OVERVIEW: Niele Ivey has walked in the shoes of the players she now coaches at Notre Dame, having been a highly-successful student-athlete for the Fighting Irish from 1996-2001. She's also been where all young players want to go – winning a national championship, earning a degree from the nation's top university, and going on to play in the WNBA. Without question, Ivey knows what it takes to "play like a champion" at Notre Dame, and she understands how to pass that knowledge on to the next generation of Fighting Irish basketball greats.
As one of the common threads through all three of Notre Dame's NCAA Final Four appearances (1997 and 2001 as a player; 2011 as a coach), Ivey has a thorough grasp of head coach Muffet McGraw's system and the demands (both academic and athletic) that are placed on each and every student-athlete who attends an elite school such as Notre Dame. These challenges aren't for everyone, but for those who want to push themselves to the highest level and settle for nothing less than greatness and the absolute best, Niele Ivey has been there and she knows how to get back there again.
FULL BIO: One of the finest point guards ever to wear the Notre Dame uniform, Niele Ivey (first name pronounced knee-L) has returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach, rejoining the Fighting Irish women's basketball program as a member of head coach Muffet McGraw's staff in May 2007. Now in her fifth season, Ivey works closely with the development of the Notre Dame point guards, while serving as the program's assistant recruiting coordinator, and she also has made major contributions to game scouting, practice planning and summer camp coordination.
A former All-America point guard at Notre Dame and a five-year WNBA veteran, Ivey has brought her considerable experience to bear on the Fighting Irish floor generals, most recently supervising the growth of Notre Dame's two-time All-America point guard Skylar Diggins. The South Bend native has transitioned well between the point and shooting guard roles during her career, earning honorable mention All-America status as a freshman in 2009-10 when she became the first rookie in 17 seasons to lead the Fighting Irish in scoring and the first in 16 years to lead the team in assists. She also was a second-team all-BIG EAST Conference pick after becoming the third player (and first freshman) in school history to amass 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season.
That all set the stage for Diggins' sophomore campaign in 2010-11, one of the finest by a second-year player in school history. She was a State Farm Coaches' All-America and third-team Associated Press All-America selection, as well as a finalist for all major national player-of-the-year awards, and a unanimous first-team all-conference choice after ranking among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (15.0 ppg.), assists (team-high 4.8 apg.) and steals (1.9 spg.), posting career highs in all three areas. She also scored in double digits 32 times and rolled up 10 20-point outings, including her last three NCAA tournament games against Tennessee (24), Connecticut (28) and Texas A&M (23), earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the NCAA Dayton Regional and a place on the NCAA Women's Final Four All-Tournament Team. What's more, Diggins (a three-time USA Basketball gold medalist) became just the second player in school history to score at least 1,000 points in her first two seasons under the Golden Dome.
Ivey's success with Diggins comes on the heels of her work with two other standout Notre Dame point guards – Tulyah Gaines (2007-08) and Melissa Lechlitner (2008-10) – who enjoyed the best seasons of their careers under Ivey's experienced eye. Lechlitner also was at the helm for two of the most prolific offensive seasons in Fighting Irish history, including the 2009-10 campaign when Notre Dame averaged 77.2 points per game and posted a 1.11 assist/turnover ratio, the second time in Ivey's four seasons that the Fighting Irish have had a positive A/TO ratio (after having achieved that once in the program's first three decades – Ivey's final season in 2000-01).
In addition to her achievements in player development, Ivey also has emerged as a rising star on the recruiting trail, with a sharp eye for young up-and-coming talent. In fact, she has helped Notre Dame attract top-10 incoming classes each of the past two years (since she took over as assistant recruiting coordinator).
Ivey also has shown the ability to quickly flourish when it comes to scouting and in-game strategy. Last season, she was directly responsible for creating the game plans that led to victories over nationally-ranked Georgetown, Syracuse, Marquette and Tennessee, the last of those coming in the NCAA Elite Eight (Dayton Regional final) to help the Fighting Irish advance to the Final Four for the third time.
