-year contract extension (believed to be among the longest contract agreements in NCAA women's basketball history) that will keep her patrolling the Fighting Irish sidelines through the 2021-22 campaign.
"For more than 25 years, Muffet has led our women's basketball program and represented this University with distinction," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame's president. "Her teams have excelled on the court and in the classroom, and I am absolutely delighted that she will continue to lead the Irish for many more years."
"We are thrilled to be able to enter into a decade-long agreement with Muffet, who is not only the face of Notre Dame women's basketball, but increasingly, the face of women's basketball, given all that she's accomplished," said University vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. "She's taken this program to a place where it's annually in the conversation for the national championship, which is the model all coaches want to follow. She's also playing an important role in the game nationally, and her peers recognize those contributions, as well as the quality of her program here at Notre Dame. Off the court, she has created a program that has a lasting community identification and a special connection between the University and the city of South Bend, which is one of those unique points of intersection that universities have to be careful to build and maintain, and she's done that for us in a really remarkable way."
McGraw's post at Notre Dame was further enhanced on Feb. 16, 2015, when one of her former players, point guard Karen (Robinson) Keyes ('91) and her husband, Kevin, made a $5 million gift to their alma mater to endow its head women's basketball coaching position, now known as the Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach. It's also believed to be the largest endowment gift of its kind in NCAA women's basketball history, as well as the first endowed coaching position of any sort in Notre Dame athletics history.
"Muffet is one of the most important influences in our lives," Karen Keyes said. "We are proud to honor her, recognize her dedication to the University and continue to admire all of the successful women she has coached and developed over her entire career."
Under McGraw's guidance, the past two decades (1995-96 to the present) have been the most successful in Notre Dame's history, reflecting the program's remarkable BIG EAST Conference era and transition to its current home, the Atlantic Coast Conference. During that time, the Fighting Irish have compiled an impressive 606-147 (.805) record, including an impressive 294-66 (.816) mark in conference play, finishing their 18-year BIG EAST tenure with the second-best winning percentage (232-64, .784) in that league's history.
During this 22-year span, Notre Dame has averaged 28 victories per year, with four 35-win seasons, nine 30-win campaigns and 14 25-win seasons to its credit. What's more, the Fighting Irish have one NCAA national championship (2001), five NCAA title game appearances (2001, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), seven NCAA Women's Final Four berths (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and 15 Sweet 16 showings since the 1995-96 season, which began the program's current run of 22 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances.
Success for McGraw also has meant coaching great players. During her illustrious career, the Notre Dame skipper has coached 19 All-Americans, including 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley, 2015 espnW National Player of the Year Jewell Loyd and four-time All-American (and two-time consensus first-team All-America choice) Skylar Diggins. McGraw also has worked with 21 players who have been selected for USA or Canada Basketball National Teams, with those players going on to win a total of 32 medals, including 18 golds.
In addition, McGraw has coached 34 players who have earned all-conference recognition a total of 77 times, including 24 first-team picks who have been chosen a total of 47 times, and has helped shape several other national award winners, namely a two-time Nancy Lieberman Award recipient (Diggins), two Frances Pomeroy Naismith award honorees (Niele Ivey in 2001, Megan Duffy in 2006) and two United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year selections (Jacqueline Batteast in 2002 and Loyd in 2013).
Another sign of McGraw's success has been her ability to prepare her players for the next level. No less than 30 Notre Dame cagers have gone on to play professionally (domestically or overseas), including 17 who either have been drafted or signed as free agents with WNBA teams. The past 17 seasons (2001-17) have seen the greatest influx of Fighting Irish talent into the WNBA, with 14 Notre Dame players having been selected in the league's annual draft during that time, including the school's first four WNBA lottery picks (Devereaux Peters in 2012 to Minnesota; Diggins in 2013 to Tulsa/now the Dallas Wings; Kayla McBride in 2014 to San Antonio, all with the No. 3 overall choice, before Loyd became the program's first-ever No. 1 WNBA Draft pick in 2015 by Seattle), making the Fighting Irish the only program in the history of the WNBA Draft to produce top-four lottery selections in four consecutive seasons.
In addition, Loyd's draft day was one for the record books, becoming the first player in program history to be chosen with the No. 1 overall pick - was also the first Notre Dame student-athlete in any sport chosen No. 1 overall since Walt Patulski in the NFL Draft in 1972. Next, just two years later in the 2017 WNBA Draft, Lindsay Allen became the most recent Irish WNBA selection when she was chosen by the New York Liberty in the second round.
McGraw's pupils also have thrived in the WNBA, with four winning a combined total of six league titles during their professional careers. Coquese Washington ('92) was the first to hoist the WNBA hardware with the Houston Comets in 2000, followed three years later by Riley with the Detroit Shock (with the Macy, Indiana, native earning Finals MVP honors). Riley and Batteast teamed up to help Detroit to its second crown in 2006, before Peters became the latest Fighting Irish alum to earn WNBA championship gold, helping Minnesota to the title in 2013 and 2015.
What's more, Diggins, McBride and Riley all have earned WNBA All-Star honors (Diggins-3x, Riley once), with Diggins also garnering first-team all-WNBA recognition in 2014. Diggins, McBride, Loyd and Natalie Achonwa also have collected WNBA All-Rookie Team accolades in recent years, highlighted by Loyd's selection as the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, McGraw earned her bachelor's degree in sociology from Saint Joseph's University (Pa.) in 1977. McGraw and her husband, Matt, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2017 and make their home in Granger, Indiana. They are the proud parents of 27-year-old son Murphy, a 2012 Indiana University graduate.