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.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hall of Fame Weekend: Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw Enhanced Thru the Guru's Cut

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Having been re-called to active duty on behalf of the employee alma mater Philadelphia Inquirer for coverage of philly’s Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, who starred at Saint Joseph’s in the mid-1970s, into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, your Guru began collecting information thru an advance jump start with interviews, etc., to save time and the process was initiated prior to knowing what the assigned size specs would be.

Once known, the Guru then had to write from what he had collected to comply with the terms.

But through the wonders of the internet and technology, beyond the finished product which you were given a link into philly.com, the umbrella website, some nice things were said that did not make the cut.

Rather at this late hour than craft a whole new version, as an extra treat, since they were transcribed in advance to become hard copy, here are more quotes and remarks celebrating Muffet’s induction.

While in New York last weekend for the Liberty’s final WNBA game of the regular season, facing the San Antonio Silver Stars, first here is what former Irish stars Kayla McBride, who plays for the Texans, and Ruth Riley, now the San Antonio general manager, had to say.

By the way, as part two of the Inky detail, the Guru will be covering Muffet’s speech Friday night.

Kayla McBride --  Notre Dame wasn’t on my radar at all. They sent me a letter and my parents said, “You should go. I actually fell in love with Digger. Then I fell in love with Coach McGraw. She didn’t ask me about basketball.

She asked me about me. She’s probably top two, top three most important people in my life at this point. She has always instilled so much confidence in me, no matter how immature I was (laugh), no matter, anything, I give her so much credit for me being the person and player I am today.

Her honesty is No. 1. She expects and demands a lot from her players and she’s not afraid to let you know good or bad. Her compassion off the court is amazing. Just her competitiveness. I think she’s our leader for a reason.

She’s a great leader. It’s easy to follow her and its easy to play hard for her just the way she coaches.

* * *

Ruth Riley -- Coach McGraw instantly made me feel welcome, make me feel it was going to be a place that I was cared for as an individual but was going to reach my potential as a young woman and as a basketball player and I think she’s very authentic, she’s very honest, in games and recruiting you can get that but I really feel appreciate just the way she approaches life. What you see is what you get.

We’re looking forward to the weekend. She doesn’t allow us to celebrate her much so this is going to be special.

*  *  *
The fuller quotes from Jim Foster, now at Tennessee-Chattanooga, who hired Muffet to be an assistant after Geno Auriemma had moved on to another slot from Saint Josephs.

Competitive. Driven. Had a real understanding at an early age a lot of what makes a successful coach and the experiences she had turned her into a better coach. She learned how to grow with the game and wasn’t status quo and didn’t stay satisfied with what was and was always looking to what else do we do. Who else can I be. 

She had that at the beginning. I think to sustain this thing for a long period of time you have to have that mentality and then you continue with that mentality. A lot of people get to a point where they think know enough and are just satisfied with where they are and she just always was looking for something else.

Theresa Grentz, who was McGraw’s second coach at St. Joseph's following Ellen Ryan and before Rene Portland: 

It was a great time. Muffet and her teammates were young and a joy to be around.
Muffet was very competitive as were her teammates. 

Muff wore number 10 and played with super passion for a game she loved.

It is so wonderful to see her success and all she has done for so many young women that have come under her tutorage.

Congratulations Muffet, you deserve this and you have earned this great honor. So proud of you!!

And from Muffet herself in a call a few days ahead to avoid the crush that was going to occur at the media availability session Thursday afternoon at the Hall.

McGraw: Just after graduating and knowing that I loved the game and I was a sociology major and a job opened at Archbishop Carroll and I thought what a great way to see if I like it or not. 

In terms of taking the job at Notre Dame, she said, “Back then you actually sent your resume in and waited to hear from them. When they called, I was really excited to take a trip out there. Matt always went recruiting with me and I said, ‘Hey we have to take another trip’ and he probably thought we were going to North Jersey to go recruiting and found out we were going to South Bend.

We were both very excited trying to find information. It wasn’t easy back then because you didn’t go online. You actually had to know somebody or look it up in a different way. We were a little unprepared going in. But we got there. David Rivers, I think was the first guy I ran into on campus.

Karen Robinson was already there. She was a great player. I didn’t recruit her but she was a freshman when I got there. (Robinson and her husband were later to endow the Notre Dame women’s coaching position, donating over $1 million.)

 Then Beth Morgan (now on her staff after having been the head coach of VCU), and Katrina Gaither were the two that elevated the program to a Final Four level. Joining the Big East conference was a part of that too.

Best part was playing Villanova to get homecoming trips. (After Notre Dame's leaving the old Big East, she has arranged games with St. Joes and Penn to get trips. This year will play Quakers at Palestra on Dec. 9.)

Got to get back to palestra. That was a hell of game. They played us tough. (About the first meeting with Penn several years ago.)

Beth’s senior year. She got us there. Sellouts. Skylar Diggins-Smith in back yard.

In an ironic twist, in late December, 1990 McGraw brought her Irish to her alma mater in a holiday tournament where they upset Louisiana Tech and the Hawks. 

The success brought Notre Dame’s first ranking in the AP poll and from there the Irish are now one of the all-time teams in terms of appearances overall, besides in the Top 10 and Top 5 categories, as well as consecutive rankings.

That’s it. 


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