Notre Dame Women's Basketball defeated Connecticut 96-87 in triple overtime on Monday, March 4, 2013.
One of the nation's premier post coaches, Carol Owens is in her 14th season on the Notre Dame women's basketball coaching staff, and her fifth 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 following the departure of Jonathan Tsipis to become head coach at George Washington University.
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 17 consecutive Top 20 recruiting classes, something only two other schools can match).
During her 13-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 353-89 (.799), averaging better than 27 victories per season in her tenure. The Fighting Irish also won the 2001 national championship, played in the 2011 and 2012 NCAA title games, reached the NCAA Women's Final Four five times (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012 and 2013), and made nine Sweet Sixteen appearances, all with Owens on staff.
For the past two years, Owens has successfully tutored forward Natalie Achonwa to honorable mention All-America and first-team all-BIG EAST honors (both in 2012-13). Achonwa, the first international player in Notre Dame women's basketball history, was a top reserve for the Fighting Irish during her first two seasons before blossoming as a starter last year, averaging a career-high 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game with a school-record 19 double-doubles in 2012-13.
Owens also has 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 (2nd), assists (3rd), steals (3rd - 0.8 spg.), field goal percentage (3rd - .385) and points (4th), 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 went on to earn 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 tied her for fifth 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. She also was the only player in the country to post at least 60 blocks, 60 steals and 60 assists in the past two seasons (and one of only four in the past decade). Overall, she appears in the top 10 on five of Notre Dame's career statistical lists -- blocked shots (2nd - 227), rebounds (5th - 937), field goal percentage (7th - .550), steals (9th - 222) and double-doubles (9th - 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 NCAA Dayton Regional All-Tournament Team and graduate as one of the top 25 scorers in school history (1,148 points).
For many years, Owens has consistently appeared on lists of the nation's top assistant coaches. 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 chose her as one of the top 15 active assistants in the land.
"I am so thrilled to have Carol as part of our program," McGraw said. "She's proven to be a excellent coach and an outstanding recruiter throughout her career, and now she brings even more experience with her success at Northern Illinois and with USA Basketball. She is very familiar with our program and philosophy, and our players have benefitted a great deal from her experience."
"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 returned to Notre Dame prior to the 2010-11 season following a five-year stint (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 42-year history (first in 28 seasons) 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 current Notre Dame junior 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.
Through the years, Owens has carefully crafted a reputation as one of the nation's premier post coaches, a label she earned primarily during her career at Notre Dame. 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 has since gone 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 eight 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 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."
Owens joined the Fighting Irish staff 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 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.