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Recapping Digger’s Latest “Notre Dame Moment”

Jan 20, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

On Sunday evening, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team defeated Virginia Tech, 70-63, snapping a three-game losing streak and earning a much-needed victory before hitting the road for tomorrow’s matchup at Florida State.

But it wasn’t Pat Connaughton’s 21 points or Eric Katenda’s Fighting Irish debut that made it an unforgettable day at Purcell. It was before the game, on the videoboard during timeouts, and at halftime, when the Notre Dame basketball family welcomed a new member into an exclusive club. Former Irish head coach Richard “Digger” Phelps, a 1982 honorary Monogram recipient, received the program’s highest recognition – induction into the Ring of Honor.

Phelps joins Irish hoops greats Luke Harangody (’10), Ruth Riley (’01), Austin Carr (’71), Adrian Dantley (’78) and Skylar Diggins (’13) as the first coach with a Ring of Honor banner in the Purcell rafters.

Before the game nearly 250 guests, including former players, managers, trainers and other members of the Irish basketball family, donned a signature green carnation and gathered for a reception in the Monogram Room. The induction coincided with the 40th anniversary of Notre Dame’s legendary win over UCLA, in which the Irish snapped the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak.

Eleven members of that 1974 team including Roger Anderson, Peter Crotty, Tom Hansen, Ray Martin, Greg Schmelzer, Myron Shuckman, Chris Stevens, Tom Varga, Ken Wolbeck and co-captains Gary Novak and John Shumate returned for the festivities, and were honored with their coach in a special recognition during the first half. Following the game, “88 and 1,” a documentary by Fighting Irish Digital Media and 3 Penny Films telling the story of the historic upset, aired on ESPN2. Click here for information on future broadcasts.

Throughout the game, a number of videos commemorating the induction were shown on the videoboard, including messages from Notre Dame football legend Ara Parseghian, former Irish standout LaPhonso Ellis (’92), and ESPN friends and colleagues Rece Davis and Jay Bilas, among others. Davis, who Digger has become particularly close with during their time at ESPN, also made a surprise visit for the ceremony.

As soon as the first half buzzer sounded, the lights dimmed and thousands of glowsticks, designed to look like Digger’s famous green Sharpie highlighter lit up the arena. A video narrated by Notre Dame basketball play-by-play announcer and 2013 honorary Monogram recipient Jack Nolan played on the videoboard and the banner was unveiled in the rafters. Deputy athletics director Jim Fraleigh (’88, manager) presented Digger with a framed replica banner, before handing him the mic.

Digger reminisced about many of those memorable wins over #1 ranked teams and talked about the impact everyone from Parseghian to Father Hesburgh has had on his life and career. He concluded his remarks grateful for everyone in attendance, saying “I want to thank you today, for another Notre Dame moment. God bless. I love you.”

After the game, the celebration moved to one of Digger’s favorite South Bend locales – Parisi’s – where the Monogram Club hosted a dinner for members of the 1974 team, family and friends.

All in all, it was a special evening and certainly another “Notre Dame moment” in the life of an Irish basketball icon who had already helped shape many great memories in that very same arena.

Below are a few other articles worth your time, as well as a number of photos and tweets, including several great pics from Digger’s daughter, Karen Moyer.

Retrospective: Jan. 19, 1974 – Notre Dame Ends Longest Streak in College Basketball History by Tim Bourret

Former Notre Dame Men’s Basketball All-Americans and Captains Return Sunday to See Digger Phelps Join Fighting Irish Ring of Honor

Digger Phelps and Notre Dame: A Dream Realized by Tim Bourret

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