A legacy of people
Jessica Shepard, critical star of Muffet McGraw’s last two Final Four teams in 2018 and 2019, including her 2018 championship squad, was looking through her phone at old pictures Wednesday when she came across one and lingered on it.
It was Shepard, dumping Gatorade on her head coach, one instrumental in helping her reach her basketball potential before sending her on to the Minnesota Lynx. Seeing it Wednesday, it meant something different — the last time anyone will do that, Shepard realized.
After 33 years, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw has stepped down as head coach of the program. But she has not, will not step down from her role in the lives of Shepard and so many others she’s coached.
“Coach and I talk on the phone, probably, once a month,” Shepard told High Post Hoops Wednesday afternoon. “I think that’s so special — not every players gets that out of her college coaches. That just shows how real the relationships are that she builds.”
Moments after that announcement, the school announced McGraw’s replacement: Niele Ivey, former player and assistant coach, who recently served as assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies.
One prominent former player under McGraw is Cathy Engelbert, current commissioner of the WNBA. Engelbert, however, played under McGraw at Lehigh.
“Coach McGraw is a giant in the game of women’s basketball,” Engelbert told High Post Hoops . “She has coached and mentored thousands of young basketball players throughout her career, including me at Lehigh University. She also developed many elite players who have gone on to become transcendent stars in the WNBA and impacted countless players and people around the world through her empowering messages. I look forward to seeing the impact Muffet will continue to have as she embarks on her next chapter.”
Plus, the Irish are known as a tight-knit, family-oriented group and their relationships often seem to stand the test of time, spanning through career and family changes or whatever it may be. So it’s no surprise that former players had such strong reactions to the news on social media:
Howard Megdal contributed reporting to this story.
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.