The WeCOACH Podcast

Basketball Coach: Muffet McGraw

Muffet McGraw, basketball coach, WeCoach
Muffet McGraw

Megan Kahn chats with Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw about her banner year winning the NCAA National Championships, what the sport has taught her and the role female coaches have in championing and empowering other women

The WeCOACH Podcast, hosted by Megan Kahn, is a co-production of WiSP Sports and WeCOACH 

Podcast length 37′ 21″

On episode 2 of the WeCOACH Podcast, host and WeCOACH Executive Director Megan Kahn welcomes University of Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw who is coming off their 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship and preparing to tip-off the upcoming season. Megan digs in as Muffet shares perspective on how she celebrated this historical year both personally and professionally, lessons learned and rewarding moments in her career, and how she’s evolved as a coach and leader. She offers us a glimpse of a Notre Dame game day, the importance of championing women in the game, and how, after 800 wins, she still has the drive and passion to keep going. The show is filled with insight, inspiration, laughter and so many nuggets of women’s empowerment.


  1.    Last season’s championship
  2.    The shots heard round the basketball world
  3.    Refocusing the team
  4.    Sustaining success
  5.    Social media/connecting with today’s SAs
  6.    Family and coaching
  7.    Women in coaching
  8.    Lessons learned/rewarding moments

LISTEN to more episodes of The WeCOACH Podcast HERE

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[00:00:00] Welcome to Season 1 Episode 2 of the WeCOACH Podcast on WiSP Sports. Please join us every two weeks as we sit down with some of the best and brightest women coaches, leaders and industry experts in the world of sports for fun and inspiring conversations. I’ll be your host Megan Kahn executive director of WeCOACH. This podcast is a co-production of WiSP Sports and WeCOACH. WeCOACH has become the premier non-profit organization committed to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in the coaching profession of all sports and all levels through programming resources and an engaged community. We are changing the landscape for female coaches and the next generation of women who dream of following in their footsteps. Today’s guest is one who many young girls dream of playing for – Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw. Fans of last year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four watched as not one, but two buzzer beating shots sealed the fate for Notre Dame on their way to hoisting the championship trophy. Muffet is a 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and has made an impressive eight trips to the Final Four, six of those to the championship game and coming out with two national championships this past spring as well as 2001; seventeen players have gone on to WNBA careers; while she’s garnered multiple national conference coach of the year honors. Let’s get on with the show.

[00:01:34] Coach, thanks for being here. I’m so pleased and privileged to welcome you as today’s guest.

Thanks Megan. I’m happy to be here.

Let’s be honest, the past year for you has been what people dream of — Naismith Hall of Fame induction, won the NCAA national championship, celebrated 41st wedding anniversary you’re your biggest cheerleader and husband, Matt, and I believe, your son recently got married. I have to say that is probably a lot of champagne consumed.

[00:02:05] [Laughter] I don’t think we’re going to have another year like that one. that really was just a phenomenal year in so many ways. Personally, professionally, it definitely was the best year of our lives so far.

[00:02:19] Any thoughts of riding the train ride out on that one?

[00:02:24] You know I got a couple of questions about that. But you know we’re having so much fun. This was such a fun postseason. We’ve really enjoyed sharing the trophy with a lot of people. We took it all around with Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox. We went to the ESPY’s. We just did so many things here in the community to get out and thank our fans for a phenomenal season.

[00:02:47] Yeah. Let’s talk about that. I mean how do you enjoy the offseason, which it sounds like you did with the hype that went with it – I mean you have the attention of Kobe and Ellen DeGeneres and really the national spotlight, and then bring us back to now in trying to refocus your team.

[00:03:06] Well I don’t know if it’s a problem with me personally or female coaches, but we don’t celebrate things enough. We don’t celebrate the good things and I think throughout my career you know we’ve won I think six or seven straight league championships. We had the tournament championships and we never really celebrated them because you always ended your season on a loss. And so this year ending on a win made it just so much fun to be able to finally just acknowledge that we had a great year even though other years we’ve had great years, getting to the Final Four is a tremendous accomplishment. But to get over the hump and win I,t I think we really took the time to enjoy every moment of it wherever we went. We had a great time. We enjoyed celebrating with our players and just taking them around the country and letting everyone enjoy the moment. Arike had a lot of big moments and she definitely was leading the media polls. But you know everybody was so happy for her and that’s a great thing about team and our team chemistry was that everybody honors our squad was just so happy for Arike. We were all glued to the TV for Dancing With The Stars and watching her and acknowledging she, you know she had the big basket, but we know there was the other 39 minutes of that game where other people contributed, too.

[00:04:32] Yeah it is you know phenomenal. I love hear you talk about women celebrating.

We don’t hear it enough that it’s so true. It’s like we work so hard and we grind so hard that we barely give ourselves the grace to enjoy that. We love hearing that. And now you’ve got the kids back on campus. When this goes live, you’re going to be tipping off your 2018-19 season the following night. So how do you refocus? How do you get back that blue-collar mentality?

