Feb. 18, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Notre Dame's Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw has taken the penultimate step towards the sport's ultimate lifetime honor as she is included on the list of 14 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, announced on Saturday.
Also a finalist for enshrinement in 2016, McGraw will learn if is she is one of the latest enshrines on April 3 at the men's basketball Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. Joining McGraw as women's committee finalists are Rebecca Lobo, Kim Mulkey and the pioneering teams from Wayland Baptist University as a collective unit.
McGraw, who guided the Irish to the 2001 national championship and seven Final Four appearances, is the winningest single-sport coach in Irish lore with 756 wins. Over her 30-year coaching career, McGraw is 844-267 (.760), making her the sixth-winningest active coach nationally and the 10th-winningest all-time at the Division I level. She is the sixth-winningest female coach in women's basketball history and one of just four women to ever win 750 games at a single school.
She is the 2017 recipient of the Wooden Awards' Legends of Coaching Award, becoming just the third female to receive this honor, joining Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer. She is the fourth women's coach to be recognized with this honor, joining Summitt, VanDerveer and UConn's Geno Auriemma.
Among her countless other career highlights:
* She is one of five coaches (men's or women's) in Division I history with 800 wins, seven Final Fours and five NCAA title game appearances, joining the elite company of Summitt, Auriemma, Duke men's coach Mike Krzyzewski and the late North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith, all of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
* McGraw is the only coach to be named the consensus national coach of the year three times, sweeping the Associated Press, Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Naismith Award and United States Basketball Writers Association honors in 2001, 2013 and 2014.
* Only four coaches have ever competed in the national championship game five times and McGraw is joined in this lofty regard by Hall of Famers Summitt, Auriemma and Louisiana Tech's Leon Barmore. The Irish reached the sport's final game in 2001, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
* Her decades of consistent winning includes guiding the Irish to 14 Sweet 16 appearances in the past 20 years, making Notre Dame one of just five teams nationally to do so.
* McGraw's 29 20-win seasons ties Georgia's Andy Landers, for seventh in Division I history.
* Over the past six seasons, only UConn (209) has won more games than Notre Dame's even 200.
* Under McGraw, Notre Dame has made 23 NCAA Championship appearances, including a current string of 21 consecutive NCAA tournament berths, marking the fifth-longest active run of consecutive appearances and seventh-longest streak at any time in NCAA tournament history. During this current streak (1996-2016), Notre Dame has won at least one NCAA postseason game 19 times.
* Notre Dame's current stretch of 25 consecutive winning seasons, all under McGraw, is the ninth-longest in NCAA history.
* McGraw has led the Irish to eight regular season or tournament conference championships. Notre Dame is presently three-time defending champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
* Her lasting legacy of mentoring successful people along with merely successful players is reflected in having perfect NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score in seven of the past nine years (2007-16). In that time, Notre Dame is one of four programs in the country to record a perfect GSR score and go on to play for the national title later that same season (something the Fighting Irish have now done four times, most recently in 2015).
McGraw's current Irish team is ranked No. 7 in the nation and stands at 24-3, marking the 11th year in a row and the 23rd time in the past 24 seasons that Notre Dame has won at least 20 games. Notre Dame leads the ACC with a 12-1 conference record as it aims for its fourth straight ACC regular season crown and sixth consecutive outright regular season conference title overall, including the final two years in the BIG EAST. The Irish return to the court at 5 p.m. on Sunday when they face No. 21 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome live on ESPN2.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.