Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 48 of 55 NOV. 14, 2020 49 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI F ew tasks in athletics are more thankless than succeeding an iconic, Hall-of-Fame head coach. The Notre Dame football program is one of the best examples of how bur- densome it can be to follow a legend. • After the sudden death of Knute Rockne (1918-30), Hunk Anderson was ousted three seasons later, while Elmer Layden opted to become NFL commissioner by the end of 1940 when a sparkling .770 winning per- centage after seven years was not perceived as good enough. • Frank Leahy stepped down in 1953 following four national titles and six unbeaten seasons in 11 years. Successor Terry Brennan would fin- ish in the top 10 three times and No. 17 in his fifth and final season against an arduous schedule — yet was fired. • Ara Parseghian's (1964-74) de- parture after 11 seasons was met with much dejection. And even though his successor, Dan Devine, won the na- tional title in his third season — "with Ara's recruits," critics claimed — he was never fully embraced by the Notre Dame community "because he wasn't Ara, and as charismatic," and would step down after only six seasons. • Lou Holtz (1986-96) had his own memorable 11-year run while reviv- ing the program to glory and its most recent national title. His successor and former defensive coordinator, Bob Davie, was axed after five years. Furthermore, contentious or frosty relationships developed during the Leahy/Brennan, Parseghian/Devine and Holtz/Davie transitions that spilled out into public forums as well, which made the job even more taxing. In many cases, the heir to such a coaching throne will take great pains to distance himself from the predeces- sor in order to be out from his shad- ows and establish his own identity. Which brings us to the Notre Dame women's basketball in 2020-21, and beyond. During her 33-year reign from 1987-2020, Muffet McGraw became one of the game's titans, earning her induction into the Naismith Basket- ball Hall of Fame and immense popu- larity in the local community. Among her nine Final Four appearances were national titles in 2001 and 2018. Helping lead that first title as the star point guard was Niele Ivey, who also was McGraw's assistant and associate coach, plus lead recruiter, from 2007-19, prior to a one-year stint as an NBA assistant for the Memphis Grizzlies amid a succession plan. The only distancing Ivey is en- gaged in with McGraw is the one rec- ommended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. "I try to meet with her every week — over quarantine, we met outside, social distance," Ivey said. "I'm always a per- son that wants to learn, be a sponge, especially with Coach McGraw. "I'm picking her brain about some things. … For me, it's amazing to be able to have a Hall of Fame coach that I can go see who is 15 minutes away from campus. That's why I've been successful — I've surrounded myself with great mentors and just great people. "I'm very fortunate to have her as my mentor still and have that rela- tionship. … She was so excited to hear how practice was going." For her part, McGraw has remained visible as a teacher, and in the com- munity as an activist, including work- ing as a volunteer during the Nov. 3 election at a local voting center. Once practice commenced Oct. 14, longtime assistant Carol Owens as well as former McGraw players Mi- chaela Mabrey and Coquese Washing- ton hardly felt a dramatic transition. "My staff said, 'You even stand like Coach McGraw,'" Ivey said. "There is a lot of Coach McGraw that rubs off on the things that I say and how I coach. It was just really funny that they mentioned that." At the same time, Ivey does rec- ognize that being her own person is essential to establish credibility, and she needs to "implement my stamp on the program," especially after the 13-18 campaign last season. "I wanted this team to learn how to compete coming off of last year," Ivey said. "I feel like the identity of this team is they work really hard. They are very coachable, they come in every day with a hunger and they want to get better. That's exactly the culture I wanted to have." With Ivey having undergone a couple decades of experiencing that culture herself, the program might not have as dramatic a transition af- ter 33 years. ✦ First-year head coach Niele Ivey (left) makes a point to meet with her predecessor and mentor Muffet McGraw on a regular basis, but is also aware she needs to put her stamp on the program. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Passing The Torch Notre Dame's succession plan is built on friendship, not insecurity 2020-21 NUMERICAL ROSTER No. Name Ht. Year 1 Dara Mabrey 5-7 Junior 3 Amirah Abdur-Rahim 6-3 Freshman 5 Alasia Hayes 5-7 Freshman 10 Katlyn Gilbert 5-10 Junior 12 Abby Prohaska 5-10 Junior 15 Natalija Marshall 6-4 Freshman 20 Nicole Benz 5-8 Senior 21 Anaya Peoples 5-10 Sophomore 22 Danielle Cosgrove 6-4 Junior 23 Alli Campbell 6-0 Freshman 24 Destinee Walker 5-10 Graduate 30 Mikki Vaughn 6-3 Senior 33 Sam Brunelle 6-2 Sophomore 34 Maddy Westbeld 6-3 Freshman

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