Muffet McGraw, former Hawk, ready for Hall of Fame moment

Hall of Fame Basketball
2017 class of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame Tracy McGrady, left, and Muffet McGraw, smile as they sit together during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Sept. 7, 2017, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw, who grew up in West Chester and starred at St. Joseph's in the mid-1970s, will be part of a Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class with a strong Philly accent Friday night at induction ceremonies at Symphony Hall.

Former 76ers star George McGinnis and the late Zack Clayton, a Gratz High grad who played during the Black Fives era in the late 1930s and early 1940s for such teams as the Philadelphia Panthers and Harlem Globetrotters, are the other two in the 11-member class with local ties.

From the world of women's hoops, McGraw is being joined by another with marquee status in the sport in Rebecca Lobo, the former University of Connecticut great who has earned entry as a contributor.

Now an analyst for ESPN's college and WNBA telecasts, Lobo grew up in Southwick, Mass., only minutes away from here.

McGraw, 61, admitted Thursday during a media availability at the Hall of Fame that her acceptance speech was quite a challenge.

"You're covering 40 years of coaching in five minutes," she said. "And trust me, it will be five minutes."

McGraw, who has led Notre Dame into national prominence with numerous coaching honors, an NCAA title in 2001 and seven trips to the Women's Final Four, has often been caught in moments trying to control her emotions after tough losses and uplifting victories.

Her overall record is 853-268, which includes a five-year stint at Lehigh after two dominant seasons coaching Archbishop Carroll, a job she took after graduating in 1977.

"Knowing I loved the game and was a sociology major, a job opened at Archbishop Carroll and I thought what a great way to see if I liked it or not," McGraw recalled.

At Friday's ceremony, McGraw will be escorted by Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale, who starred at UCLA and is the widow of Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale.

Lobo will be escorted by her college coach, Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma, who preceded McGraw on Hawk Hill at her alma mater as an assistant to Jim Foster, who now coaches the Tennessee-Chattanooga women.

"It's ironic that Jim's first two early assistants would be us for what we became in our careers," McGraw said.

Foster said earlier this week of McGraw's success, "She learned how to grow with the game and was always looking at: What else do we do? Who else can I be?"

At St. Joseph's where she played as Ann O'Brien, she met her future husband, Matt, in her senior season. McGraw, a Big Five Hall of Famer who played for Ellen Ryan, Theresa Grentz, and Rene Portland with the Hawks, confirms her nickname is drawn from the children's poem, but she has refused to state the circumstances.

Nor has she ever spoken publicly or privately about a fateful decision with an assistant to change flights for convenience on a recruiting trip that kept her off one of the planes out of Boston used in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2011.

McGraw, who will bring the Irish back to the Palestra to play Penn on Dec. 9, has developed future WNBA stars and several former assistants and players into successful head coaches, including Penn State's Coquese Washington.

Her former Hawks teammates are coming, as is St. Joe's coach Cindy Griffin and athletic director Don DiJulia.

Washington recalled being recruited by McGraw.

"The first conversation Muffet and I ever had, she called me on the phone and we were talking. She said, 'I'm Muffet McGraw and I'm a young kid,' and I go 'Muffet! What kind of name is Muffet.' And she goes, 'What kind of name is Coquese?' And we laughed and have been together ever since."

The other inductees are Nick Gallis (international), winningest boys' high school coach Robert Hughes, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, Kansas men's coach Bill Self, and contributors Mannie Jackson, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, and the late Jerry Krause former Chicago Bulls general manager.