April 8, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - For the third time in less than a week, Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has pulled in a top national coaching honor, earning the 2012-13 Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division I National Coach of the Year award during the WBCA Awards Banquet on Monday night at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
It's the second time McGraw has been chosen by her coaching peers to receive this award, having also taken home the honor in 2001. What's more, she is the eighth coach to win the WBCA's top Division I coaching award more than once, an elite list that includes Connecticut's Geno Auriemma (five times), former Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt (three) and a pair of active two-time recipients in Tara VanDerveer (Stanford) and C. Vivian Stringer (Rutgers; won both honors while at Iowa), as well as three inactive two-time honorees -- Jody Conradt (Texas), Gail Goestenkors (Duke) and Rene Portland (Penn State).
Monday's announcement marks the third time in less than a week that McGraw has been recognized on a national level for her coaching success this season. On April 4, she was chosen as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Women's National Coach of the Year, and two days later, she received the Associated Press Division I Women's National Coach of the Year. McGraw also remains a finalist for the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year award, with that recipient to be announced on Tuesday.
McGraw, who previously was named the Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year and the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year, guided Notre Dame through a seamless transition in 2012-13 after losing four seniors (including three key starters) who accounted for 40 percent of her team's scoring and rebounding on the previous year's NCAA national finalist squad. Under McGraw's tutelage, the Fighting Irish reached even greater heights this season, posting a 35-2 record to match last year's school standard for wins in a season, while setting a program standard for winning percentage in a season (.946).
In addition, Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third consecutive season, and the fifth time in program history. The Fighting Irish also claimed the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST regular season title (and third in school history) with a perfect 16-0 record before defeating host Connecticut in the BIG EAST Championship title game to secure the program's first BIG EAST postseason crown in its 18th and final season in the conference. It marked the first time in 20 years that a team other than Connecticut swept the BIG EAST regular season and tournament titles in the same year, while the Fighting Irish became only the third non-Connecticut squad to go undefeated in BIG EAST play (first since Rutgers in 2005-06).
Notre Dame piled up a 12-2 record against ranked opponents this season, including six wins against top-10 teams. The Fighting Irish also ranked among the top 20 in the nation in eight NCAA statistical categories, including top-six rankings in scoring offense (2nd - school-record 81.2 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd - +21.9 ppg.), free throw percentage (3rd - school-record .798), assists (3rd - 19.5 apg.; school-record 722 total), rebounding margin (5th - +10.9 rpg.), field goal percentage (6th - .455) and assist/turnover ratio (6th - school-record 1.27). What's more, Notre Dame appeared in the top five of both major national polls for 18 weeks this season, including the final five weeks as the consensus No. 2 team in the nation (after spending an additional six weeks at No. 2 in the AP poll).
On top of that, Notre Dame ranks sixth in the nation in attendance (school-record 8,979 fans per game), registered a school-record 11 sellouts this season (including nine of its final 10 home games) and is one of 25 women's basketball programs in this year's NCAA Championship to post a perfect 100-percent graduation rate. In fact, Notre Dame was one of just three schools to have both its men's and women's basketball teams own perfect graduation rates and also be selected to compete in NCAA Championship play.
McGraw has a record of 626-217 (.743) in 26 seasons at Notre Dame, ranking second on the all-time wins list for all sports in the 126-year history of Fighting Irish athletics. A 2011 inductee into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, McGraw has a career record of 714-258 (.735) in 31 years on the sidelines, ranking 12th in NCAA Division I history for career wins and 17th for career winning percentage.
Notre Dame is expected to return four starters and nine monogram recipients from this year's squad, led by a pair of 2012-13 All-Americans in guard Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) and forward Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic), along with the reigning USBWA National Freshman of the Year, guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West). The Fighting Irish also will welcome a four-player incoming class that has been ranked as high as third in the nation by several national recruiting services.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.