Niele Ivey is coming home.
Ivey was introduced as the new coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team Thursday, succeeding her mentor, Muffet McGraw, who retired a day earlier.
“Those are big heels to fill,” Ivey said during an online news conference. “When you follow a legend, it’s not easy. But I want to be myself. Always be true to myself, try to stay as authentic as I can.”
Ivey, 42, who got emotional at times during the news conference while sitting with her son, Jaden, helped lead the Fighting Irish to the national championship as a point guard in 2001 as a fifth-year senior and was an assistant coach on the Notre Dame team that won the title in 2018. She joined the staff of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies last year after working with McGraw since 2007.
“I am thrilled Niele will be the next leader of the Notre Dame basketball program,” said McGraw, who spent 33 years as coach of the Irish before retiring Wednesday at 64. “She’s one of the best young coaches in the game today, and her success with the Grizzlies has helped make her even more prepared for her new role."
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the succession plan was first discussed about two years ago and no one else was considered for the job.
Ivey was one of the most sought-after assistant coaches in women’s basketball, but she never took any of the jobs she was offered, saying she didn’t want to uproot her son while he was in high school. He’s headed to college in the fall.
When the Grizzlies offered her an assistant coaching position last year, McGraw told her she couldn’t turn it down. Ivey left a big mark on the NBA team in her one season.
“She’s about to go crazy at Notre Dame," Memphis guard Jaren Jackson Jr. said. "I can tell this is something that really is a good fit for her. ... Everything she’s done this season to prep us for a game, help us on our game, she’s unreal, and I’m just really happy for her.”
Ivey said she has learned a lot from McGraw and the biggest difference between the two is that the new coach is more “warm and fuzzy”.
“I’m used to being in that role,” Ivey said. “I just show my emotions a little more than (McGraw) does. That would be the difference. Philosophy, I had so much knowledge being under coach McGraw, you’ll see a lot of the same style of play as coach McGraw’s system.”
Ivey, the fourth coach in school history, inherits a team that was 13-18 last season, only the second losing season under McGraw.