Home Sports A Notre Dame champion’s driving pressure: ‘It was a real love’

A Notre Dame champion’s driving pressure: ‘It was a real love’

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A Notre Dame champion’s driving pressure: ‘It was a real love’

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Niele Ivey seems again on these pictures typically — a youthful model of herself, the newly topped 2001 nationwide champion, basking in confetti and the glow of an ideal second.

She had helped orchestrate Notre Dame’s comeback in entrance of a sold-out Savvis Center, 10 minutes away from the place she first fell in love with a sport. On a twisted ankle, no much less. And when Purdue’s last-second shot rimmed out, she sprinted over halfcourt and leapt into the arms of assistant coach Kevin McGuff. He was the primary particular person she noticed then.

She seems again on the pictures and sees the enjoyment radiating from her physique. In her thoughts, there was no option to make it any higher. It was among the best moments of her life.

But not for any of the explanations she thought.

Now, in pictures from that evening, it’s Philippe she sees most clearly. It’s Philippe she sees first.

She can spot him instantly, there within the second row sporting an Irish shirt, his dreadlocks tucked right into a crocheted tam he made himself, flanked by Ivey’s three different brothers and her mother and father.

Seven months after these pictures have been snapped, Niele and her mother, Theresa, would arrive at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis and be led down a collection of hallways by a hospital escort and police officer. A health care provider would take them into a chilly room, the place Niele would really feel a weight behind her throat however know that she wanted to remain sturdy as her mother clutched her hand.

They have been there to establish Philippe’s physique.

Not his radiant smile or his pleasure. Not the sum of 26 years of a ravishing life. Not the thoughts of a brother who, a day earlier, had rubbed Niele’s six-month pregnant stomach and reassured her, “Everything will be fine.”

But the physique.

When the physician pulled again the curtain, it was Philippe. Her mother’s voice nonetheless echoes in Niele’s head, pleading for him to rise up, simply rise up. Of all of the reminiscences of Philippe which have light over time, this one — the worst one — refuses to go away.

So, as an alternative Niele holds on to that different second in St. Louis. When the entire household had been collectively. When all the things nonetheless made sense. When Philippe’s pleasure lower by means of the confetti and his smile was even brighter than his child sister’s, who had simply gained a nationwide title.

He’s the one — not the web or the title or the trophy — who brings her again into this second time and again.


Niele Ivey is an organized particular person. A scheduled particular person. She studied historical past as a result of it was a knowable topic — occasions could possibly be dated, trigger and impact could possibly be discovered. But her first yr out of faculty had include quite a lot of unanswered questions.

She was annoyed with the on-again-off-again relationship together with her boyfriend. She was getting into the third trimester of her being pregnant not understanding what to anticipate of labor or motherhood. Her second WNBA season loomed, and with it the fears of whether or not or not her physique and thoughts can be prepared.

It was a last-minute choice to drive to St. Louis that November weekend. Home wouldn’t reply any of these questions, however being together with her household may make all of it really feel rather less daunting. And on that five-and-a-half hour drive, Niele knew she was most excited to see Philippe. He would assist her take advantage of sense of this chaos.

Philippe was her brother closest in age. With 5 Ivey youngsters (and simply eight years in between Nick, the eldest, and Niele, the newborn) their small three-bedroom home had all the time been brimming with exercise and buddies. The 4 boys shared a room, both aspect flanked by a bunk mattress, and Niele might all the time be discovered there hanging out together with her brothers, enjoying Atari or Nintendo.

Everyone on the block knew the Iveys and their nook brick home. Knew that in the event you smelled some recent bread or cake, it was coming from Mrs. Ivey’s kitchen. Knew that the large backyard within the yard was producing recent okra, beans, tomatoes and greens.

Philippe was the quietest of the brothers however supplied the sagest recommendation. He didn’t argue with anybody. Everyone favored him, and Niele favored him particularly as a result of, once they have been youthful, he all the time picked her first once they went to the YMCA to play basketball or let her have an additional flip in Monopoly, and once they obtained older, he was the one who was one of the best listener. They spent most of their summer time days at a park close to their home, and so they spent their evenings on the large entrance porch.

When Niele determined to go to Notre Dame, Philippe was the one who beamed brightest with delight. His child sister was the primary of their household to go to varsity. He advised all his buddies.

