A Look at MM's Coaching Tree, With An Eye To the Future
Another bye-week kind of post: Muffet McGraw’s Coaching Tree, With an Eye to the Future. I'm pondering … mind you, just pondering….which of these coaches, if any, might someday pick up the keys to the Great Green Irish Hoops Machine.
I personally hope this won’t happen for quite some time because I think – if this season is any indication – MM is firing on all cylinders, aided greatly the team of her crack assistants, staff and husband, Matt, who offers all kinds of logistical and emotional support/guidance. However, let’s say Muffet and Matt decided to take their “one of a kind love affair” to another place in say, four to five years. Which of these folks might be an able replacement? What might they have to do – if anything – to qualify for the post?
To add some thought to the discussion/fuel to the fire, I’ve immediately added another post on an article on Chad Riley’s coaching journey from and back to Notre Dame in men’s soccer. It addresses the various paths an assistant takes to get to a HC job and how planning and some luck play into it.
So here is list of MM’s coaching tree that I can remember and other possible members of the Irish family that might be interested. Remember, I’m thinking four to five seasons down the road. If we have enough interest in this , maybe Baba can turn this into one of his stellar polls.
HEAD COACHES (in alphabetical order)
- Megan Duffy, Miami University of Ohio. Former Irish Point Guard in her first year as HC, worked her way up at St. John’s, George Washington and Michigan. An MM favorite.
- Bill Fennelly, Iowa State. .600+ winning percentage at ISU. However, at 60, not far behind MM in years.
- Kevin McGuff, Ohio State University. Was an assistant on MM’s national championship team before heading Xavier, Washington and now OSU. Despite winning at Columbus, criticized for range of things, from lack of defense and lousy recruiting to hiring Kelsey Mitchell’s father as an assistant.
- Jonathan Tsipis, Wisconsin. Long-time asst. and recruiting coordinator at ND who won at George Washington (with Duffy assisting in beginning) and now is trying to rebuild Wisconsin. Getting pounded now, but future recruiting classes look stronger.
- Coquese Washington, Penn State. Had some very good teams, but has recently been behind Maryland, OSU and now Michigan. Solid coach who recruits Midwest well.
- Beth Morgan Cunningham. Oversees the off-guards and wings. Was a successful head coach at VCU before filling assistant slot left vacant by Tsipis’ departure to GW. Never quite got the specifics on move back to ND. Did she want to be in Indiana? Or not be a HC? If it was for the former, would she be interested in the top slot?
- Niele Ivey. Currently Recruiting coordinator and point guard coach. Probably viewed as prohibitive favorite to succeed MM, perhaps save for lack of HC experience. Was finalist for Vandy job. Will she wait until son graduates from high school before looking again?
- Carol Owens. Senior in terms of service and was also a HC at Northern Illinois. Oversees posts/big forwards. Thought to be MM’s right hand.
- Erica Williamson, Video Coordinator in 2nd season. Former Irish center was director of operations at Loyola (Baltimore) and George Washington before heading to South Bend.
CURRENT ASSISTANTS (ELSEWHERE)
- Ashley Barlow, Wright State, 2nd year.
- Ariel Barker, Lehigh. First year at MM’s other HC stop. Previously at Wayne State.
- Madison Cable, Wisconsin. 2nd year as Graduate Assistant to Tsipis, who recruited her to ND. Needs to get assistant coaching slot next if she wants to continue this path.
- Kristin (Knapp) Cole, Assc. Head Coach, UT Arlington. 5th year at this program.
- Melissa D’Amico, now in her 3rd year at Yale, as recruiting coordinator. Just across theSound from her Long Island home.
- Michaela Mabrey, Miami University of Ohio. First year in southern Ohio after spending a year as Grad. Assistant at the U (Miami) under Katie Meier. She and Duffy cross paths with Irish staff at all sorts of recruiting-ish events.
