April 9, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - In a little less than a week's time, Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has made a clean sweep of the nation's top coaching awards, picking up her fourth major honor on Tuesday when she was selected as this year's recipient of the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year award, as chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and its National Voting Academy.
Within the past week, McGraw also has been selected as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Women's National Coach of the Year, the Associated Press Division I Women's National Coach of the Year and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division I Coach of the Year.
Thus, with Tuesday's announcement, McGraw has locked up consensus National Coach of the Year honors for the second time in her career, having also done so in 2001. What's more, she becomes just the second NCAA Division I coach ever to sweep the four major national coaching awards twice in his/her career -- Connecticut's Geno Auriemma also claimed the "Big Four" honors in 2008 and 2009.
In addition, McGraw is the fifth coach to earn the Naismith Award twice, joining a select group that includes Auriemma (six times), Stanford's Tara VanDerveer (twice) and two inactive coaches -- Tennessee's Pat Summitt (five times) and Duke's Gail Goestenkors (twice).
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 was 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.