One of the finest point guards ever to wear the Notre Dame uniform, Niele Ivey (first name pronounced knee-L) rejoined the Fighting Irish women's basketball program as a member of head coach Muffet McGraw's staff in May 2007.
Entering her 11th season at Notre Dame in 2017-18 (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). The St. Louis native works closely with the development of the Fighting Irish point guards, while serving as the architect of the program's remarkable recruiting success. In addition, Ivey makes major contributions to game scouting, practice planning and summer camp coordination.
Since joining the Notre Dame coaching staff 10 years ago, Ivey has helped the Fighting Irish post a 316-48 (.868) record, including five NCAA Women's Final Four berths, four NCAA title game appearances and 11 conference championships (six regular season, five tournaments split between the BIG EAST and ACC). Over the span over the last six years, Notre Dame has ranked in the top-12 in field goal percentage (led the country in 2013-14 season), scoring offense and assists. In fact, the 2013-14 season was 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 addition to her achievements in player development with such proteges as All-Americans Skylar Diggins, Jewell Loyd and 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 in seven of the past eight years.
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 (10 times), Tennessee (six times), Florida State (six times), Connecticut (three times), Maryland (three times), Louisville (six times), Syracuse (four times), UCLA (three times), Baylor (twice), Texas A&M and Purdue (two times), among many others.
All things considered, 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 2016.
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 Lindsay Allen under her wing. Allen was a three-time All-American and three-time Nancy Lieberman Award finalist, as the latter was an accolade Ivey herself received during her senior season at Notre Dame in 2000-01. Allen set both the school and ACC records for both single season (282 in 2016-17) and career assists (841), and ranked 22nd in NCAA history in career assists. Allen was also one of just two Notre Dame players with three 200-assist seasons and led the ACC in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio from 2015-17.
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.
Furthermore, Allen was named MVP of the 2017 ACC Tournament, setting a tournament record with 33 assists, all while leading Notre Dame to its fourth striaght title. All-in-all, Allen's superb Irish career led her to be drafted 14th overall by the New York Liberty in the 2017 WNBA Draft.
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. Furthermore, 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 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 2015 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. As a direct result, Loyd 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 then later selected as the WNBA Rookie of the Year. In 2016, Loyd made the All-WNBA Team and was a finalist for the U.S. Olympic Team along with Skylar Diggins.
Speaking of Diggins, Ivey was primarily responsible for supervising the growth of popular South Bend native, who blossomed into one of Notre Dame's legends in any sport and one of only four inductees from women's hoops 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 three-time WNBA All-Star selection.
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 the fourth and fifth best 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 ranks 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).
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 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 (15), make their home in South Bend.