Niele Ivey is set to take the helm as the new head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
“To love, to serve, and to mentor.” That is Niele Ivey’s personal mission.
She will have the opportunity to continue living out her personal mission as the new head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. It was a moment she has been waiting for ever since she starting her coaching career as an assistant at her alma mater in 2007, as Ivey was officially introduced as the new Fighting Irish head coach today via a Zoom press conference.
Ivey was joined by her son Jaden, as well as Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick.
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In her opening statement, Ivey was emotional in talking about her love and admiration for former head coach Muffet McGraw, who announced her retirement yesterday.
“To Coach McGraw, I’m here because of you. You believed in me. You fostered my development. There are no amount of words I have for the love and admiration I have for you. I hope I make you proud.”
Ivey spent 12 years as an assistant under the Hall of Fame head coach, as she was an assistant for eight years, before being promoted to associate head coach, which included being on the staff for Notre Dame’s 2018 National Championship. Following the 2018-2019 season, Ivey moved on to the NBA, where she served as an assistant on the Memphis Grizzlies staff. A time in which Ivey praised.
“Coach (Taylor) Jenkins is a phenomenal coach. I learned so much under his leadership. Every relationship I built was organic and very authentic in the way we connected (during her time with Memphis).
Ivey, a four-year player at Notre Dame under McGraw, helped lead the Fighting Irish to the 2001 National Championship, before moving on to play five seasons in the WNBA. Following her professional career, which included playing in Spain, she took on an assistant position at Xavier under head coach Kevin McGuff, who was an assistant under McGraw during Ivey’s time in South Bend. McGuff is now at Ohio State.
Now, one of the country’s most coveted assistant coaches has her moment and her opportunity. For many years, her name would come up when head coaching positions opened up. Now, she has the job she has always wanted and is going to be following a legend.
“I’m full of gratitude. (I knew) it would be a dream to take over a storied program like Notre Dame. It’s where my heart is.”
While Ivey gets set to expand upon what has become a legendary program, the lessons that she learned from McGraw will always stay with her.
“The biggest thing (lesson) is to work with integrity. She is somebody who displayed passion for ND and passion for women’s basketball.” She went on to add, “her passion, her work ethic, how much she poured into the team, the community (women’s basketball), but her family. She empowered me.”
Ivey is certainly up for the task of taking over this storied program. Many believe that the lifeline for a program an a coach is recruiting. Being able to bring in student-athletes that will allow your team to compete at a high level year-in and year-out is critical. During her time as an assistant in South Bend, Ivey was touted as one of the country’s best recruiters.
“Fortunately, I’m not too far removed,” she said when asked about the incoming class and recruiting, “so I still have those relationships. Relationships are extremely important.”
In regards to her recruiting pitch moving forward, Ivey stated, “I just want to let them know who I am as a person. Telling them my story and how I want to develop them and make them better.”
“To love, to serve, and to mentor.”
Her personal mission comes out in everything that she does, but for anyone who knows, has been recruited by, or has been coached by Ivey, they know how much she values relationships.
Helping to recruit the likes of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd, Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young, Jessica Shepard, and Marina Mabrey, among many other Notre Dame greats, speaks to the eagerness players have to play for her. In fact, many former players had nothing but praise for their former coach.
Diggins-Smith tweeted, “Keep an eye on the transfer portal now! Niele is the best in the game. ND sells itself.”
For Ivey, it’s about all relationships. She went on to talk about the strength, love, and commitment of the alumni. “We talk about how this is not just a 4-year decision, it’s a 40-year decision. You don’t feel like it’s just four years. You always feel a part of it.”
The Fighting Irish are already set to bring in a terrific 2020 recruiting class, which includes four top-50 players according to ESPN, Madeline Westbeld (No. 20), Allison Campbell (No. 27), Natalija Marshall (No. 34), and Alasia Hayes (No. 44).
“To love, to serve, and to mentor.” Ivey has been doing just that for a very long time and she will continue to live out her personal life mission, only this time, as the head coach of the school that she loves.
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