[00:04:56] And well, that kind of was one of my worries going into the season, thinking you know we’re so busy celebrating and we kept saying, just a little more just a little more before we get to next yea,r and I said when the first practice comes that’s going to be the turning point. We’re going to turn the page and we’re going to look ahead to next year. And it’s been, it’s been good. I think the team is really focused. They are doing a great job at practice. We have so many new players. We got Brianna Turner back, which is a huge, huge advantage for us.

[00:05:25] We’ve got Mikayla Vaughn back. We’ve got four new freshmen so really half of our team has not been a national champion yet, so I think it’s been good to have some new faces in the gym, as well as the veterans to really show the way. There’s a little bit of a gap I think between the veterans and the freshmen and it takes a while for them to come along. And of course, freshmen they want it to be perfect right away. So that’s been a little bit of a learning curve that we’re dealing with right now.

[00:05:53] So celebrating, is that something you think you learned along the way in your journey? So was with this year’s championship sweeter than ‘01- seventeen years later – is that a lesson learned in your career?

[00:06:06] Yeah, it took me a long time to learn it though. You know we’ve had so many successful seasons and you know you win the regular season, you win the championship of your league, and then you’re like, well we just have the NCAA so let’s not get too high about that, let’s try to keep an even keel and I look around and I look at even on the men’s side and on the women’s side of other people, what did they do to enjoy as they were going along. And it seemed like we were the only ones that really weren’t enjoying it and celebrating it as much as we could. So I did learn that lesson, but certainly when you win it all you really can’t look back and say, if only we would have done this you know. So we could’ve play a little better, but we came out with the win.

[00:06:48] Yeah absolutely. Two big ones. What else have you changed? I mean, you’ve obviously sustained success for so many years, you’ve never had a losing season. What are some of the other lessons you learned along the way or changed your philosophy as game has grown? Student athletes have changed or as the change the media has changed the coaching landscape?

[00:07:14] I think it’s important as leaders to look around you and look at your team, look at you know for us, it’s this millennial generation now. But you know, kids have changed throughout the years. I think you have to continually reinvent yourself. I think leadership has changed tremendously since I started coaching when I came out to Indiana to Notre Dame and Bobby Knight was the big influential person in the state and he was a phenomenal coach. He did things by the book and he did them with a lot of discipline. And I think that’s how it used to be in coaching. You know this is what we’re doing. Go do it. You know don’t ask questions, don’t wonder why. And as kids changed, and really for me it was watching my son growing up. When I’m watching him play. I’m watching the interaction with the coaches. He’s coming out of the game, I’m looking going, how are they treating him, what are they saying to him, you know what’s going on, and I realized that’s what my parents are doing and that’s what is important to them. They’re looking at that interaction, when they come out of the game. So for me going from a very autocratic, very, very disciplined, very much, I was in control. To now, I’m a collaborative leader. I listen a lot more. I want more input. I want the players to have a voice. And so we talk a lot more about, hey you know here’s the scouting report we’re working on, the 2-3 we’re working on, the 1-3-1, maybe a little different things defensively and guarding the ball scoring, and I ask them, what did you think? And so giving them that voice and that chance to say what they think and to know that I’m listening to them. I think first it builds confidence, and secondly, for me I think it improves the relationship that I have with my players. And I think that’s so important for women to find their voice and to have the confidence to speak so that when they leave here and I listen to what they’re saying in the WNBA about player’s salaries and about the way they’re treated in the league and I think, I’m just so proud of them for having the confidence to come out and use their voice to help them. But really to help the league, you know to help women’s basketball to help the game, and certainly they’re going to go off and go into business and do a lot of other things. And I want them to be confident women.

[00:09:25] Absolutely. I love hearing you say that. And you talk about being an autocratic coach and I would just say, from an outsider’s perspective, and as a huge basketball fan, I’ve worked in women’s basketball my whole life. You do it with such class and integrity. I think you’re a role model for so many people and I just love everything you’re saying about leadership and how you act. It’s what’s important now. So I have to ask though, your former players, do they come back and are they like who is this coach?

[00:10:03] We have that discussion all the time. I just had one, just a week ago, she came back and she was like, seriously they don’t have to run for that? I mean we had to run for everything! And now it’s really, what do you think you could’ve done differently? If you had that situation again, what other options were there? And they were astounded that that there was so much back and forth I think. But I think you always remember it a little tougher than it really was because the players before her would come back and say I’ve really changed. So yeah, it’s been an evolution and I think so important you look in the mirror though and you have someone you trust to tell you that you need to change, and you know your players aren’t going to tell you that. So hopefully everybody has somebody – doesn’t have to be a mentor or just somebody even on your staff. I mean I don’t want to be surrounded by people that are going to constantly agree with me. You need to have that back and forth when you leave the room. You need to be on the same page while you’re in that meeting room. You need to hear other ideas and really take the time to listen to them.

