Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw's Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Speech

(Guru's note: there is a post below this one on WNBA matters, mostly musing notes. If you are viewing this in melgreenberg.com, click the Mel's blog button on the list to get to rest of the posts in blogspot.)

By Mel Greenberg

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --
What follows is Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw's acceptance speech Saturday night at the Bijou Theatre as one of six inductees into this year's class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. McGraw, in this class, was the only coach.

The Guru was able to also get the speeches of former Maryland star Vicky Bullett and founding WNBA president Val Ackerman, which will be posted later this week.

From taping McGraw's speech on the digital, because of the audio ambience, or any of the inductees sometimes rushing a sentence, the Guru in the transcription will note in parenthesis when it is hard to determine exactly what was said, though it is possible if a copy exists, the blanks will be filled later and you will be notified of the update.

Parentheses will also be used to note when laughter or applause occurred so you can discern a visual feel for the room and know when humor was being used Also, the parentheses will be used to elaborate a remark so you can understand its context if you do not have familiarity with the Irish coach.

Former all-American and Irish star Ruth Riley, now with the WNBA Silver Stars, who were between weekend games Saturday night, gave the video introduction for McGraw.

Most of her remarks were a biographical read, which has been noted in the coverage. But here is a key passage outside the statistical list of accomplishments.

"To understand what makes Muffet such an accomplished coach, you really have to go back to her roots. She's a Philly girl through and through and I've come to understand there is an unique mixture of intensity and toughness that's inane in people born there.

"But to that you add intelligence, her endless passion and teacher of the game and her ability to encourage and motivate her players, and only then will you truly understand what makes her successful."

Riley also said she was privileged to be part of the 2001 NCAA champions that McGraw guided.

With that said, here is McGraw's formal speech the rest of the way, which, for those curious, was 8 1/2 minutes, which is the norm for most similar remarks over the years:

McGraw Speech

Thank you everyone.

You know, when I was watching (inaudible), I could see my hands in the background (inaudible), `I think my left hand is going to be fine on the podium’ but (she shakes the other which is holding the speech), this is my shooting hand. (Loud laughter from the audience).

Congratulations to the all the other honorees. And to those who have come before us. I’d like to thank the board of directors for selecting me for this amazing honor.

And after starting a much-publicized 0-and-20 against Tennessee in my career, I say, you picked a good year to bring me to Knoxville (loud laughter, cheering and applause).

I never dreamed when I coached my first game back at Archbishop Carroll High School (in suburban Philadelphia) back in 1977, I’d be standing here today.

And I know you don’t accomplish something so significant in your life without a lot of people. And I’m so blessed to have all of them here to share this moment.

Of all the players I’ve coached over the years, I’m so happy that all my favorites are here tonight (laughter).

From the oldest, one of my high school players is here, and from my first class at Notre Dame through the three players that are joining me here tonight. And a few very special players in between. Thanks for being here with me.

It is only fitting that you are here because it was up to you to get all those wins that got me here (laughter).

My first coach at St. Joe’s (in Philadelphia) is here – Ellen Ryan – and the athletic director at St. Joe’s – Don DiJulia – and the entire starting five from my senior year (1977) at St. Joseph’s. (loud applause).

“We’ve been good friends for more than 30 years and, like me, they can appreciate how far women’s basketball has come.

“We played in front of a handful of fans. Fortunately, there were a lot of Irish Catholics in Philadelphia because our coach’s idea in improving attendance was to recruit players with big families. (Loud laughter).

“If only (sister inductee) Ruthie Bolton lived in Philly. (Loud laughter – she has 21 in her family).

“My first stop as a head coach was at Lehigh University (in Bethlehem, Pa.). And I have some friends here from Lehigh.

“I remember when I got the call offering my first head coaching job. I hung up the phone and Matt (her husband) and I were celebrating. And after we were finished, he said, `Oh, and how much are they going to pay you?’

“And I said, `My God, I was so excited, I forgot to ask!’” (Loud laughter).

“Back in the ‘80s (inaudible) at Lehigh, I had to sweep the gym floor, I had to set up the shot clocks, which they used to go on the court, and I had to remember to make sure to bring the referees’ checks to give them after the game.

“And then I had to remember to pay them after we lost. (Loud laughter).

