Richard “Digger” Phelps, who enjoyed two successful decades as Notre Dame’s head coach from 1971-1991, joined ESPN as a college basketball studio and game analyst in November 1993. For the past 20 years he has worked all College Game Day events and called select games. Phelps teamed with Dick Vitale and Bob Knigth to provide studio and on-site analysis during ESPN’s Championship Week, the NCAA Championship and the NCAA Final Four.
Before joining ESPN, Phelps served as a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports during the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Championships, handling both studio and game analysis. In 1984, he served as commentator for ABC Sports’ basketball coverage at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
During his 20 years at Notre Dame (1971-1991), Phelps won more games (393) than any coach in Irish history. His teams advanced to the NCAA Championship on 14 occasions – including six of his last seven seasons – and reached the Final Four in 1978.
Phelps averaged more than 19 wins per season during his career at Notre Dame, and, overall, won two-thirds of his games (393-197, 66.7 percent). In addition, all 56 players who played four years for Phelps received their degrees.
Before coaching at Notre Dame, Phelps was the head basketball coach at Fordham University during the 1970-71 season. His team compiled a 26-3 record and advanced to the NCAA Championship. After resigning from Notre Dame on April 15, 1991, Phelps joined President George H. W. Bush’s administration as special assistant to the Executive Office of the President for the National Drug Control Policy (1992-1993), working closely with the office’s Operation Weed and Seed anti-drug program.
In addition Phelps served as head of the United States delegation to the January 1993 inauguration of President Rawlings of Ghana, Africa, and was part of the United Nations observer team of the 1993 elections in Cambodia. He also has been a member of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for 24 years.
Phelps is the author of eight books: 3 Basketball for Dummies books, Coaches World (which highlighted the 1974 Notre Dame season in which the Irish snapped UCLA’s 88-game winning streak) Digger Phelps & Notre Dame Basketball, Tales of Notre Dame Hardwood and Undertakers Son. Phelps most recent book is Coaching the Streets.
In the last decade, Phelps has devoted lot of his time to the needs of South Bend, New Orleans and Memphis schools. Phelps continues to be committed to championing the causes of children and the importance of education throughout the country.
On January 19, 2014, on the 40th anniversary of the famous 1974 win against UCLA, Phelps was inducted into the University of Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor. He is the first coach to receive such an honor.
Phelps is a native of Beacon, N.Y., where a street – Digger Phelps court – is named in his honor. He graduated from Rider College in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and in in 1964 with a master’s degree in business education.