The Memphis Grizzlies continue to trend in the right direction in the midst of a rebuilding phase and on Monday afternoon, they added another promising piece to the organization.
After 12 seasons as an associate head coach to Muffet McGraw and five more as a player from 1996-2001, Niele Ivey is set to become the ninth active female coach in the National Basketball Association, joining the likes of WNBA legend Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs), and college superstars Kara Lawson (Boston Celtics) and former Connecticut great Swin Cash (New Orleans Pelicans).
The Grizzlies followed up their eventful summer with adding not just No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant from Murray State and NBA Summer League MVP Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga, but one of women’s game’s best assistant coaches and recruiters in Ivey.
Ivey posted a departing tweet earlier today, thanking the school, while sending a heartfelt message to McGraw for giving her not one, but two chances to be a part of the program over the last 17 seasons.
As a player, Ivey went from playing in just five games during the 1996-97 season, to averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 assists per contest during the 2000-01 season that ended with the Irish beating Purdue in the national title game in Ivey’s hometown of St. Louis.
During that season, Ivey became the 17th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau and was honored with the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which is given to the nation’s top women’s player under 5-foot-8.
Ivey played from 2001-05 in the WNBA for three teams: the Indiana Fever (‘01-04), the Phoenix Mercury (‘05) and the Detroit Shock (‘05) before joining McGraw once again in South Bend as an assistant on her coaching staff.
During Ivey’s 12 seasons, the Irish won a national title and finished as national runner-ups five different times. She was a part of all nine Women’s Final Four appearances the Irish have made since 2001 as a player/coach.
McGraw had this to say on the program’s official Twitter account on the Grizz hiring Ivey:
☘️ Part of ALL nine #WFinalFour berths as student-athlete and coach— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) August 5, 2019
☘️ 2016 Assistant Coach of the Year
☘️ Ring of Honor inductee
☘️ Played five @WNBA seasons@IrishCoachIvey is joining the @MemGrizz as the NBA's newest assistant coach.#IrishInTheNBA #GoIrish pic.twitter.com/isTeyrOaRR
McGraw made national headlines for her advocacy on women having more of an influence on the game of basketball during the NCAA Tournament this past spring, so to have another feather in the leprechaun’s hat in the form of Ivey going to the NBA has to be a great feeling for the both of them and anyone else affiliated with the program.
Ivey’s one of the best assistants in the game and she will etch her name in the ongoing history of women breaking barriers and reaching new heights by coaching in the best basketball league on the planet.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for Ivey and provides even more exposure to one of college basketball’s most historic programs on the women’s side.