When the Ohio State women’s basketball team takes on No. 1 seed Notre Dame this Friday, Buckeye coach Kevin McGuff will see a familiar face across the court.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw served as a mentor to McGuff, who was an assistant under the Fighting Irish coach for six years.
“I couldn’t say enough positive things about what that was like when I had a chance to work with her,” McGuff said. “Fantastic person, great coach, been a great friend of our family for a long time. Tough to go against people you care about but it’ll be an exciting game and a great opportunity for us.”
McGraw has been the head coach of the Irish for 30 years. She is a seasoned veteran of tournament play, with seven trips to the Sweet 16 and two to the Final Four under her belt. McGraw has led her program to four runner-up seasons and one national championship.
McGuff first met McGraw when he interviewed at Notre Dame after one season of assistant coaching at Miami of Ohio.
“I was fortunate enough to get the job,” McGuff said. “That was really a life-changing event for me.”
In their time coaching together, the pair took their team to an NCAA tournament appearance every year and a national championship in 2001. To this day, it is the only national championship either coach has won.
McGuff stayed with the Irish until he accepted a head coaching position at Xavier in 2002. McGuff said that McGraw prepared him for the next level and taught him how to run a winning program.
“She (runs a program) as well as anybody in the country,” McGuff said. “Just the organization, the structure of how things work. How to treat people well and what you get in return. She was great to work for. Had high expectations, which is an environment that I wanted to work in, but also will allow her assistants to do their jobs and really impact the program.”
In addition to this, McGuff met his wife while they were both on the coaching staff at Notre Dame.
“She’ll be pulling for us,” McGuff said. “Obviously that program means a lot to her as well, but she’ll certainly be pulling for us.”
This season, Notre Dame and OSU are each playing their best basketball at the right time. No. 5 OSU advanced to the Sweet 16 after topping No. 4 seed Kentucky, while the No. 1 Irish defeated No. 9 Purdue, 88-82 in overtime.
“They’re a great team,” said redshirt junior Linnae Harper. “Been great for years, have a great program, a great coach. Now it’s just about us focusing on ourselves. Preparation for that game, attention to detail, just doing the little things.”
Last season, the Buckeyes made it to the Sweet 16, where they fell short against Tennessee, 78-62. But this year, the team is more experienced and eager to advance.
“We’re deeper, we’re more experienced, we’re just better,” McGuff said. “Last year, I thought the kids did a great job … we found a way to end on a pretty high note. We didn’t play well in the Sweet 16, but we ran into a really good Tennessee team. But I think we’re in a much different place this year. I like where we are and I like the opportunity that’s in front of us.”