Ivey came back to Notre Dame following two seasons (2005-07) as an administrative assistant on the women's basketball staff at Xavier University, where she served under former Notre Dame assistant coach Kevin McGuff (now the head coach at the University of Washington). During Ivey's two seasons at Xavier, she coordinated film exchange and assisted in many of the daily operations of the Musketeers' program, including travel, academics and community outreach. Following her arrival on the XU campus in 2005-06, the Musketeers posted a 47-17 record, winning the 2007 Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2003.
"It's been amazing to watch Niele grow as a coach," McGraw said. "Her experience in the WNBA has really helped her become a great coach. She's been a student of the game for so long and now she has the opportunity to teach it. She does a great job of teaching the game, has great passion for the game, and is someone that we all truly enjoy being around. She also the added benefit of having already walked in the shoes of our current players and knowing what it takes to succeed at the highest level here at Notre Dame. The sky's really the limit for what she can accomplish in the coaching profession."
Ivey holds the unique distinction of being the only player on the roster for two of Notre Dame's NCAA Final Four appearances (1997, 2001), but she sat out most of the '96-97 campaign after suffering a season-ending knee injury five games into her freshman year. However, she was awarded a fifth year of eligibility in 2000-01 and made the most of it, earning third-team Associated Press All-America honors, the first Fighting Irish point guard to be so recognized. She also was the recipient of the 2001 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented annually to the nation's top senior player standing 5-foot-8 or under, and she was one of three finalists for the '01 Nancy Lieberman Award, which goes to the country's top point guard. In addition, Ivey was a member of the 2001 Final Four All-Tournament Team after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 steals per game as the Fighting Irish defeated Connecticut and Purdue to win their first national title.
All told, Notre Dame went 109-22 (.832) during Ivey's last four seasons, reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 on three occasions (1998, 2000, 2001) and rolling up a school-record 34 wins in 2000-01. The Fighting Irish also won a share of their first BIG EAST regular-season championship in 2000-01 and were ranked in the top 10 of either or both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls for all but two weeks during her final three campaigns. While at Notre Dame, Ivey was a three-time all-BIG EAST selection (1999-2001), collecting first-team honors in 2001, and was tapped as the BIG EAST Player of the Week five times (tying for the second-most in school history). She also led the Fighting Irish in steals in each of her final four seasons (1997-98 to 2000-01) and was the team's assist leader in her last three years, setting school records with 95 steals in 1999-2000 and 247 assists in 2000-01, along with a school-standard 2.67 assist-to-turnover ratio the latter season.
For her career, Ivey has a place on 16 of Notre Dame's all-time top 10 lists, including the Fighting Irish records for steals (348) and games played (132). She also is second in school history with 727 assists and a 5.5 assist-per-game average, as well as a 2.6 steals-per-game mark. A potent scorer, Ivey ranks 12th in the Notre Dame record books with 1,430 career points, while her .405 three-point percentage is third-best in school annals and her 190 three-point field goals stand fourth in Fighting Irish lore. In addition, she remains on the BIG EAST top 10 lists for career assists (fifth/394) and steals (ninth/167), and she took home the BIG EAST assist title in 1999-2000 by averaging 6.6 apg. (all conference records being limited to BIG EAST regular-season games).
Ivey went on to play five seasons in the WNBA, beginning with her selection by the Indiana Fever in the second round (17th overall pick) of the 2001 WNBA Draft. She spent four seasons with the Fever, helping them to the first playoff berth in franchise history in 2002. Ivey signed with the Detroit Shock as a restricted free agent in 2005, and subsequently was acquired by the Phoenix Mercury later that season.
Born Sept. 24, 1977, in St. Louis, Mo., Ivey graduated from Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in history. She and her son, Jaden (9), make their home in South Bend.