Ivey maintains close connection with McGraw

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Niele Ivey declared in September that she was looking to “implement my stamp on the program.”

Then this week, she talked about wanting her first Notre Dame women’s basketball team “to learn how to compete,” given the struggles of last year’s club.

If you think eager pronouncements like those, however, have anything to do with Ivey distancing herself from the long shadow of her Hall of Fame predecessor, forget about it.

Muffet McGraw, at Ivey’s behest, is still a heartbeat away from the program, even if she’s moved on to classroom teaching at Notre Dame and immersed herself in charitable efforts.

“I try to meet with her every week,” Ivey said Monday afternoon of McGraw. “Over quarantine, we met outside, social distance. I’m always a person that wants to learn, be a sponge, especially with Coach McGraw.”

When Ivey, McGraw’s former star point guard and 12-year assistant, was named head coach in April, the praise that each woman directed toward the other flowed like a rack of spilled basketballs.

No surprise there given the history, but would it remain that way going forward, in light of Ivey’s new title and power, in light of McGraw’s achievements that can intimidate any head coach sensitive to them?

Altered circumstances have altered relationships at other places, but not here, not now.

“I’m picking her brain about some things,” Ivey said, “and for me, it’s amazing to be able to have a Hall of Fame coach that I can go 15 minutes away from campus and just vent to if I have to, or lean on. ... I’m very fortunate to have her as my mentor and have that relationship.”

Per Ivey, McGraw was “excited to hear how practice is going” when the two met last week, and McGraw gave Ivey advice specific to week three of workouts.

Even when McGraw’s not around, thoughts of her are.

“This past weekend, my staff said ‘You even stand like Coach McGraw,’” Ivey shared. “It was just really funny that they mentioned that.”

Concern for Cosgrove

When junior forward Danielle Cosgrove announced on Twitter two weeks ago that she’s taking a leave of absence from Notre Dame to work on her mental health, she said she intended to return for the second semester and that she remained “committed to my teammates.”

Ivey spelled out Monday that Cosgrove is definitely still a member of the program.

“She was back in town this weekend and came to practices,” Ivey said of Cosgrove, who hails from Holbrook, N.Y. “I wanted to make sure she’s staying engaged with this team, and for her to understand that she’s still part of our team.”

“There is nothing more important than mental health, and I’ve been struggling with mine for quite some time,” Cosgrove shared in her tweet.

Cosgrove said she consulted with the Irish coaching staff, teammates and family in arriving at her decision to head home.

Ivey said she supports Cosgrove’s decision.

“Mental health is one of the No. 1 problems with college student-athletes, so my full focus was to make sure she was getting the help she needed,” Ivey said. “We just all came together — Danielle, her parents and myself — just to make sure what was the best situation for her, and for her it was going home to get help.”

“To my Notre Dame family, I am forever grateful for your endless support on this journey,” Cosgrove wrote, “and I love you all so much!”

Cosgrove averaged 2.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 13.0 minutes while appearing in all 31 Irish games last season with four starts.

Schedule anticipation

When Ivey shared as much as she did about Notre Dame’s not-yet-announced schedule for this coming season — she said there will be 20 Atlantic Coast Conference games, four or five non-league games and a late-November start — those nuggets were coming from someone who can relate to schedule anticipation.

After all, she’s anxious for the Purdue men’s schedule to be unveiled given her son Jaden’s presence on the Boilermakers.

“I’m very excited to see who he’s going to play, his schedule, and I hope it aligns where I can get a chance to see him if we do have fans (allowed at games),” Ivey said. “If not, I will definitely be locked in (by television).”

Jaden Ivey, a former Marian and La Lumiere standout, is a freshman guard at Purdue.

“He has really adapted well,” Niele Ivey said of her son’s adjustment to college. “He’s really happy and he’s ready.”

Then Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey, left, and head coach Muffet McGraw are shown at the Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, April 2, 2011. Ivey, now ND’s head coach, said she still tries to meet with McGraw each week.
Junior forward Danielle Cosgrove is taking a leave of absence from Notre Dame to work on her mental health, but head coach Niele Ivey spelled out Monday that Cosgrove is definitely still a member of the program.