Women’s Basketball: A ‘dream come true:’ Northwestern legend Maggie Lyon returns as assistant coach


Daily file photo by Zach Laurence

Maggie Lyon. The Northwestern legend returns to Evanston as an assistant coach.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

Northwestern women’s basketball’s Maggie Lyon began her college coaching career just down Sheridan Road at Loyola-Chicago in 2021. 

But Lyon made a name for herself in Chicago-area basketball well before then. The 2012-13 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Lyon poised a significant offensive threat to any and all defenses she faced. She still holds the program record for career three-pointers and finished with a total of 1,693 points.

Now, six years after graduating, Lyon returns to the Cats’ courtside as a coach — and she is beyond excited. 

“It’s been amazing,” Lyon said. “Honestly, it’s a dream come true. I loved the institution as a student-athlete. I grew up a fan because I was a local kid.”

After a standout four years at NU, Lyon continued her basketball career overseas. She then went into sports marketing before making the switch to working for women’s basketball at Loyola-Chicago. 

McKeown played a key role as Lyon considered the career change. She spoke with him often, seeking advice, and realized she wanted to come back to NU. But there was no open role at the time, so that plan was put on pause. 

Lyon instead ended up at Loyola-Chicago, first as a video coordinator — an opportunity she was “very fortunate” to get, she said. There, Lyon said she had an “amazing time” and learned lots through working with her fellow coaches, student-athletes and the administration. 

When the Cats’ former associate head coach Kate Popovec departed for Bradley in April, it prompted a coaching shake-up in Evanston. Former assistant Tangela Smith moved into Popovec’s role, and multiple assistant positions opened. Popovec’s departure proved to be “unbelievable timing,” Lyon said. 

McKeown called Lyon “part of our family,” and said he has enjoyed having her back.

“She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” McKeown said. “(She’s) a great role model for our players, too. I wish I could suit her up against Oregon.”

While Lyon can’t take the court during games, she has been getting involved in the Cats’ practices. Graduate student guard Sydney Wood said Lyon steps in when the Cats are down players in practice, and works out with the players as well. Lyon also brings a “competitive spirit,” which Wood said has been helpful when preparing for the season.

Graduate student forward Courtney Shaw also said she appreciates Lyon’s competitive nature. Lyon is a “players’ coach,” Shaw said, with high expectations and strong energy levels at practice.

Now, rather than taking marching orders from McKeown, Lyon consults with him courtside. Their working relationship has an “awesome dynamic,” she said, because they know each other on both a personal and professional level. Lyons said it’s been exciting working with someone who trusts and believes in her.

Lyon’s experience playing under McKeown has also motivated her to become involved in NU players’ lives. 

“I had coaches like Joe McKeown who were so impactful to me,” Lyon said. “Being part of these girls’ journeys is all I want.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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