IRISH ALUMS (strictly Dillon’s druthers….)
- Natalie Achonwa. Ace has expressed an interest in coaching and filled in as director of operations for a season while rehabbing her knee. If she does follow this, start is dependant on how long her playing career goes. And right now, she’s playing well.
- Skylar Diggins. If she ever gets into coaching, is there any doubt that she’d be associated with ND? Have no idea if she’s even interested, but it would certainly be a hit in South Bend and cause upset stomachs in Storrs, CT.
ANY OTHER CANDIDATES?
I'm thinking this position will stay "in house," that is, among those who have some association with the university and/or program. It is highly successful in all attributes that it cries for someone is who is intimate with the culture and processes. That's all things being equal between now and then:
- will the success level continue?
- will possible in-house candidates excel and move up the gravy train?
Also, keep in mind that there will probably be a changing of the guard at long-time competitors like UConn and Stanford. Will they choose to keep their cultures intact by choosing within the system?
On that closing note, hope you have some of fun pondering this as I did.
As ex-players Ace & Sky are great, but what about Ruth Riley
Ruth is one of the most impressive ND athletes and leaders I've seen and her post ND career as Olympian, WNBA World champion/All star, broadcaster, General Manager, and Humanitarian has been more than stellar. i think she could easily be a very effective coach if she wanted to be and would have more of a pedigree than Ace or Sky.
That said Muffet's current assistants Niele, Beth, and Carol are all very impressive as well and certainly have the coaching experience.
Beth Cunningham's decision to back away from head coach
to assistant at Notre Dame was not driven by wanting to escape head coaching. She loved it and was good at it. It was more about changing her priorities in life, having children and the time to be a great mother. ND assistant was a great place to stay in the game but yet have the time to do the family thing with a nurturing mother/grandmother figure in Muffet. I would look at her as a great future coach that can really help develop players to not only be great in basketball but great in life. She is the kind of role model any parent would want for their kids. Niele to an extent has hung araound raising her son with the support of her ND family. I bet many a player has baby sat for her along the way.
I wonder if Norwood Teague had anything to do with it. (link)
Wow. Good research. Sad story. Guy seems like a bum. *
Thx for Explanations and Insights
Never quite got the story on Beth's motivations. Yes, she was successful as HC at VCU.
A Look at One Coach's Path To a HC Position....
...to be specific, Chad Riley, of the Notre Dame Men's Soccer Team.
I include this because he was a very good player for an Irish coaching icon, Bobby Clark, and this excellent piece (attached) follows the path, decisions and advice he took and received to get there. I've cut and pasted some relevant paragraphs below.
It's offered to add some thought to discussions on how best to prepare for a HC position.
From Article on Chad Riley (full article linked)
"I also knew I had a lot to learn to prepare myself to be a good head coach. I always had a lot of things happening in the back of my head in that regard…And you've got to be purposeful about it. Bobby (Clarke) taught me not to be in a rush. But at the same time I also remembered Jack Swarbrick coming to speak to all the assistant coaches one day down in the basketball auditorium of the Joyce Center.
"Two things really hit me-first it was nice to hear Jack talk about it from his side of the table, from his perspective. It was about how to grow your career, how you do it while you're here. And you can be a good assistant, but you have to be able to articulate what you do to get the jobs you want. And then you can talk about it, but you also get to the point where you have to go prove it.
"What I took from Jack's comments was that you were probably going to have to go somewhere else-it's probably not going to be a seamless move up the ladder here (at Notre Dame) to one of the head coaching positions. He was very positive, but the way I interpreted it was that it was going to be hard to work here
"Then I remember picking (ND senior associate athletic director) Bill Scholl's brain. One of his things was, 'As soon as you find a good place, go be a head coach as fast as you can.' His advice was that there were so many things you can't learn unless you're in the seat doing it. I took that to heart. I wasn't going to rush, but it hit me that there's a big difference between making suggestions and making decisions."