Success Measured in Impact: Muffet Mcgraw’s Legacy

The legendary basketball coach and Hawk alum has made an indelible mark on her sport, and inspired women from all walks of life.

Jack Jumper ’09

Saint Joseph's University Muffet McGraw ’77

Spanning more than five decades after arriving as a freshman at Saint Joseph’s in 1973 as part of one of the first classes of female day students, Muffet (O’Brien) McGraw’s ’77 name has become synonymous with championship-level women’s college basketball. A member of Saint Joseph’s first Division I women’s basketball team, she left indelible impressions on Hawk Hill, Lehigh and most notably at Notre Dame, before retiring as head coach of the Fighting Irish this past April after 33 years.

“Muffet was a leader from day one on Hawk Hill — independent, strong-willed and driven in all that she did — and others followed. There was no doubt that she’d be a success in coaching when she chose that path,” says former Saint Joseph’s Athletics Director Don DiJulia ’67, now special assistant to University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D.

A champion on the court, McGraw led Notre Dame to two NCAA championships (2001, 2018) and nine Final Fours, was named Associated Press National Coach of the Year four times (2001, 2013, 2014, 2018), was enshrined in both the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (2017) and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2011), and currently stands seventh all-time in NCAA women’s basketball history for career victories with 936, just ahead of Jim Foster (903), who hired McGraw as an assistant coach at Saint Joseph’s in 1980.

“From her days on Hawk Hill to winning championships at Notre Dame, Muffet has been an inspiration to players, coaches and fans alike,” says Saint Joseph’s President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. “She has left an indelible mark on her sport and I wish her the best of luck as she ventures into her next chapter.”

While proving to be one of the best coaches to ever pace the sidelines, McGraw’s biggest impact may be her role in leading the charge for equality. “We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power,” she stated during an impassioned answer at a press conference during the 2019 NCAA Final Four.

“Muffet was one of the early female coaching role models that helped move the women’s game to where it is today. She truly inspired all her student-athletes and staff that she worked with to aspire for greatness,” says DiJulia. “Muffet has been an advocate for women’s leadership roles into the future and we are proud of her being one of the best Hawk graduates of all time at any level.”


Muffet was a leader from day one on Hawk Hill — independent, strong-willed and driven in all that she did — and others followed. There was no doubt that she’d be a success in coaching when she chose that path.”

Don DiJulia ’67,

Special Assistant to President and Former Saint Joseph’s Athletics Director

“Muffet’s hall of fame career as a women’s basketball coach was both historical and impactful,” says Saint Joseph’s women’s basketball head coach Cindy Griffin. “How and where she started, and how and where she finished tells a story of passion, hard work, persistence, and competitiveness resulting in success. Success measured in wins, yes, but how about all those young women she impacted on a daily basis? I look forward to seeing Muffet carry these winning characteristics into the next phase of her life, as she continues to impact women everywhere.”

Saint Joseph’s Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner, both a friend and former colleague at Notre Dame, has been motivated by McGraw and is hopeful to have the Big 5 Hall of Famer back to campus in the near future.

“I learned so much [from McGraw] about excellence, hard work, the importance of attention to detail, creating confidence, motivating others, and building a culture — among many other things,” says Bodensteiner. “Personally, she both inspired me and pushed me to try and become an athletic director, in large part because she thought that I could serve as a mentor to other women who might share that aspiration.”

Above all, Bodensteiner says she is lucky to consider McGraw a friend.

“Despite the intensity of the journey, we shared so many laughs and great times together. Muffet is very proud to be a Saint Joseph’s grad, and I look forward to seeing her back on Hawk Hill now that she will have a little more time on her hands.”

Jack Jumper is director of athletics communications.



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