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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

A winning mentality

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St. Joe’s women’s basketball head coach Cindy Griffin (left) next to Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw when the Hawks hosted the Irish in 2015 (Photo by Sideline Photos LLC).

St. Joe’s alumna Muffet McGraw earns NCAA Championship

On Easter Sunday, the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team took the court against Mississippi State University in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Though it took place over 400 miles west of St. Joe’s campus, the university had a vested interest in the game. 

On the sideline stood head coach Muffet McGraw ’77, a graduate of St. Joe’s and once a star player on the Hawks’ women’s basketball team.

For McGraw, winning another national championship was special. After the championship, her phone filled with messages including many from the St. Joe’s community. Her memories from St. Joe’s are still some of her fondest, she said.

Muffet McGraw, head coach of Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team, cuts down the net after winning the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship (Photo by Zach Yim/The Observer).

During the 1976-77 season, McGraw helped lead the Hawks to the highest national ranking in St. Joe’s women’s basketball history, placing third in the final Associated Press poll. 

McGraw has led the Irish to 800 wins and 24 national tournament appearances in her time at Notre Dame. She was named AP College Basketball Coach of the Year for the fourth time of her career this season.

McGraw said she credits her players for their resilience and ability to fight back from adversity. 

“I think there are a lot of life lessons this team learned throughout the year, so I couldn’t be prouder of a group than I am of them,” McGraw said.

As Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale put up the championship winning buzzer beater 3-point shot, fans that filled the arena held their breath. Among them, St. Joe’s senior basketball player Avery Marz sat behind the Notre Dame bench. 

“In that moment there was almost a pause in the crowd,” Marz said. “When the shot went up you’re looking, your heads raising, you’re waiting and when it finally dropped and knowing it was Arike again, it was this feeling of euphoria.”

Marz said the win was significant for St. Joe’s because of McGraw’s connections to both programs.

“Muffet playing here and being a big part of our program, being part of Philadelphia we definitely were rooting for Notre Dame,” Marz said. “Everyone wanted to see a great game, but when Notre Dame won, I think it touched close to our hearts.”

McGraw’s office at Notre Dame sits one door away from St. Joe’s incoming athletic director, Jill Bodensteiner, who currently serves as a sports administrator within the women’s basketball team at Notre Dame. McGraw was one of the first to know that Bodensteiner was looking into the position at St. Joe’s, and she thought it would be a great fit for her colleague.

Something that drew Bodensteiner to Hawk Hill was the Catholic identity present in the community, and it is one that is similar to the atmosphere at Notre Dame, according to McGraw.

Bodensteiner said she wants to continue to keep high standards at St. Joe’s and grow upon the culture that is already established.

“I’m a really competitive person and I think part of making a good experience is the opportunity to win,” Bodensteiner said. “I value success in all forms whether on the court, in the community, in the classroom or otherwise.”

Bodensteiner’s colleague McGraw shares a similar view, and says her time at St. Joe’s is the reason she made it so far.

“Playing [at St. Joe’s] is really why I’m here,” McGraw said. “It was a great experience, I played for great coaches, I learned a lot and that’s what started me on my coaching career.”

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