LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When Jeff Walz took over the University of Louisville women’s basketball program in 2007, he knew there were two teams his program had to chase to become one of the elite programs in the nation.

The first was the University of Connecticut and Geno Auriemma. The second was Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame.

Walz and the Cardinals had many ferocious battles with both schools.

Wednesday, on the day McGraw announced her retirement after 33 spectacular seasons with the Fighting Irish, Walz confirmed his respect for McGraw, even though they famously had recurring battles on the court, in recruiting and even in the handshake line at the 2018 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

“You were always fighting to figure out a way to get up there to be a part of the UConns and Notre Dames,” Walz said. “When you got to that you knew you were going to be competing to win the conference championship.

“You look back at those days in Big East basketball, my gosh, it was by far the best league in the country.

“Notre Dame, UConn, Rutgers it was just a phenomenal basketball league.”

The Walz-McGraw competitions stretched over six seasons in the Big East, paused for a year and then resumed when Louisville rejoined Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015.

Walz was 3-14 against Notre Dame before the Cards delivered a pair of victories this season. The Irish struggled to a 13-18 record in 2020. But McGraw, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, finished her career with a record of 842-252.

“When you think of Notre Dame basketball, obviously you think of Muffet McGraw,” Walz said. “I’m just happy for her.

“When it’s time and you know it, I think it’s something you just know.

“She’ll have time to be able to recruit and worry about watching film and preparing for games. It’s definitely a loss for the ACC and its definitely a loss for women’s basketball.

“She won two national championships and went to nine or 10 Final Fours. They’re always in the top 10, top 15 in the country every year.

“She’s had an unbelievable run at Notre Dame. To be able to be someplace for 33 years, you’ve done something well.”

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