A day after three of her players earned all-conference honors, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw received her own award from the Atlantic Coast Conference when she was selected as the 2014 ACC Coach of the Year, the league office announced Wednesday.
This marks the second consecutive season, and the sixth time in McGraw’s career that she has been named a conference coach of the year, covering five different leagues. She previously was honored in 1983 (East Coast Conference, while coaching at Lehigh University), as well as five times during her 27-year career at Notre Dame — 1988 (North Star Conference), 1991 (Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League), 2001 and 2013 (BIG EAST), and 2014 (ACC).
McGraw becomes the second coach in program history to earn conference coach of the year honors in consecutive seasons. Mary DiStanislao pulled off that feat in 1985 and 1986 when the Fighting Irish were members of the North Star Conference.
“This is entirely a team award,” McGraw said. “It’s a credit to our players and amazing coaching staff — (associate head coach) Carol Owens, (associate coach) Beth Cunningham and (assistant coach/recruiting coordinator) Niele Ivey — for all the hard work they have put in so far this season. We do this together as a team and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved together to this point.”
Of course, McGraw would likely trade in the award in exchange for her star player Kayla McBride winning ACC Player of the Year Honors. Instead it was Maryland's Alyssa Thomas taking home the ACC Player of the Year award for a 3rd time.
Wednesday’s awards were selected through a vote of the ACC’s Blue Ribbon Panel, which consists of designated media members who cover the conference’s 15 institutions, the conference’s 15 head coaches and media relations directors, and other selected national and regional women’s basketball experts.
A second set of all-conference honors, as voted on by the ACC head coaches at the end of the regular season, will be released next week.
McGraw has led Notre Dame to new heights this season, despite the loss of (at the time) the most successful senior class in school history that included four-time All-America point guard Skylar Diggins. The Fighting Irish not only went undefeated in the regular season for the first time in the program’s 37-year history, but along the way, they toppled nine ranked opponents (eight by double digits), including five top-10 foes (four on the road).
In addition, Notre Dame currently ranks in the top 10 in seven NCAA statistical categories, including field goal percentage (1st - .514), scoring offense (2nd – 87.5 ppg.), scoring margin (2nd - +25.6 ppg.), three-point field goal percentage (2nd - .405) and assists (2nd – 21.1 apg.). In each case, those figures either exceed or are within striking distance of the school records in their respective categories, including scoring offense, where the Fighting Irish are averaging a full six points more per game than last year’s school record of 81.2 points per game.
McGraw also skillfully guided Notre Dame to a perfect 16-0 record in its inaugural season in the ACC (the ninth in conference history and first 16-0 mark since Duke in 2002-03), earning the program’s third consecutive outright regular season conference title (a first in school history). In fact, the Fighting Irish not only won the ACC crown, but did so by four games, just the fourth time in conference history that a team has won the regular season championship by such a wide margin (and the first since Duke in 2001-02). What’s more, Notre Dame averaged 86.5 points per game in ACC play, the highest offensive production by a conference school in regular season action since 1990-91, when both Virginia (94.5 ppg.) and North Carolina State (89.1) exceeded that mark.
Following the first undefeated regular season in program history, second-ranked Notre Dame (29-0, 16-0 ACC) is the top seed for the 2014 ACC Championship and has earned a double-bye into the quarterfinal round, where it will play its inaugural ACC postseason game at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., against the winner of the second-round game between eighth-seeded Miami and No. 9 seed Florida State.