Michaela Mabrey spent her senior year at Notre Dame playing college basketball alongside her younger sister, Marina. It was only fitting that when Michaela got the offer to return to Notre Dame as an assistant coach, she was in Los Angeles watching Marina play professional basketball.
On Aug. 5, the Memphis Grizzlies announced they had hired away former Notre Dame women’s basketball associate head coach Niele Ivey, leaving a position open on Muffet McGraw’s coaching staff. Exactly three weeks later, on Aug. 26, McGraw announced Mabrey’s hire as an assistant coach.
“When I accepted the job, I can’t even tell you my excitement,” Mabrey said. “I just really want to soak in this moment and take everything with it.” Throughout the three-week hiring process, Mabrey was traveling across the country. After texting McGraw from Los Angeles to inquire about the opening and being told she was on the short list for the job, Mabrey flew to South Bend for an interview. Two days later, McGraw called to offer her the job. By that time, Mabrey had returned to Louisiana, where she was the director of recruiting at Louisiana State University. Within a week, she would be back at Notre Dame to begin her new role with her alma mater.
Mabrey laughed as she recalled her conversation with McGraw, saying she was stunned when her former coach offered her the position. “I kind of paused and I didn’t really say anything,” she said, adding that McGraw had to prompt her for an answer.
Mabrey, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2016 as a member of the winningest class in program history, spent the last three years in coaching and recruiting roles across the country. After initially wanting to play
basketball overseas, Mabrey changed her goal to a career in broadcast before settling on coaching. She was hired as the coordinator of program and player development at the University of Miami for the 2016-17 season, then took a job as an assistant coach at Miami University (Ohio) for the 2017-18 campaign before landing at LSU last year.
Meanwhile, Mabrey’s younger sister Marina won a national championship with the Irish in 2018, became Notre Dame’s all-time three-point leader and was selected 19th overall by the Sparks in the 2019 WNBA Draft. The Mabrey sisters were the first siblings to play together at Notre Dame since the 1978-1979 season.
As a result, Notre Dame has become even more significant to the Mabrey family, and Michaela said they are excited to have another reason to return for games.
“My mom cried. She was the first person I called. She was really, really excited,” Michaela said. “And I think everyone who knows me, who’s in my circle of people, knows that this has been my dream since I’ve left.”
Her hire is fitting for another reason. Without it, the Notre Dame women’s basketball program would have been without a Mabrey for the first time since Michaela’s freshman year in 2012. That season was the start of a playing career that saw Mabrey, a two-time captain, go to three Final Fours and two national championship games.
“I’ve always wanted to come back and work for this program that I love so much,” she said.
Mabrey will take the floor with the Irish for the first time as a coach when they open their season at Fordham on Nov. 5.