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1-on-1 with Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw

To say that Muffet McGraw is having a good year would be a colossal understatement.

Over the last 12 months the Irish head coach has been inducted into the Naismith hall of Fame, won the national championship and watched her only son get married.

So if you see her walking around town with a permanent smile, you know why.

WSBT 22 Sports Director Pete Byrne recently sat down with the Irish head coach for a lengthy discussion about the past year.

PETE BYRNE: "It's been 3 months now, is it still a euphoric feeling or has it set in?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "No, it's still euphoric. I put that song on every day I think, 'What About Us'. That starts my day off on a really good note."

PETE BYRNE: "How has the reaction to this championship been different than the first one you guys had?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "I think this one has been almost a community thing. I feel like everybody, because we have such great fan support, so everywhere we've gone, we've been taking the trophy around, you know the 'traveling trophy' on Thursdays and more and more people are coming out. It's just been so much fun taking pictures with it and hearing everybody's story, if they weren't in Columbus, where were they, and how did they react when the shot went in."

PETE BYRNE: "You said you were going to spend the summer enjoying this. Have you done that?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "I certainly am."

PETE BYRNE: "So, I think back to that really whole second half of your season and the injury bug bit you guys, but the odds you faced moving through the tournament, how did you do it?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "You know people have actually asked that a lot, but they're asking other coaches. They're not asking us, they're asking others 'how did they do it?' and I think our staff did a phenomenal job. We managed so many things throughout the year, just keeping people up, making sure everybody was still okay and everybody was on the same page, and not really worrying about things when we missed some shots, turned the ball over, the things we couldn't control. I think we tried to keep it really steady and the girls could relax and play, because they knew they weren't coming out of the game. It was great for them. There was a lot things that we just had to manage from behind the scenes, especially the staff, they just did a really great job with that. To continue to have that goal of winning a National Championship despite all of those odds, we kept saying that with the victory march, what are the odds, we're still going to compete. Man, it was really hard. It was a really really hard year, in a lot of ways for everybody. So, that made it so much more rewarding."

PETE BYRNE: "Do you think something like that can ever be duplicated? A team with a solid five and two subs, and that's it. Going all the way."

MUFFET MCGRAW: "A lot of people shorten their bench during the tournament, but the worry is, when you really only have six or seven, what if someone turns an ankle? Which Kathryn did, right before the tournament. What if somebody else breaks their nose and there's no mask and there's so many little things. What if we get into foul trouble, or somebody gets the flu? You know we had to go through and have almost perfect health-wise and nothing else could go wrong. In a season where so many things went wrong, at the end, to make a shot like that....you think, how could this be? Like finally, something is going right after everything we've been through."

PETE BYRNE: "Because of the foul trouble scare, how deliberate did you guys have to be those last four games?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: We talked so much in practice and everything was don't foul. Do not foul. Give up the shot, and do not foul. Second half we'll play a little harder, but let's get into halftime with nobody in foul trouble. That was kind of our goal. You know we gave up a lot more points than we probably should have, but we were going to outscore them."

PETE BYRNE:" Was this year your best coaching job?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "You know, I think as a staff, we did a really good job this year. I think we had to fight through so much. We had to handle the adversity and just the constant stream of things. It just seemed like everytime we came out on the court, there was potential for something else to go wrong. So, trying to maintain a really steady demeanor was difficult. Trying to have the energy, I mean it was exhausting having to battle through so much. So, taking that time to really get your energy back and to bring it for the team, we just wanted to be there for them and yea that was a struggle."

PETE BYRNE:"I've thought about this several times in the last couple of months. I go back to 2014 when you guys finished runner-up and you kind of get a bomb dropped on you that your best player is leaving early for the draft, which is something that has never happened before. It kind of throws your next season upside down. But in the result of that, a freshman, Arike Ogunbowale, comes in and plays a bunch of minutes, which you probably weren't planning on her playing because she played Jewel's position. If that doesn't happen, is she ready to hit those shots you think?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "You know it's funny say that, because everything happens for a reason, and you never know what it's going to be. And I'm sure Arike didn't think she played quite enough as a freshman, but for her to go 1-for-10 in the first half and have that ability to just shake things off and not let things get to her, and to come out and be confident enough to take that last shot. But the experience that she got, she definitely was put into a prime-time role a little sooner than she would've been."

PETE BYRNE: "Do you have a sense of how great of a Final Four it was, just how exciting it was?"

MUFFET MCGRAW: "It was the most exciting Final Four ever. I mean just to see two games going into overtime, that's never happened before. And then the final game to be decided, I think we've had one game in the final four be decided by one point, but never this much excitement. The crowd was phenomenal, and everybody across the country really was watching the game, even if they weren't basketball fans."


Watch the rest of the interview tonight at 10 on WSBT 22 News on FOX.

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