[00:11:05] Yeah absolutely. So let’s talk about your staff for a second. You’re one of only 11 all-female staffs in the Power 5. First of all, amazing, thank you for championing women and in continuing to help women stay in and advance in the game. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – I’m sure you’ve heard this quote before – ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other out.’ So talk to our listeners, share with us why you’ve made this such a priority and how you build yours?

[00:11:38] Well I think women need to empower women. That is so important and that quote by Madeleine Albright is so true. Because I think that we can be our own worst enemy sometimes. I don’t think that we’re going to be able to change the world in terms of the chauvinism and the sexism and all the things that women are treated differently. There is a double standard. How are we going to change that when we continually look to men to be the one to save us and we can’t do that. We’ve got to know this is women’s basketball. We need more women coaches. We need to get our young players out and get them involved. And how can we do that with work life balance? You know, we need to fix the legislation so that we have more work life balance. We’ve done that in women’s basketball by having a couple of shut down periods, but we need to do more. We need to do more to really just empower women. And to know for us being the only all-female, only female head coach and all female staff in the final four. But as you said just 11 in the Power 5, that’s really hard to believe when you look on the men’s side, it’s 100 percent. So why aren’t we at 80 percent? Why do we continually look and hire when there’s so many really qualified women? And I would say that one of the reasons is we are not confident enough to apply for the jobs. I think women, we wait to be asked and we really need to apply for that job because I think we’re very loyal. We want to stay where we are. We don’t want to rock the boat on a hurt anyone’s feelings. But in terms of going out and tooting your own horn, you know women aren’t good at that. We don’t do that enough so we’re going to sit back, we’re gonna watch men get hired. We’re going to complain about it, but we’re not going to be the one to apply for the job. And so the women who are head coaches really need to look a little harder. You might not get a resume from somebody, but you can pick up the phone and find someone. And that is so true for diversity. We need more African-American women. We just need a lot more diversity on our staffs. And you have to when you’re out recruiting look around and get a shortlist. You can’t just wait and see who applies. You really have to be proactive especially when hiring women.

[00:13:49] Yeah and I think you alluded to this with the loyalty piece. I think sometimes if we are a female or when our female head coaches are sitting in that chair, they want to hang onto those good women. They sometimes have a tough time wanting them to grow and encourage them to go seek those coaching roles for themselves so sometimes we get in our comfort zone. We want to hang onto those folks.

[00:14:12] We do and I feel like my job is to get more head coaches out of my staff. You know I’ve got a few around, but that is that is my job as the leader of my staff. I’ve got to get them ready and prepare them. How am I doing that practice? How much am I giving them to do? How much responsibility? how many times are they addressing the team? How many decisions are they making when we’ve got to prepare them for the next level? Just like we’re preparing our players for the next level.

[00:14:39] Absolutely. Which you have done a phenomenal job of preparing your players to the next level. I mean I think you look around and you see Notre Dame sprinkled quite a few places, so very impressive. Let’s talk about how you continually reinvent yourself. So you alluded to it generally. But I want to know how you continually reinvent yourself? How do you grow like you’re continually growing your staff like you just talked about? How do you grow?

[00:15:04] And it’s not easy to change. I’m from Philly. Sarcasm is our native language and sometimes it can be kind of biting. So I’ve really, I’ve become a Midwesterner now. I’ve been out here a long time and I love it because the people are just there a little bit a little bit nicer. And I’ve really had to sort of slow down and think about what is the perception of what I’m doing and I do. I like to read. I read positive stuff like other books on leadership I like to read about other coaches and things they do and how it’s all about their relationship. Now women are good at that. You know women are good at relationships. So I think for us it should be easier. But like I said, you have to have that person who can look at you and say you know was a practice today and you know your tone of voice really wasn’t good. So you know we film practice and if I can hear my voice that’s going to help me change it. I think about when a kid comes out of the game and they see my face. How is that going to look? What are their parents thinking? Because I’ve seen my face sometimes when they come out of the game and then I’ve met them at half court sometimes during a time out. So I mean, I think you have to watch and really look at those eyes and say, ‘Man I can’t do that anymore.’ And it’s not going to be overnight. You know I think it’s a gradual change in the toughest thing about change sometimes is getting other people to see that you did it because they’re there already. They already got that preconceived idea of how you’re going to be. So I mean you have to work really, really hard and you need somebody to kind of you know help you along. Whether it’s somebody on your staff or somebody you trust who just watch you and say you know these are some things you need to do and talk to your players as they graduate. You know you have those meetings. You have the end of the year meetings, you know what could I do better? I never used to ask the question. What do you need from me? What can I do to help you more? And it’s amazing. You know when you stop to ask the answers that you get.

[00:17:05] For sure. So for you, is that person somebody on your staff? Is it your husband? Who is that trusted confidant?