“Their connection was something special,” says Cedric, the center Ivey brother. “It was a genuine love.”

Niele arrived in St. Louis that November after the solar had gone on Friday evening. On Saturday morning, Philippe requested if she wished to go to the park and stroll a lap.

Niele shared her fears and uncertainties. She wished solutions and readability. Midway by means of the stroll, Philippe — who hoped to have a giant household himself — checked out his sister and positioned his hand on her stomach. When he did, Jaden kicked and Philippe reassured her that all the things can be effective, she simply needed to keep the course, she simply needed to belief herself.

“I feel like I got to absorb his energy, and I needed that at the time. I needed that balance,” Niele says. “I just felt grounded after spending time with him and talking with him and him reassuring me. My soul needed that.”

The subsequent day, Niele and Tonya Jackson — her greatest pal since they have been 15 — determined to go to a St. Louis Rams sport. One of Niele’s buddies from Notre Dame was enjoying for the visiting Panthers and had gotten them two free tickets.

Philippe supplied to drive them so she wouldn’t should stroll to seek out parking. At six months pregnant, although she was nonetheless figuring out twice a day, Niele was beginning to really feel the strains of her altering physique.

After the sport, she and Tonya waited on the nook of Washington and ninth as the gang dissipated right into a trickle. It wasn’t like Philippe to be late. It wasn’t like him to not choose up his cellphone or reply to texts. Ultimately, Niele’s mother got here to choose them up.

On the drive house, nobody spoke.

“The worry began to set in,” Tonya remembers. “It was just very quiet.”

Niele prayed she would see her inexperienced, two-door Mercury Cougar sitting outdoors the home when she returned. Her dad had gotten it for her the summer time earlier than, forward of her fifth yr at Notre Dame. She had by no means had a automotive earlier than, however she was excited for the liberty that one would deliver, excited for the spur-of-the-moment journeys house — just like the one which introduced her again to St. Louis that weekend — {that a} automotive would give her.

But it wasn’t there.

That afternoon, a police chaplain walked up the stoop and onto the entrance porch. Along with a police officer, they defined that in the middle of a police chase, a pursued car ran a crimson mild at 90 miles per hour and struck Philippe’s automotive as he pulled into the intersection on his option to choose up Niele and Tonya. He was killed immediately, they believed. When Cedric later spoke to individuals who lived blocks away from the crash web site, they advised him it seemed like an explosion.

When Niele and Theresa obtained house from the hospital, they waited within the kitchen. When her dad Thomas walked in, Niele stayed quiet as her mother advised him. The day earlier than had been his birthday. He had been so completely satisfied that each one 5 of his youngsters have been house, so completely satisfied to have a full home.

For the primary time in Niele’s life, she noticed her father cry.

They buried Philippe per week later. She wore a black costume to his funeral that she had to purchase within the maternity part at some retailer within the native mall as a result of she hadn’t packed something formal for her weekend house. There was no motive to deliver such an outfit

The church was crammed to capability. Everyone had a unique story of Philippe serving to them, and by no means asking for the credit score. He had all the time been so quiet, however the reminiscences boomed. For months after his dying, strangers got here by the Ivey home with cash, saying they wished to lastly pay Philippe again for one thing he had accomplished for them.

“You could realize in that moment the magnitude of who he was as a person, of his soul and how he touched people in such a beautiful way,” Niele mentioned.


For per week after the burial, Niele stayed in St. Louis. But being in the home the place she grew up with Philippe was too exhausting. His absence lived in each room.

She remembers trying by means of the newspapers for point out of his dying, and when she lastly discovered a three-sentence clip, she cried.

“It was this small paragraph,” Ivey says. “How traumatizing that was for us, that it was just another day.”

She wished folks to know Philippe the best way she did.

The older brother who traveled as much as Notre Dame to construct Niele’s dorm furnishings and transfer her out and in yearly. The pal who discovered learn how to repair a automotive simply because his buddy’s broke down and he couldn’t afford to take it to the store. The one that was vegan earlier than it was fashionable. The man who fell in love with martial arts and hoped to go to China to be taught extra about its historical past. The artist who crocheted scarves and hats for buddies and constructed a marble chess set.

The one who had all the time pushed Niele to pursue extra.

And the longer she stayed in St. Louis, the extra she knew she needed to return to South Bend.

“Philippe was the spirit driving me,” Niele says. “I knew that he would’ve wanted me to continue going forward.”

Notre Dame was the place Niele felt the most secure. When she arrived as a freshman, she advised Philippe how completely different it felt from the place they grew up. There was much less occurring, fewer folks round, and each of these issues wrapped Niele like a blanket.

When she discovered she was pregnant midway by means of her rookie season in June 2001, she had felt so terrified of the unknown. Pregnancy had not been part of her plan. She hid it from the Indiana Fever employees and most of her teammates, masking the morning illness, dreading the 6 a.m. flights and what these would do to her abdomen.

But she knew the second her rookie season was over she’d return to the place that made the remainder of this being pregnant really feel manageable — to South Bend. And she knew, as soon as she had her child, she’d keep there, recovering and dealing her means again into basketball form so she might enter coaching camp simply six weeks after giving start. It was the place she felt she might do the near-impossible.

But these three months in South Bend — between Philippe’s passing and her son Jaden’s start — are nonetheless a blur. She can’t keep in mind how she obtained again to campus that November or how she celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Or if she celebrated in any respect. She remembers then-Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw displaying as much as her condominium and giving her the keys to her automotive.

“Use it as long as you need,” she advised her.

Niele was grateful for the automotive, however extra grateful she wouldn’t must go to a dealership solely to have a salesman ask her the worst query: Why are you on the lookout for a brand new automotive?

She didn’t drive a lot. Niele largely solely floated between her condominium, the physician’s workplace for routine visits and the Notre Dame weight room and gymnasium. There have been solely so many intersections in between these three locations.

But there was the sunshine that permeated the profound disappointment and vacancy of these three months. As devastating as November had been, and as a lot as that lingered, everybody was trying ahead to February, when she was due. She had already picked out the title Jaden, had even advised Philippe that day within the park. And when Jaden arrived on the planet, she gave him Philippe’s center title — Dhananjay.

“I felt like Jaden really was going to save us,” Ivey mentioned. “And I didn’t mean to put that on him, but he definitely saved us.”


National champion Niele Ivey (33) succeeded Notre Dame ‘s Muffet McGraw in 2020. McGraw retired after 33 years as head coach. (Jamie Schwaberow / NCAA Photos via Getty Images

For a long time after Jaden was born, Niele didn’t go house.

She was a busy new mother. She was nonetheless pursuing her WNBA profession. There was a lot occurring.

The fact was that it was too exhausting to even take into consideration St. Louis.

If she noticed a Missouri license plate, she’d cry. If she noticed a Bronco like Philippe’s beloved automotive (that previous 1972 yellow Bronco that everybody ragged on him for), she’d cry. If she noticed the Gateway Arch on TV, she’d cry.

Eventually, she did return house. But it might take one other 10 years to go to the scene of Philippe’s dying for the primary time. And till then, she’d purposely concoct routes to keep away from being inside blocks of that downtown intersection.

But there’s a peace that comes with sufficient time and area and perspective. It was a peace that Philippe appeared to innately have, at the same time as a child. And it’s a peace that Niele all the time admired in him, and one which many say Niele has herself.

So finally, Niele made peace with that intersection. It’s the place Philippe was taken from her; it’s not the place his reminiscence or story continues to stay. That’s in all places else — in form moments and massive smiles; in walks by means of the park; in recent bread and entrance porches; in Jaden, who has turn into a father himself.

She sees Philippe within the 2001 nationwide title and her profession at Notre Dame, the place she’s in her fourth yr as head coach. The No. 10 Fighting Irish open the season Monday towards No. 4 South Carolina at Halle Georges Carpentier Arena in Paris.

“When I think about him, I think of all his incredible qualities,” Niele says. “Your older siblings always teach you things. And that’s what he taught me — to live with a sense of purpose, to live with kindness, to treat people with kindness.”

When Niele was 23, she thought that nationwide championship evening was excellent.

Now, at 46, she seems again at pictures, sees Philippe smiling and is aware of how proper she was.

(Illustration: Samuel Richardson / The Athletic; pictures: Courtesy of Niele Ivey; Chris Schwegler / NBAE through Getty Images

Source web site: theathletic.com