Former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps updates "Tales" book


Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

A plethora of athletic events around the University of Notre Dame campus this weekend also includes a bit of men’s basketball news.

Fans in town to watch men’s lacrosse or baseball or softball or are one of the lucky few to receive an invite-only to the annual Blue-Gold spring football game Saturday at the LaBar Practice Complex can swing by the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore for a re-released/retitled version of former Irish hoops coach Digger Phelps’ latest book.

“Tales for the Notre Dame Hardwood” has been updated with four chapters, and was released Thursday under the new title of “Tales for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Locker Room.”

The book's additions include Phelps’ thoughts on entering the school’s Ring of Honor in January 2014, his battles in becoming a two-time cancer survivor, spending 20 years as a commentator at ESPN (he announced his departure from the network prior to the 2014 NCAA national championship game) and recollections on some of the highlight “flashback” moments of his coaching career in South Bend.

Phelps, who spent 20 seasons at Notre Dame and remains the all-time winningest coach in school history (393 victories), co-wrote the book with Notre Dame graduate Tim Bouret, who has worked in the sports information department at Clemson since 1978.

Phelps closes by unveiling his five five-man all-Notre Dame teams.

Not found in the book – yet – are Phelps’ top 10 moments in coaching. Where does the historic upset of UCLA in 1974 rank? Here is his list:

10. The Notre Dame Student Body

•Highlighted by a 2:30 a.m. pep rally with 2,000 students at the main circle on campus after Notre Dame returned from a victory at UCLA in December 1976. An Irish victory snapped the Bruins’ 156-game non-conference win streak.

9. Seven wins over No. 1 teams.

• The streak started with the win over UCLA in 1974 and ended with the 1987 victory over North Carolina.

8. Notre Dame’s four-straight victories over UCLA between 1976 and 1980.

• The Irish became the first team to win four-straight games at Pauley Pavilion while former standouts Rick Branning and Bill Hanzlik became the first players to ever win four-straight games at UCLA.

7. Notre Dame’s win at UCLA in December 1976.

• It marked the first time the Bruins lost a home game since November 1965.

6. The 1972-73 season.

• A year that saw Notre Dame go 18-12 was highlighted by Dwight Clay’s buzzer-beater for a 71-69 victory at Marquette, which had its 81-game home win streak at the MECCA snapped.

5. Two wins away from home over top-ranked teams in the same season (1980-81).

• Notre Dame beat Kentucky (67-61) at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., in December, 1980 and then beat Virginia (57-56) in Rosemont, Ill., in February, 1981.

4. NCAA tournaments

• Phelps guided Notre Dame to its lone Final Four appearance in 1978 in St. Louis, played in two Elite Eight games (1978, 1979) and advanced to six-straight Sweet 16s between 1974 and 1979.

3.Notre Dame 71, UCLA 70 (Jan. 19, 1974)

• Clay’s corner jumper capped a 12-0 Irish run as the Bruins’ 88-game win streak came to an end at the Athletic and Convocation Center. The Irish were ranked No. 1 afterward.

2. Perfection graduation rate at Notre Dame

• All 56 student-athletes who played for Phelps received their degrees.

1. Coaching Fordham in 1970-71

• After the Rams staggered to a 10-15 record the previous year, Phelps arrived and led them to a 26-3 mark, which included a victory over Austin Carr and Notre Dame in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. Phelps guided Fordham to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 and a No. 9 national ranking.

By the following season, Phelps was the coach at Notre Dame.