[00:17:12] Yeah my husband’s real good at that. He’s a super positive guy. I can come home and be like, ‘worst practice ever’. And he’s like, ‘really because I was there. And you know I thought there was a lot of good stuff. Maybe it’s you know, maybe it’s the way you’re looking at things, and you’ve got to find the positives.’ So he definitely helps me and my staff helps me. I think we’re all pretty competitive. But you know I think there’s times when they can say you know, I’ve really thought this was pretty good. And I think again talking to the players like, why you guys think you know how things go today. And knowing that I really, I know I’m never satisfied. That’s, that’s one of the things that probably has helped me succeed in it. And it’s hurt me at times so trying to really back up now and again, celebrate the little things you know. Baby steps. But you know we’re making progress.

[00:18:02] Absolutely. So who are some of those female mentors for you? We talk about empowering other women. Who have been some of the female mentors and influencers in your career and/or personally?

[00:18:15] You know, it’s hard because I’m of the age where when I started there really weren’t very many women at all in our game and so I always was looking to some men. Jim Foster who coached at St. Joe’s where I played. He helped me tremendously when I was starting my career. I think watching Pat Summitt. She was always somebody that would take the time and help you out, if you needed anything, but even watching her from afar, reading after every game. I read everybody’s comments, whether it’s men or women. I’m reading some the comments coming off a big loss, like what are they saying in the paper? You know these are the kind of things that are so important to your team because they feel like you know this all negative. And how are you getting to the positive after a loss especially. But I mean Pat Summit was such an icon in our game. Jody Conradt. Marsha Sharp. These are women that they were just so important for the growth of the women’s game and to watch the class and the way they handled themselves especially in defeat was really that was something that I really wanted to emulate. When you watch them up close and what, we lost to Tennessee 20 times in a row you know. 0-20 and we finally beat them and Pat could not have been more gracious. And my first thought was I never would would’ve been that gracious. And then my second thought was maybe you need to change so you know I think you can learn. You know I always tell people everybody you meet has something to teach you. It might not always be the way to do it. It may be the way not to do it, but you can learn from really everybody you meet.

[00:19:57] Yeah, I love that. And Pat, she really was such a champion for the game and a champion for women. She’s truly missed. Let’s talk about your son, who recently got married. I’m going to jog your memory here. Take us back to what it was like balancing coaching and motherhood.

[00:20:16] You know, it’s unfortunately a problem that women really, we really have this to ourselves. I think men are taking a more active role and it’s been great to see you know companies now have paternity leave and there’s things that they’re doing to help the guys just spend more time with their families. But I still think it’s the women who feel guilty. You feel guilty when you go to the office You feel guilty when you’re home not going to the office. So it’s hard to strike that balance. I was fortunate because my husband was a tremendous partner. You have to have a great partner. It’s a lot of teamwork at home. He was able to switch jobs so that he could be there for Murph. He could be there to pick him up after school. You know when I was traveling, he was always the one that was just really taking over. You know he was packing lunches and so many things around the house and that that is what made it easier for me. But mentally there’s always that struggle you know, I’m missing this, I’m missing a game, I’m missing the opportunity to see them do some different things. And I think the good thing was I’m raising a child that now doesn’t believe they are the center of the universe, which I think is a little bit of a problem today because I think every kid feels special and you know, they’re the only one and there is just the you know the apple of the parents eye and the sun rises and sets on them. So I thought it was good that he knew that you know what this all the things that are important in life and you’re important part. We’re not going to run our lives completely around you. And the second thing was he has tremendous respect for women and that I love. I know he’s a great husband because of the way his dad showed him the way. And you know it’s really annoying in this whole me era when men are saying like you know parents and I worry about my son and I were you know if you teach men and boys to respect women. If they grow up learning how to respect women, they are never going to have that problem. And I am I am raising a feminist. He is a feminist, he is a feminist. He knows that it’s important for women to have opportunity. And I think we’re going to be a much better society when this generation takes over.

[00:22:24] Absolutely and he grew up with 14 sisters and that changed, so how many sisters does he now have as you went through team after team so he was a pretty lucky guy. So you sat in living rooms all over the country convincing young women and their parents to come to South Bend outside of the talent. Obviously we know talent wins games, but what are the traits that emerge, the defining separators for you when you were identifying kids, and saying, ‘I want that kid.’

