Digger Phelps

Digger Phelps (born July 4, 1941)

Teams coached: Fordham Rams, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Fordham record: 26-3 (.897)
Notre Dame record: 393-197 (.666)
Overall record: 419-200 (.677)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  15  (1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen:  8  (1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1987)
  • NCAA Tournament Final Four:  1  (1978)
  • NIT Championships:  0  (Runner-up in 1973, 1984)
  • NIT Appearances:  3  (1973, 1983, 1984)


Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1971-1991 Notre Dame
1970-1971 Fordham
1966-1970 Penn (asst)
1963-1966 Rider (grad. asst)

Digger Phelps Facts

  • Richard Frederick Phelps
  • Born July 4, 1941
  • Hometown: Beacon, New York
  • Alma Mater: Rider College (BA, 1963)
  • Son of mortician, Phelps was given the nickname “Digger” by his father as a child
  • Played at Rider College (now University) for head coaches Thomas Leyden and Robert Greenwood
    • Stayed at Rider as a grad assistant under Greenwood for several years before being hired as an assistant coach at Penn by head coach Dick Harter
  • Spent one year as the head coach at Fordham, going 26-3 on the way to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen; that was the program’s third ever NCAA appearance and first trip to the Sweet Sixteen
  • A year later, Phelps was hired as the head coach at Notre Dame – he would stay at UND for the next 20 seasons
    • Took the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament 14 times, making it to eight Sweet Sixteens and once reaching the Final Four (1978)
    • Also finished as NIT Runner-Up twice during his tenure
    • Became known for huge upsets again #1 ranked teams; most famous was Notre Dame’s come-from-behind victory over UCLA on January 19, 1974, when the Irish put an end to the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak
      • Ironically, it was Notre Dame’s upset over #1 UCLA in January 1971 that would start the Bruins’ win streak; UCLA won 88 straight games between the two upsets, including four wins over ND
      • Phelps had seven upsets over #1 ranked teams, tied for the most all-time
  • After retiring from coaching in 1991, Phelps started his second career as a television broadcaster
    • Previously, Phelps served as the ABC Sports basketball analyst during the 1984 Summer Olympics
    • Started working at ESPN in 1994 and worked at the network until his retirement in 2014
  • Has three adult children; daughter Karen is married to former MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer

Digger Phelps Coaching Tree

  • Jim Baron (Canisius, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Saint Francis PA)
  • Gary Brokaw (Iona)
  • P. J. Carlesimo (Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Seton Hall, Wagner, Southern New Hampshire)
  • Dick DiBiaso (Stanford)
  • Pete Gillen (Virginia, Providence, Xavier)
  • Bill Hanzlik (Denver Nuggets)
  • Matt Kilcullen (North Florida, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville)
  • Dick Kuchen (Yale, California)
  • Bill Laimbeer (Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty, Detroit Shock)
  • Fran McCaffery (Iowa, Siena, UNC Greensboro)
  • Frank McLaughlin (Harvard)
  • Danny Nee (Merchant Marine, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Nebraska, Ohio)
  • Joseph Price (Grambling State)
  • John Shumate (Phoenix Mercury, SMU, Grand Canyon)
  • Tom Sullivan (UMBC, Manhattan, New Hampshire College)
  • Scott Thompson (Cornell, Wichita State, Rice)
  • Monty Williams (Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans)