One on one with Head Coach Muffet McGraw
The Notre Dame women's basketball team will take on the Miami Hurricanes Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. The women's team is ranked second in the country.
ABC57's Allison Hayes sat down with Head Coach Muffet McGraw to discuss how she became the head coach, her coaching philosophy and this year's team.
Allison Hayes: I remember in one of our interviews we had sitting at Nick's Patio, having breakfast and you said something that I'll never forget. When you first got here you weren't under a real contract and that you didn't really negotiate for money. 'Whatever they give me I'm happy to have it.' Kind of talk us through just where you've come from, that first day walking here on campus to where you are today?
Coach Muffet McGraw: Well it's been amazing. It's been just an incredible journey for me. To come here and have the opportunity to coach was all I wanted. I remember getting the job and forgetting to ask how much they were paying. I really, it was secondary to just being here. It wasn't a job. It was just something I loved doing, I loved being here every day. But when we started to look around and people would talk about 'Here's salaries for women's coaches,' I went 'Wow, that's not what I'm making!' But I didn't really care about it, it was never that important to me. And then when Kevin White came in, which was right around 2000, that's when we started having contracts. So I was here almost 15 years without a contract, wondering if they're going to have me back. And fortunately they did, I got the contract. Never had an agent, I still don't. I trust Notre Dame and whatever they're going to do for me and I know they're going to do the right thing and whatever they have done has been great.
Allison: How empowering is that for you, as a woman, as a coach, to come that far and have that power to negotiate and maybe in a way fight for what you feel like you're worth?
Coach McGraw: I think it was important for me to fight for my team. I always fought for my assistant coaches, for their salaries, for more charters, for more money in our budget; for things like that for the team. I felt it was important for gender equity for the girls to see we were going to be treated equally. So that really was an important fight that I wanted to challenge people to make sure we were getting the same treatment. And I think that's something that was on going, you're always constantly making sure your team is being treated well. So it was important for me to fight that fight for women, but not for me personally.
Allison: How would you describe your coaching philosophy? What is it that's within you that you've been able to achieve here and maybe instill in your players?
Coach McGraw: I've learned a lot. We had one losing season, had a really good player, Player of the Year caliber player and had our only losing season. And so I learned a valuable lesson there, it's not about the talent, it's about the character. And it's about the team chemistry, that's the most important thing for me. So we always try to find people who fit Notre Dame. And that's been very successful for us, getting the right kids. Not necessarily all All-Americans and we've certainly been successful with them.
Allison: This season you've had to deal with injuries, it's one of those things where it's like 'Oh no, not again.' But where do you see the potential of this team, obviously missing some of the key parts you could have had?
Coach McGraw: This has been unprecedented. Three ACLs in six months. It's been really difficult to get past it, especially the last one. You just feel like there's something out there that doesn't want us to be successful. So to overcome the hurdles that we've had to, the mental toughness we've needed to handle this adversity. But it hasn't changed our focus, it hasn't changed our goals. We are still competing for a National Championship, that's what we want, that's our goal. Every single year, the people that we have are given a little more. We have less people. We have two walk-ons who have really been doing great things for us. It's been hard, but I think it teaches you so many valuable lessons about life. I mean, things aren't always going to go your way. You have to be able to handle the bumps in the road.
Allison: You've been so personable with fans as well. How important do you think that is? You've reached out, they're invited to special parties, you're going door to door at times.
Coach McGraw: It's fun for me, too. I've enjoyed meeting them, I love being out shopping and people will talk about the team, 'what a great game last night, can't wait for the next one.' I feel like we all want the same things, we all love the community and we want to support each other.