[00:22:57] You know there’s so many things that we look for that have nothing to do with talent. Everybody we look at is good. I mean they’re all probably the best player in their states so the things that I look for is, first leadership. I want leaders on my team. So I watch them play; they’re always the best player on their high school team. How are they interacting with their teammates? How are they when their teammate misses a shot? Maybe they give her a good pass. The girl misses a shot. How were they when the ref makes a bad call? How were they when the coach yells at them? I’m looking at everything. I’m looking for red flags. I’m looking for people that are encouraging their teammates. Somebody that’s trying to make everybody else better. Somebody that’s competitive and wants to win. Not somebody that’s complaining, you know whining about calls, or the coach should have done this or that. I want somebody that is really unselfish; that is a great team player and leader and somebody that competes on every possession. I don’t want to know if you’re up 20 or down 20 you should be playing the same way every single minute. You can’t teach people to work hard. If you have a good work ethic, you’re gonna be successful. If you have a positive attitude, you’re going to be successful. But for us, unselfish is probably the biggest key. I don’t want people who get so hung up on how many points they score. I don’t care how many points they score. I just want to win. That’s the bottom line. What are you going to do to help the team win. I look at the relationship with their parents because I think that’s how they’re going to treat me, the same way they treat their parents. So we’re looking when they’re on campus to just see. You know, I go to their homes, and are they the ones sitting there going like ‘yo’ mom, like I need something to drink’ or are they cleaning up and are they the ones getting the dishes and taking them out. It’s really interesting because then I have the girls over to the house, you know my team. And I’m like well, who’s helping with the dishes like, ‘this is a team here.’ So you know, trying to teach those lessons because I tell them all the values that parents are instilling they’re the same ones that we want to keep on teaching.

[00:24:56] Absolutely. And I bet you’re watching how those parents react and act, too.

[00:25:03] Absolutely. I’m not recruiting the parents and sometimes they make a lot of the phone calls and especially when someone drops us. I think that’s so important that parents really make their players, the girls make that phone call. Make that tough phone call. You get down to probably five official visits. You know sometimes less. There’s only a couple of people that you have to call and tell them that you’ve made a decision, that you’re going somewhere else. That is part of the process; it’s part of the education and we are educators. We are educators more than coaches. And you know that’s a lesson they really need to learn.

[00:25:38] It’s funny you said that. I just took myself back many years ago and that was probably the first time these young women are having to have a difficult conversation. So, it is a big learning process.

[00:25:51] It really is. It’s the first big decision they have to make in their lives. And you know the parents have to guide them to it and then let them make the decision. But you know there’s always consequences. And so they need to be able to be mature and make that call.

[00:26:07] So when you reflect back on your career. I hope you have a long runway left on the sidelines still to be on there a while longer. What’s the most rewarding when you look back on it?

[00:26:21] I think the most rewarding thing for me as a coach is to see that moment, to share that moment with a player who has blossomed and has reached their potential.

[00:26:32] It may be one play in a game, it may be an entire game, but it’s a moment when they acknowledge to themselves like, ‘Yes I belong here. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. I really have made it.’ And to see them walk a little bit taller, maybe even have a little bit of a swagger which women are not anxious to do. But just to have that moment when you did it, you did what we thought you could do when we brought you here and now you know. And so they just kind of blossom, but any time I can see joy reflected on one of my players faces. We had a lot of opportunity to see that this year, but I never get tired of watching the reactions of the team and see them, see their face, that smile, that jumping up and down into each other’s arms, the celebration. And those are the moments that I really treasure.

[00:27:27] I’ll say from a from a fan perspective. How many Final Fours have you been to recently and you look up in the stands, and you see all of your former players. I mean, they are diehard. They adore you and your staff and what that represents. And I think that’s also a testament to you and the culture you’ve built for them to really feel like family.

[00:27:55] I love when the slums come back and I’m sitting in my office right now staring at a picture that was taken after the championship game. There’s about 40 of them in the picture on the court after the game and just celebrating for them. I mean they weren’t thinking, oh darn I wish it was me. They were thinking, we did it because they know, they built it. They got us to this point. They’ve all had a piece of it. They’ve all contributed in some way. And afterwards no one said, and the girls said, we won it for all of you guys. This is our moment. And we’re so glad they’re here to share it with us. That’s so fun for me watching them come back. And each Final Four to see the crowd out there and know that we’re family and it doesn’t matter if you graduated in 2000 or the 1990s you’re still a part of our family.

[00:28:44] I’m smiling, just listening to you talk about it and know what that was like in the arena. As you know our organization, WeCOACH, we represent coaches of all sports. You’ve given so many nuggets that are takeaways for any one in any sport, not just basketball. What advice do you have for the next generation of female coaches regardless of sport?

[00:29:06] Well I think that you have to be strong, confident women in order to be role models for your team. I think you have to fight for things. There’s still some gender inequities. There are still some Title IX things. And sometimes we want to wait until after we win, then I’ll be able to talk. You know, if I win the league or if we win X games or get to the tournament, then I’ll be able to say something. And you have to think about your players. What are your players thinking? If you’re going to wait until you do this before you look for equality. What’s that saying to them that they don’t deserve it right now. So I think it’s so important and I know I made that mistake early in my career. You know, way back when Title IX was still kind of a dream even though it was law, it wasn’t really into practice. And so you have to look at how is your team looking at how you are reacting to some of those things. And that’s, that’s hard to do. I mean it’s hard to do especially when you not winning.

