Notre Dame men’s basketball all-time roster: Fighting Irish legends

Although it won’t soon be confused for being a basketball school, the University of Notre Dame has had quite the run of success over the years.  The Irish won’t earn a bid in this year’s NCAA tournament but their 37 trips there all-time are good enough to rank ninth all-time.  In fact, Notre Dame has appeared in the most NCAA tournament’s all-time without actually winning the national championship.

With that much success, there have obviously been star players for decades under the golden dome.  So when filling out a ten-man roster, who would make the cut for being on the all-time Notre Dame basketball team?

Here is who we came up with:

Head Coach: Digger Phelps (1971-1991)

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The debate of who would be the head coach was only really a two-dog race and when you break it down, it’s not particularly close and that’s said with no disrespect to anyone else.  In 20 years at Notre Dame, Digger Phelps guided the Irish to the NCAA Tournament 14 times.  Eight of those times they reached the Sweet 16 and the program’s only trip to the Final Four came under Phelps in 1978.

Assistant Head Coach: Mike Brey (2000-2023)

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Nobody has won more games in the history of Notre Dame men’s basketball than Mike Brey.  Brey took over after Matt Doherty spent one season with the Fighting Irish and spent nearly a quarter-century under the golden dome.

Brey led the Irish to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001 which was their first bid since 1990 at the time.  In all, he’d lead the Irish to the dance 13 times in 22 seasons, including back-to-back Elite 8 appearances in 2015 and 2016.

Assistant Coach: Fran McCaffrey (1988-1999)

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Before his time as a head coach at UNC-Greensboro and Sienna, which ultimately led him to Iowa, Fran McCaffrey was a mainstay on Notre Dame’s staff.

They weren’t the most memorable of years but the McCaffrey began as an assistant for Digger Phelps in 1988 and remained there through 1999.

Assistant Coach: Martin Inglesby (2009-2016)


Martin Inglesby was a three-year starter at Notre Dame as a point guard.  After working in the college’s administrative offices for a handful of years, Inglesby earned a spot as an assistant to Mike Brey in 2009 and held the post until leaving to take over as Delaware’s head coach in 2016.  He still serves as head coach there – might he be in line to return to Notre Dame again before long?

Reserve Point Guard: Jerian Grant (2010-2015)

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The second of three people on this team to attend DeMatha in Maryland, Jerian Grant was among the most talented guards the Irish have ever had.  In 2014 Grant became just the 14th player in program history to receive Consensus All-American honors as he helped guide the Irish to an Elite 8 appearance after winning the ACC Tournament.

Reserve Shooting Guard: Pat Connaughton -(2011–2015)

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Nobody has played in more games as a Notre Dame basketball player than Pat Connaughton, who participated in 139 during his college career.  Connaughton’s game featured a little bit of everything but his lock-down defense and ability to jump out of the gym are what are most remembered from his time at Notre Dame.

Oh, and the winning, which the Irish did a lot of during his career for the Irish.

Reserve Small Forward: Orlando Woolridge (1977-1981)

Orlando Woolridge (#32) after upsetting No.1  DePaul — Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If you got the ball to Orlando Woolridge at Notre Dame, chances were strong it was going to end up in the basket.  The eventual sixth overall NBA draft pick of the Chicago Bulls shot 65% from the field as a senior in 1980-81, a percentage that hasn’t been bested since.

Woolridge helped Notre Dame upset the top-ranked team in the nation four times as a player, including beating Ralph Sampson and Virginia with a buzzer-beater to snap their 28-game winning streak in 1980-81.

Reserve Power Forward: Luke Harangody (2006-2010)

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A three-time All-Big East selection and the 2010 Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody reached rare air at Notre Dame.  The awards speak for themselves but to summarize Harangody best, consider the fact he’s the only player in Notre Dame history to score over 2,000 points and pull down more than 1,000 rebounds.

Reserve Center: Troy Murphy (1998-2001)

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Despite playing for three head coaches in his three seasons at Notre Dame, few players had more success than Troy Murphy.  He was awarded Big East Freshman of the Year honors his first go-around and won the conference’s Player of the Year award his next two seasons.  Murphy scored 2,011 points in his career at Notre Dame, an average of 21.4 per game.

Starting Small Forward: Adrian Dantley (1973-1976)

President Gerald Ford and Jesse Owens, left, chat with Adrian Dantley during a reception at the White House in Washington on August 5, 1976, for members of the United States Olympic team. Dantley is a member of the gold medal-winning basketball team. (AP Photo)

Adrian Dantley did a lot in his three seasons at Notre Dame, scoring more than 30 points per contest as a sophomore while scoring more than 25 per game for his career.  Notre Dame went an impressive 68-19 during Dantley’s three seasons before he went on to play 15 years in the NBA.

Starting Power Forward: LaPhonso Ellis (1988-1992)

Dec 11, 2021; South Bend, Indiana; Former Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball player LaPhonso Ellis speaks after being added to the Notre Dame Ring of Honor during halftime of the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Kentucky Wildcats at the Purcell Pavilion. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

LaPhonso Ellis did just about everything well at Notre Dame before doing it in the NBA for 11 seasons.  Ellis averaged over 15 points per game while pulling down an impressive 11.1 rebounds per contest.  His efforts helped an otherwise rather forgettable Notre Dame squad reach the finals of the NIT in 1992.

Starting Center: John Shumate -(1971–1974)

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A two-time All-American, and a First Team consensus choice in 1974, John Shumate is one of a few Notre Dame players to average a double-double for their careers as he put up 22.6 ppg and 11.6 rpg.  Shumate was selected fourth overall in the 1974 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns and eventually got into coaching.

Starting Point Guard: Chris Thomas (2001-2005)

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Maybe it’s just me but I don’t feel like Chris Thomas gets remembered for being as great as he was at Notre Dame.  He didn’t go on to play in the NBA so he was wrongly forgotten about by some. His final two years didn’t result in NCAA Tournament appearances so I’m sure that didn’t help.  All he did in his four years in gold and blue was record more assists and steals than any player in program history.  He was also the Irish point guard that helped lead Notre Dame to their first Sweet 16 in 16 years in 2003.

Starting Shooting Guard: Austin Carr (1968-1971)

Dec 5, 1970; South Bend, IN; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Austin Carr (34) shoots a jump shot against the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Joyce Center.  Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Saving the greatest for last, Austin Carr is the starting shooting guard and the brightest star Notre Dame basketball has ever seen.  Carr’s 2,560 points are the most to this day by a Notre Dame player and he averaged an absurd 34.6 points per game in that time.  He put up 46 points in a 1971 upset of UCLA against a Bruins team that went on to finish 29-1 and win the national championship.

Here are just a few more highlights from Carr’s incredible Notre Dame career courtesy of Notre Dame athletics:

  • In 74 career outings, Carr failed to score in double figures on just two occasions

  • Inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, he was a consensus All-American as a senior in ’71 and was named the national player of the year by both Associated Press and United Press International

  • As a junior and senior, Carr ranked second nationally in scoring with averages of 38.1 and 37.9, respectively

  • At the time of his graduation, he held 33 different Notre Dame records for scoring and field goals, the majority of which still stand today

  • Carr ranks as the greatest scorer in NCAA tournament history with a 41.3 career scoring average

  • His single-game record 61-point effort against Ohio University in a first-round NCAA tournament game still stands

  • He recorded 22 double-doubles during his career and scored 20 or more points in each game during his junior and senior seasons — 58 straight contests — and in 70 of 74 career games

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire