Digger Phelps

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Digger Phelps
Digger Phelps cropped.jpg
Phelps on ESPN's College Gameday broadcast
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born (1941-07-04) July 4, 1941 (age 77)
Beacon, New York
Playing career
1960–1963 Rider
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1966–1969 Penn (assistant)
1970–1971 Fordham
1971–1991 Notre Dame
Head coaching record
Overall 419–200

Richard Frederick "Digger" Phelps (born July 4, 1941) is an American former college basketball coach, most notably of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 1971 to 1991. For 20 years, from 1993 to 2014, he served as an analyst on ESPN. He got the nickname "Digger" from his father, who was a mortician in Beacon, New York.[1]

Coaching career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Phelps began his coaching career in 1963 as a graduate assistant at Rider College (now Rider University), where he had played basketball. After a move to St. Gabriel's High School in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, he obtained his first full assistant job in 1966 at the University of Pennsylvania.

His first head coaching job came in the 1970–1971 season at Fordham University, where he coached Charlie Yelverton and P.J. Carlesimo. After leading the Rams to a 26-3 record, a Number 9 national ranking and an at large bid to the NCAA tournament, he was named head coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame[edit]

During his 20 seasons at Notre Dame (1971–91), his teams went 393–197, with 14 seasons of 20 wins or more. In 1978, Notre Dame made its only Final Four appearance to date. His most-remembered game occurred on January 19, 1974, when the Fighting Irish scored the last 12 points of the game to defeat top-ranked UCLA, coached by John Wooden, 71–70; the upset ended the Bruins' record 88-game winning streak. He shares the NCAA record for most upsets over a #1 team at seven; (Gary Williams also has 7).

Date Opponent Score
January 19, 1974 UCLA 71–70
March 5, 1977 San Francisco 93–82
February 26, 1978 Marquette 65–59
February 27, 1980 DePaul 76–74 (2ot)
December 27, 1980 Kentucky 67–61
February 22, 1981 Virginia (UVA) 57–56
February 1, 1987 North Carolina (UNC) 60–58

Broadcasting career[edit]

Phelps began his broadcasting career when he served as a commentator for ABC Sports' basketball coverage at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

In 1992, he continued broadcasting career when he announced color commentary for that year's NCAA tournament for CBS. He joined ESPN the next season and worked for them until 2014 as a college basketball studio and game analyst.[2]

During the April 7, 2014 broadcast of "College GameDay", Phelps announced that he was leaving ESPN.

"I spent 20 years at Notre Dame as a coach and now 20 years here at ESPN doing a great job with all you people. And now it's time for me to move forward, and this will be my last time on TV," Phelps said.

Phelps added: "It's been a great run. Twenty years is always my target for everything, and it's time to move forward."

Off the court[edit]

After retiring from Notre Dame, he briefly worked for the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the administration of George H.W. Bush and also served as an observer in the 1993 elections in Cambodia.

Phelps is a great fan of opera. The well-rounded former coach made a cameo appearance in the Notre Dame student opera performance of Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld". Phelps played the part of Bacchus, the God of Wine, in two performances in April 2006.

A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Digger has thrown out numerous Ceremonial first pitches at Wrigley Field and has sung 7th inning stretch for 20 consecutive years as of August 2017.

Phelps released his memoirs in 2007, titled "Undertaker's Son: Life Lessons from a Coach." Phelps co-wrote the book with Jack Colwell, and the book details Phelps' upbringing, professional success, life principles and even lists his "Top 20" songs of all-time. In 2017, Phelps wrote the book "Father Ted Hesburgh: He Coached Me," co-written with Tim Bourret. The book chronicles the remarkable life of Father Theodore Hesburgh, who served as Notre Dame's president from 1952 until his retirement in 1987 and was a key figure in the civil rights movement.

Personal life[edit]

Phelps resides in South Bend and has three adult children. His eldest, Karen, is married to baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer.[3] He is a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Rider College.[4]

Phelps was instrumental in the restoration of various programs at John McDonogh High School in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. His gifts helped to restore the sports program and helped to launch a four-year Culinary Academy in partnership with the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation and the Recovery School District on December 15, 2010.[5]

Cancer battle[edit]

In April 2013, Phelps was diagnosed with bladder cancer.[6][7] On July 1, 2013, his doctor declared him in remission.[8]

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Fordham Rams (NCAA University Division independent) (1970–1971)
1970–71 Fordham 26–3 NCAA University Division Regional Third Place
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA University Division / Division I independent) (1971–1991)
1971–72 Notre Dame 6–20
1972–73 Notre Dame 18–12 NIT Runner-up
1973–74 Notre Dame 26–3 NCAA Division I Regional Third Place
1974–75 Notre Dame 19–10 NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1975–76 Notre Dame 23–6 NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1976–77 Notre Dame 22–7 NCAA Division I First Round
1977–78 Notre Dame 23–8 NCAA Division I Final Four
1978–79 Notre Dame 24–6 NCAA Division I Elite Eight
1979–80 Notre Dame 22–6 NCAA Division I Second Round
1980–81 Notre Dame 23–6 NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1981–82 Notre Dame 10–17
1982–83 Notre Dame 19–10 NIT First Round
1983–84 Notre Dame 21–12 NIT Runner-up
1984–85 Notre Dame 21–9 NCAA Division I Second Round
1985–86 Notre Dame 23–6 NCAA Division I First Round
1986–87 Notre Dame 24–8 NCAA Division Sweet 16
1987–88 Notre Dame 20–9 NCAA Division I First Round
1988–89 Notre Dame 21–7 NCAA Division I Second Round
1989–90 Notre Dame 16–13 NCAA Division I First Round
1990–91 Notre Dame 12–20
Notre Dame: 393–195
Total: 419–198

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ www.phelpstek.com, Brian Phelps. "Richard "Digger" Phelps". www.phelpsfamilyhistory.com. Retrieved 2018-02-06. 
  2. ^ "Digger Phelps". ESPN MediaZone. Archived from the original on 2014-04-03. 
  3. ^ Bingham, Jacqueline W. "Alumni Association to honor Karen and Jamie Moyer". Notre Dame. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  4. ^ Frater Appointed to President's Council on Physical Fitness, tke.org; accessed January 1, 2015.
  5. ^ Profile, nola.com; accessed January 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "ESPN". ESPN.com. 
  7. ^ Daley, Kaitee. "Digger Phelps' biggest victory". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Digger Phelps declared cancer free". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 

External links[edit]