[00:30:06] Yes, especially when you’re not winning. And you have to have a great relationship with your sport administrator.

[00:30:11] Yeah you really do. That’s important and that’s an important relationship. And I think sometimes we get a little guarded and you know we want to keep things to ourselves and we want to keep things, you know, don’t let this get out and don’t talk about this, and then suddenly the players go in their office and they have no idea what hit them. So I think it’s really important. I had a great sport administrator, Jill Bodensteiner, who’s now the athletic director at St. Joe’s, and she was tremendous because she was at practice, she traveled with us. But even when she wasn’t, she was the first call I made. If something went wrong. You know I let her know everything, you know we’re really struggling right now. You know, this one’s homesick or this is going on. Keeping them in the loop so that when the player comes in, they’ve got some background on the situation. And it’s important to have a great relationship with your athletic director, and you’ve got to find time to see them because you know, you’re not in their office very often. I would call my boss and say, ‘you going to football practice today? Would you mind if I tag along?’ And then I’d just hang out with them for two hours and it’s just me and him and we can discuss things. Or you see him at a men’s game, you know, or at another sporting event and just go up and talk to him for a few minutes because we don’t ever get that chance. It’s always kind of an emotional situation on game day. So nice to have that chance to do it.

[00:31:29] Yeah, I love that. You know it’s a two-way street. You have to take the ownership you go build that relationship, it’s just not one-sided. Right. Sometimes our coaches don’t understand, you know, they’re sitting in an office waiting for the administrator to come to them and they don’t have that relationship. It doesn’t work that way. So we end every episode with some quick hitters. I’m going to rapidly fire some questions at you, we’ll go through maybe half a dozen and you just come back with what first comes to mind.

Your favorite leadership book?

Well I just read the Culture Code. I thought that was fabulous.

What keeps you awake at night?

[Laughing] Losing. You know, for me it’s about being wrong. Like, what if I mess up? What am I going to screw up? I really, really worry about that all the time.

So are you fear based? Does that propel you?

[00:32:27] Yes, yes, I definitely, definitely, fear losing. I definitely am somebody that hates losing more than I like winning.

[00:32:35] Yeah, yeah, probably much of our profession would say that as well. So if we snuck up on you watching film at night, what snack might we find next to you?

[Laughter] It would be chocolate, it’d be dark chocolate and probably chocolate covered almonds.

[00:32:52] I think you just went over the hearts of every female listening to this podcast right now. So what are your game day rituals? Or do you have superstitions?

[00:33:01] You know I hide. I hide on game day. I stay home on game day. I don’t want to be around anybody. I don’t talk to anybody. I turn off my phone and I just kind of hibernate.

Yeah, is that just so you can focus and tune out all the noise?

Yeah and I don’t want to make anybody else nervous. So when we when we’re on the road, I’m in and out of the pregame meal pretty quickly because I don’t want to make them nervous.

That’s what I was just going to ask. Do you eat pre-game meal with your team?

Very quickly. Only on road games. I don’t come in on the home games.

[00:33:30] Yeah absolutely. So coaching is basically, year-round, 24/7 job. I know off-days and off-seasons are few and far between. How do you recharge on an off-day?

[00:33:45] You know I think it’s so important that we do that because during the season it’s like, we’re off, ooh I better go recruiting. I think it’s really important that you turn off. I think because my generation didn’t grow up with the cell phone, it’s pretty easy for me to just turn that thing off. And I really try to do that. So when we have off days, when Murph was younger, you know I would I would just have mom and Murphy days. And you know I was like it’s all about you, what do you want to do, where do you want to go. Anything you want just for this day. And now you know I do it with my husband. I can do with myself. I mean, you just need to recharge your own batteries, sometimes you just need to go you know, go out go shopping, go walk around, go do something you love you.

Absolutely. So you said shopping. Are you an internet shopper or do you like to go to a brick and mortar?

[00:34:30] You know I used to like to go to the store. But when you don’t have time. I had to get a dress for the wedding and I had to get some things during the season. I definitely became an online shopper.

[00:34:42] I love it. Coach, thanks so much for being our guest and all you do for the game of women’s basketball. I really hope to see you down here on the sidelines in Tampa in April.

[00:34:51] That sounds good. You know, I love this organization. It’s all it’s all about women and what we can do to help each other and I think we have a long-ways to go in terms of what we can do to help each other.

[00:35:01] Thanks so much. We’ll be cheering for you.


[00:35:05] Thanks for listening to today’s show with Muffet McGraw. What a phenomenal role model and advocate for women in the coaching profession.

Every two weeks we’ll sit down with female coaches, experts and industry leaders in the world of sports. Our podcast will feature dynamic conversations explore coaching insights gender equity and share stories of courage and resilience to empower you on your coaching journey.

