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Phelps on ESPN's College Gameday broadcast
|Born||July 4, 1941|
Beacon, New York
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
|NCAA Regional – Final Four (1978)|
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.
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 in Philadelphia.
His first head coaching job came in 1970 at Fordham University in The Bronx, where he coached Charlie Yelverton and P.J. Carlesimo, the athletic director's son. Phelps led the Rams to a 24–2 record in the 1970–71 regular season and a #9 national ranking.
During his 20 seasons (1971–91) at South Bend, Phelps' Notre Dame teams went 393–197 (.666), 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 in 1974, when the second-ranked Fighting Irish scored the last 12 points of the game on January 19 to upset top-ranked UCLA, coached by John Wooden, 71–70, ending the Bruins' record 88-game winning streak. He shares the NCAA record for most upsets over a #1 team at seven with Gary Williams.
|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||57–56|
|February 1, 1987||North Carolina||60–58|
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.
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
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. In 1995, he made what was considered then to be a farcical announcement he was running for president.
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.
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.
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.
Head coaching record
- www.phelpstek.com, Brian Phelps. "Richard "Digger" Phelps". www.phelpsfamilyhistory.com. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
- "Both wire service polls agree -- UCLA is best team in country". AP, UPI. March 16, 1971. p. 2B.
- "UCLA squeaks by; Penn blitzed". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. March 21, 1971. p. 1B.
- "Notre Dame, Penn name new coaches". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. May 5, 1971. p. 3D.
- McDermott, Barry (January 28, 1974). "After 88 comes zero". Sports Illustrated. p. 18.
- "It's all over: Irish win by one". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 20, 1974. p. !D.
- "Digger Phelps". ESPN MediaZone. Archived from the original on 2014-04-03.
- Bingham, Jacqueline W. "Alumni Association to honor Karen and Jamie Moyer". Notre Dame. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
- Frater Appointed to President's Council on Physical Fitness, tke.org; accessed January 1, 2015.
- Profile, nola.com; accessed January 1, 2015.
- "ESPN". ESPN.com.
- Daley, Kaitee. "Digger Phelps' biggest victory". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
- "Digger Phelps declared cancer free". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013.