It wasn’t a slam-dunk when Muffet McGraw came calling last spring, hoping to entice Beth Morgan Cunningham to return to South Bend as associate coach of women’s basketball. After graduation, Cunningham had gone off to play professional basketball for three seasons with the American Basketball League’s Philadelphia Rage and WNBA’s Washington Mystics before turning to coaching.
Now she was sitting pretty as the most successful head coach in the history of the women’s program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. She had 11 seasons (nine as head coach) and 167 wins under her belt, had steered teams to five postseason tourneys, including its first NCAA tournament appearance, and sent eight players off to professional careers.
But who says you can never go home again? In the end, the pull of home—to Notre Dame, to her native Indiana—carried the day.
Not only does Cunningham hold the Notre Dame record as all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball, but she is widely credited as a force behind the school’s emergence as an elite women’s program.
It’s a rare opportunity—to return to where you started and know it in a deeper way. “Coming back now after being through the experience of building a program and understanding what it takes—hopefully I’ll be able to add a lot of value to what we’re doing here,” she says, adding, “The opportunity to work for a hall-of-fame coach is not to be taken for granted.”