Subscribe to WiSP Sports on your podcast player to catch all the new shows released every two weeks.

The show notes for this episode can be found on the WeCOACH Podcast page at where you can also find more coverage of women’s sports. Follow us and share your comments on Twitter at @WeCOACH and at @WiSPSports or on Facebook at @WeCoachSports and @WiSPSports.

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Please join us in two weeks as we host Tampa Bay Sports Commission’s Claire Lessinger. We’ll talk about what it was like to play for legendary volleyball coach, Mary Wise, taking over and rebuilding a program in her hometown of Tampa and now her important work in the community.

Until next time, All Sports. One Voice. WeCOACH.


Muffet McGraw Bio

2018 NCAA Women’s National Basketball Champions

32nd season at Notre Dame: 800-230 (.777)

37th season overall: 888-271 (.766)

Muffet McGraw is the third head coach of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program at Notre Dame University where she began her tenure on May 18, 1987. Ask anyone familiar with women’s basketball about Muffet McGraw and her Notre Dame program and inevitably, you’ll hear the same two words — consistency and excellence. And it’s no wonder, when you consider what McGraw and the Fighting Irish have achieved in the past 31 seasons:

• Two national championships. The first came in 2001, when the Irish defeated Purdue, 68-66. The second came exactly 17 years later to the date (both on Easter Sundays), when the Irish emerged with the 61-58 victory on Arike Ogunbowale’s buzzer beater over Mississippi State.

• Coach McGraw became the sixth different coach with multiple NCAA titles, joining Geno Auriemma, Pat Summitt, Linda Sharp, Tara VanDerveer and Kim Mulkey.

• A Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer (2017). Was also inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (2014) and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2011).

• Six trips to the NCAA Division I national championship game, including five times in the past eight years (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018). McGraw is one of just two active Division I coaches (and four all-time) with at least six appearances in the NCAA national championship game. In addition, Notre Dame is the only ACC school ever to reach back-to-back national championship games.

• Eight trips to the NCAA Women’s Final Four (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), which ranks third behind Auriemma and Summitt.

• One of five coaches (men’s or women’s basketball) in NCAA Division I history with 875 wins, eight Final Fours and multiple NCAA championships — others are Summitt, Auriemma, Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and the late North Carolina men’s coach Dean Smith.

• Her 62 NCAA Tournament wins rank third all-time.

• Three-time consensus National Coach of the Year, sweeping the four major coaching honors (Associated Press, WBCA, Naismith Award and USBWA) in 2001, 2013 and 2014. McGraw is one-of-two NCAA Division I coaches to sweep the “Big Four” awards three times in her career.

• Was named the 2018 Associated Press, espnW and USA Today Coach of the Year, in addition to being named a Naismith Coach of the Year semifinalist.

• Seven-time conference Coach of the Year, most recently collecting her second ACC Coach of the Year trophy in 2016. McGraw has earned her seven coaching honors in five different conferences during her career (the past six awards while at Notre Dame), having also garnered accolades in the East Coast (1983 – at Lehigh), North Star (1988), Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League (1991), BIG EAST (2001, 2013) and Atlantic Coast (2014, 2016) conferences.

• Eighth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches (fifth among active coaches) with 888 career wins. Coach McGraw is currently on pace to become the fourth fastest coach to 900 career wins behind Auriemma, Summitt and VanDerveer.

• Eighth all-time among Division I coaches (fifth among active coaches) with a .766 career winning percentage.

• Tied for sixth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches (fifth among active coaches) with 30, 20-win seasons, including 28 of her 31 seasons at Notre Dame, as well as 24 in the past 25 years (1993-2018). The Fighting Irish also have posted 15 25-win seasons, 10 30-win campaigns and five 35-win seasons in the past 21 years (1997-2018) under McGraw’s tutelage.

• Made 25 NCAA tournament appearances, including a current string of 23 consecutive NCAA tournament berths (the fourth-longest active run of consecutive appearances and fifth-longest streak at any time in NCAA tournament history).

• 16 NCAA Sweet 16 trips, all in the past 22 seasons (1997-2018). The Fighting Irish are one of four schools to make last nine Sweet 16’s (UConn, Stanford and Baylor). Irish have reached eight Elite Eights. Notre Dame and UConn are the only teams to reach the Elite Eight seven times in the past eight years.

• Won 15 conference regular-season titles, including the past seven in a row in both the BIG EAST (2012, 2013) and ACC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). The seven straight is the third highest active streak in the country behind Baylor (8) and Green Bay (20). Furthermore, the five straight ACC titles is one shy of the all-time mark set by Virginia from 1991-96.

• The Fighting Irish have run the conference table three times in the above mentioned span, going 16-0 in both the BIG EAST (2013) and ACC (2014, 2016), the latter being the first 16-0 records by an ACC school since 2002-03. Furthermore, Notre Dame is 106-4 now over the last seven years against conference opposition.