“My husband Matt (inaudible) the games and working the halftime shootouts and the senior women’s administrator kept the book.

“And then a miracle happened. The phone rang with an offer to come to Notre Dame. We moved to South Bend and a week later we were unpacking and the phone rang and my husband answered it and came running up the stairs, `Muff. You won’t believe it. Sports Illustrated is on the phone.

“And I said, `Dang, that sports information department is going to be g-o-o-o-d.’

“So I was feeling pretty good about myself. I go to pick up the phone and they said, `Is this Muffet McGraw?’

“And I said, `Yes it is.’

“And they said, `For just 99 cents an issue … (Huge laughter and applause).

“And now I’m in my 24th year at Notre Dame and I still feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to be coaching there.

(Short inaudible sentence).

“But you learn a lot about the university, you learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about the people that surround you.

“And I’ve been lucky to have a great circle of friends in South Bend. They meet me after the game at the Woods house to dissect the game. They start with the important things – my (inaudible) shoes (laughter) – and then they move on to pick the player of the game.

“And they are all here tonight. I appreciate your support and friendship you have given me over the years – especially my good friend Eileen (Woods).

“I’d also like to thank (she names a bunch of people from ND but the Guru does not have spellings and won’t guess. One was sports information director Chris Masters) for the contributions they have made – not just for our program, but for all the support over the years.

“You know the Bible says, `Moses died leaning on his staff. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. (Hugh laughter and applause).

“I’ve got the best staff in the country – Niele Ivey, Carole Owens, Jonathan Tsipis, and Angie Pothoff.

“I hope when you become the boss you are as a fortunate as I am to have people who are loyal, passionate and hard working as you are.

“Together we have accomplished a lot. And I love coming to work every day because of you. We started out as co-workers and (inaudible) blessed to be friends. Special thinks to Angie Pothoff for organizing this amazing weekend.

“You know (Inaudible) I come from a big family, not quite as big as the Bolton’s (laughter), but we have a big family – when you have eight kids and seven pork chops you've got to learn to move fast (laughter).

“(inaudible in beginning to mention her sister) it means the world to me to have you here tonight. My sister (inaudible) is the only person to this day willing to call me after a loss (laughter).

“My sister Peg (inaudible) says, “`I can’t believe your sisters.’ And I said, `What do you mean?’ And they said, `She’s so much fun.’ (Laughter).

“And my sister Cathy (inaudible) after a loss, `But you’re so much nicer.’ (laughter).

“I love you guys. Thanks for all you do for me. (She thanks a few others)

“You learn from adversity by watching my mom. She lost a son, won a battle with breast cancer, and we lost my dad a few years ago.

“But she keeps moving forward. She’s an amazing woman and she’s my hero.

“I’ve certainly come a long way from that skinny kid, four-eyed kid, orthopedic red shoes, carrying a purse with a brick in it (laughter) – because I broke my arm once in the first grade and the doctor didn’t think it was going to grow and we couldn’t afford a brace, so I had to carry a purse with a brick in it.” (Laughter).

“It’s probably why I don’t carry a purse today (more laughter).

“(inaudible) me. Thanks mom. I love you guys.”

“To Murphy, my son Murphy. You are the reason I believe in miracles. You are everything I’d hope you would be. Murphy’s been amazing to be around this past 21 years.

“When he was 10 we won the national championship in St. Louis (2001) and in the semifinal game against Connecticut we were down 16 at halftime and ended up winning by 15.

“So after the game, as you could imagine, everyone was asking, `What did you say at halftime?’ Then we went to the media room and by the ushers and the fans and everybody said, `What a great (inaudible). Must have been great.

“And Murph was getting a little tired and (inaudible) and he was getting bored with the whole thing, he finally looked up and said, `Hey mom! If it was such a great speech, why didn’t you give it before the game.’ (Very loud laughter and applause).

“To my husband, Matt. You are my soul mate, my best friend. And I knew from the first moment I saw you, that I would love you forever. You should be up here with me. Because I couldn’t have done it without you. (Loud applause).

“They say some people come into your life but then quietly go while others stay for a while, leave footprints on your heart and you know your life will never be the same.

“(Inaudible) everyone who is here with me tonight. (Inaudible) to be blessed to have you as part of my life.

“Thank you.”

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