© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Notre Dame Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw Wants To See More Women Coaching

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw questions an official during a game in South Bend, Ind., on March 23, 2019. McGraw retired this week after 33 years coaching women's basketball at Notre Dame.
Robert Franklin
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw questions an official during a game in South Bend, Ind., on March 23, 2019. McGraw retired this week after 33 years coaching women's basketball at Notre Dame.

For 33 years, Muffet McGraw coached the women's basketball team at Notre Dame, winning two national championships and leading the Fighting Irish to 848 victories.

She retired this week.

Last year, she made waves by vowing not to hire male coaches for her staff.

"We don't have enough female role models. We don't have enough visible women leaders. We don't have enough women in power," she told reporters in April 2019.

"All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, they could come out every day, and we're teaching them great things about life skills, but wouldn't it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead?"

McGraw was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

She talked with All Things Considered about her decision, being an example for women and what her plans are for retirement.

Interview Highlights

On why she decided to retire now

I think that's the thing about retiring, everybody wants to know, what's the magic answer and how did you know? And a few people told me that, you know what, sometimes you wake up one day and you go, "I'm done." And it wasn't quite that quick. But I've been on a one-year plan with myself.

Every season, I look at: We won the championship. "Are you going to come back next year?" "Yeah, I think I have one more year."

And then we get to the championship game. "Yeah, I think I have one more year."

And then this year, I kind of looked back and thought, you know, I think I have the program where I want it to be and I'm ready for somebody else to take over. I'm ready to do something new. I really wanted a new challenge. I've gotten a little more active in the community and talking about women ... and I'm really enjoying that role. And I'd like to spend more time doing it.

On how the coronavirus pandemic — with sports on hold — influenced her timing

It did in a way. I think I was decided. I had made my decision after the season. You don't want to make a decision right after the season. So I was definitely leaning towards retiring. And then what happened during the pandemic was I had a great opportunity to pretend I was retired for a month with no one knowing it and deciding if I was going to be able to live with it or not.

So I would say it reinforced my decision. ... Although I will be able to at least leave the house when I'm retired, which I'm not doing much of right now.

On changes in women's basketball over more than three decades coaching

I think our game has come a long way. I think the level that we're playing at is a very high level of basketball. The fan attendance has grown. Unfortunately, the media attention has not. We still get about 4% of media attention.

When Title IX was passed in the early '70s and said men's and women's sports should be equal, we had about 90% of our coaches were female. And now ... we're looking at 60% of our coaches are men. And of course, all of the coaches in men's basketball are also men.

So, I would like to see more women in coaching, certainly in head coaching positions, but also as assistant coaches. I'd like to see that diversity, because I think this is where kids are looking up and seeing, "I have a chance to be a head coach." And so you want them to see women on TV. And unfortunately, you know, we're on TV, but we don't get the same attention as the men's conference tournaments and the NCAA men do.

On the advice she's given to her successor, Niele Ivey, a former Notre Dame player and assistant coach

I think the biggest thing is to be yourself, I think believe in yourself. Because as women, we tend to overthink things. We question ourselves a little bit more than men do. We don't exude that confidence that men seem to just have. We're team players, we're very loyal, we're always asking for input, we're good listeners. And sometimes it's hard for women to stand up and take charge.

And so I've really helped her to just use her voice, [to say,] "this is the direction I want to go in." To not be afraid and to know that people are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you really are better off doing what you think is best. And of course, you're going to get input from your staff and from different people and you're going to continue to be mentored and to grow and to listen to other people. But I think, "your vision, your plan," that's the one that I want her to follow.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Aubri Juhasz is a news assistant for NPR's All Things Considered.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.