• Earned 10 conference tournament championships, including five in the last six seasons: BIG EAST (2013) and ACC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).

• Notre Dame became only the second ACC school ever to sweep the conference’s regular season and tournament titles in four straight seasons (2014-17), along with Duke (2001-04).

• The Irish are an impressive 77-3 against league schools since joining the ACC for the 2013-14 season. Notre Dame is 40-0 inside Purcell Pavilion against ACC foes.

• Notre Dame is 387-58 all-time inside Purcell Pavilion under Coach McGraw, good for an .870 winning percentage. In addition, the Irish currently boast a 25-game win streak at home. The Irish have sold out Purcell Pavilion 51 times and boasts a 42-9 record in those instances, including winners of 33 of their last 37.

• Collected 158 wins over ranked opponents, including 87 over the last six years. In addition, 60 of those 158 wins have come against top-10 opponents, including 21 against top-five teams and five against No. 1-ranked squads.

• Made 351 appearances in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, including an active school-record streak of 212 consecutive weeks in the AP poll. The 212 straight weeks ranks third best. McGraw is sixth among active Division I coaches and 10th all-time in AP poll appearances (through the final regular season 2017-18 poll). Notre Dame also has spent 241 weeks all-time ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation, including each of the last 143 since 2010-11. The 143 straight ranks second.

• 20 consecutive top-20 recruiting classes from 1997-2016. Notre Dame was one of just three programs in the nation that owned an active streak of that length. Reeled in the No. 6 recruiting class in 2018.

• Defeated UConn four times in the NCAA Tournament, more than doubling the next team’s total on the list. Overall, over the last 10 years, Notre Dame has defeated UConn eight times. Meanwhile, all other Division I teams have combined for six wins.

• Finished their 18-year BIG EAST tenure with the second-best winning percentage (232-64, .784) in that league’s history.

• Ranks first on the all-time wins list among single sport coaches in the 129-year history of Fighting Irish athletics.

• Earned a perfect 100-percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score from 2004-2014. In that time, Notre Dame was one of four programs in the country to record a perfect GSR and go on to play for the national title later that same season (something the Fighting Irish did in 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14).

McGraw’s post at Notre Dame was enhanced on Feb. 16, 2015, when one of her former players, point guard Karen (Robinson) Keyes (’91) and her husband, Kevin, made a $5 million gift to their alma mater to endow its head women’s basketball coaching position, now known as the Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. It’s also believed to be the largest endowment gift of its kind in NCAA women’s basketball history, as well as the first endowed coaching position of any sort in Notre Dame athletics history.

“Muffet is one of the most important influences in our lives,” Karen Keyes said. “We are proud to honor her, recognize her dedication to the University and continue to admire all of the successful women she has coached and developed over her entire career.”

Success for McGraw also has meant coaching great players. During her illustrious career, the Notre Dame skipper has coached:

• Two National Players of the Year in Ruth Riley and Jewell Loyd. Two Frances Pomeroy Naismith award winners in Niele Ivey and Megan Duffy. Nancy Lieberman & Dawn Staley Award winner Skylar Diggins-Smith. Two National Freshman of the Year selections in Jacqueline Batteast in Loyd.

• Two different Olympians in Ruth Riley and Natalie Achonwa.

• Five different CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, including two CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Famers in Riley and Carol Lally.

• Nine NCAA Tournament Regional Most Outstanding Players and 11 Final Four All-Tournament Team honorees.

• 17 players that went on to the WNBA, including 14 WNBA Draft pics in the past 18 years. The Irish pro surge included the school’s first four WNBA lottery picks (Devereaux Peters in 2012 to Minnesota; Diggins-Smith in 2013 to Tulsa/now the Dallas Wings; Kayla McBride in 2014 to San Antonio now Las Vegas Aces, all with the No. 3 overall choice, before Loyd became the program’s first-ever No. 1 WNBA Draft pick in 2015 by Seattle), making the Fighting Irish the only program in the history of the WNBA Draft to produce top-four lottery selections in four consecutive seasons. Lastly, those players have thrived in the WNBA, producing a combined six WNBA championships.

• 20 All-Americans, including 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley, 2015 espnW National Player of the Year Jewell Loyd and four-time All-American (and two-time consensus first-team All-America choice) Skylar Diggins.

• 21 players who have been selected for USA or Canada Basketball National Teams, with those players going on to win a total of 41 medals, including 26 golds.

• 34 different players who have earned all-conference recognition a total of 79 times, including 27 first-team picks who have been chosen a total of 51 times.

A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, McGraw earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Saint Joseph’s University (Pa.) in 1977. McGraw and her husband, Matt, celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary in 2018 and make their home in Granger, Indiana. They are the proud parents of 28-year-old son Murphy, a 2012 Indiana University graduate, who married Francesca Gardner in Paris (her hometown) in the spring of 2018.








Photo: Muffet McGraw
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