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Home College Q&A with first-year Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey

Q&A with first-year Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey

Niele Ivey conducts a practice session. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics.
Niele Ivey conducts a practice session. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics.

Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey, who took the helm of the program last spring after longtime coach Muffet McGraw’s retirement, answered questions from media earlier this week on preseason practices, and more.

On team identity:

The identity of this team I’m creating the culture, and I think that was the number one thing coming in I wanted to, I wanted this team to learn how to compete. you know, coming off of last year we have a young team. And that was the first thing that that was a main thing I was, you know, trying to build coming back is great habits and culture, and I feel like the identity that identity of this team is that they work really hard.

They are very coachable. They come in every day with a hunger, you know they want to get better. And that’s exactly the, the culture that I wanted to bring coming back. And so that’s what I would say my the identity of my team is that they compete and they work hard, and that’s something that I’m, you know I’m very intense. I was, I was always passionate assistant coach, but definitely feel the same way as being a head coach. You know I bring my passion and energy every day.

I’m a very – I read energy that’s something that’s very important to me so I’ve always make sure that they come in, ready in with a good, good attitude good energy, ready to work, and so I would say that that would be our identity.

On consulting with McGraw:

Coach McGraw, I actually tried to meet with her once every week if I could you know, during, over quarantine. We met outside, social distanced. I was, you know, I’m always a person that wants to learn and be a sponge, especially with coach McGraw. So this past in-quarantine you know I met with her multiple times. And then since practice, you know, I went through the whole practice for a week and then we met up a couple days ago and she was so excited.

She is, she loves to practice, first of all, so she was so excited to hear how practice was going. And so that was really awesome just to get her advice. I got her advice over, you know, certain things that I’m trying to implement some things just culture-wise, leadership-wise So, picked her brain about some things. And for me it’s amazing to be able to have a Hall of Fame coach that I can go to 15 minutes away from campus and just vent to if I have to, or just to lean on.

You know I think that that’s why I’ve been successful is that I’ve surrounded myself with great mentors and just great people, and so I’m very fortunate to have to have her as my mentor still, and have that relationship with her. So she gave me some really great advice on some things and just preparing for going into week three of practice, so very fortunate for that, for her, and definitely leaning on her.

On adding transfer Dara Mabrey:

As far as Dara Mabrey, she brings so much leadership, just initially when she came on, you know, join the team I had I just had her join our Zoom calls so she can meet the entire, the entire team. And just her leadership by being on the zoom call just brought another dimension to the team. And so I think her experience being in the ACC her being a junior playing in ACC for two years, with a really great program with Virginia Tech, she’s going to bring so much experience and leadership.

And I also think that she’s you know, one of the best three-point shooters in the country, so she’s going to bring great three-point percentage to our team, so I’m very excited about that. I want to play very fast and want to shoot a lot of threes, so she’s definitely going to fulfill that role for me.

But yeah, like I said, like she brings the intangibles she’s tough. She brings a swag, you know the entire Mabrey team, Mabrey family as you know Marina, Mikayla. She definitely brings that energy and confidence and I think that’s something that is going to be very beneficial for our team.

Irish players scrimmaged last week. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics.
Irish players scrimmaged last week. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics.

On which returners have improved, and which freshmen are standing out so far:

Right off the bat I would say Anaya Peoples. I recruited her since she was in sixth grade, seventh grade. And this year, having her come back from her shoulder injury and just seeing her development and her growth is incredible. She is playing at a very high level. She has, you know, she’s in better shape. She’s worked on her game. And I think, always, especially being, you know, coming back from so many injuries here at Notre Dame I know the feeling of coming back from an injury, how much you grow from sitting out and watching and I could tell that right away the first workout. So she has been a extremely bright spot for me I’m super excited for her. In what she’s going to bring I think she has an incredible potential, and you know very excited for her to be to play this year.

And then as far as our freshmen, I think Maddie Westbeld has surprised me the most. I knew her talent – she’s very different from her sister. She’s very versatile. But she came in with a college body, and so I feel like she’s had the easiest transition, coming from high school, and she’s definitely be somebody that you guys will be talking about later but she’s has an incredible work ethic and again like I said she’s very versatile she can play the one through five position, and it’s something that I need right now especially with recovering from a couple of injuries with my bigs, our posts.

On Kara Lawson, and two young Black female coaches in the ACC:

I had, you know, great conversations with Kara, when we played them in Boston this year. And as in every female assistant coach in the NBA, it felt like that was really important to, to have that sisterhood. And then when she was when she was hired at Duke, I reached out right away. I texted her and then we actually talked on the phone, you know, just to let her know like if she needed anything.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to say I was an assistant coach for 12 years, and her being, you know, first time collegiate coach I know that’s going to, that’s a different set of challenges with recruiting and everything that that entails being in college. And so I just wanted to read I reached out to her just to make sure she knew I was there as a source of resource, a resource for her. If she needed any assistance any help.

And so that was really important and you know we have a great, you know, good, really good relationship and I think that yeah it’s going to be, it’s definitely a new era of of women’s basketball. You know we always talk about the new era here at Notre Dame, but I think just new energy, young coaches, you know, and fortunately, you know there’s more African-American head coaches, and I think that’s that’s incredible. So, very happy about that.

On identifying the team leaders:

I would say Dara Mabrey on the court. She has been, like I said, she’s a great leader. She’s very vocal and she understands and knows the value of her voice, and she does a really good job of bringing the team together. You know when they’re struggling in practice, she’s the first one that grabbed to bring the group together to get them focused, and she’s always been vocal, she’s always the one leading in our text threads just make sure everyone is where they need to be in whatever situation we have off the court so she’s the one that is my vocal leader.

And I also would say Michaela Vaughn, even from the sideline. She brings a different type of energy. She is very loud. And even with her not being on the court she’s the main one on the sidelines that is really sharing her voice, being super supportive, and that means a lot – especially for somebody that’s not physically able to do five-on-five with the team yet. So I really appreciate it. Mick and Dara, you know, taking that leadership role and owning it every day very consistently, so I know those two voices are are always there every day.

Jim Clark anchored this report