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Jul 15, 2010

A Decade Gone By at Notre Dame

“As I talked to Coach K and others, players on those teams, I've come to realize that Mike Brey played a pretty darn significant role in some of that wonderful success that happened down there.”

A Decade Gone By at Notre Dame

A decade ago yesterday, Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White named Mike Brey as the 17th head coach of the Fighting Irish Men’s Basketball Team. In his tenure, Brey has been the peer of five football coaches, two athletic directors, two University Presidents, and has the 5th highest winning percentage in the Big East during that time period. Brey has over 200 wins with Notre Dame.

Brey has had a successful career with the Fighting Irish

From 2006-2008 the Fighting Irish were undefeated at home in front of the Leprechaun Legion. This was the first time that a Big East team made it two consecutive seasons without losing a conference game on their home court; Brey won back to back Big East Coach of the Year honors for this accomplishment. Unfortunately, the Irish got upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and the second round in 2008, and we have not returned to the Sweet Sixteen since 2003. Getting upset in this year’s first round after a late season surge was a real down moment for the Notre Dame Basketball program, adding to the trend of successful regular season squads under Brey that fizzle during the post season. Notre Dame’s tendency to “live-or-die” by the 3 coupled with a notoriously soft defense makes the Irish an easy upset target as smart coaches know how to hit the Irish hard and early. Although Brey showed some upside with the use of the “burn” offense that sparked Notre Dame’s late-season run, he failed to change his strategy against an Old Dominion squad that Notre Dame needed to come out attacking from the opening tip. These trends need to be addressed immediately as the Irish are fielding their best squad since Troy Murphy captained the team.

Goals heading into the next decade

The Irish need to make themselves a perennial Big East top 5, finishing in the top 3 at least once every three years (as the team cycles and becomes dominated by upper classmen again). We also need to make it to the Sweet-16 every 3 years as well. FINISHING is the biggest goal for Mike Brey over the next decade.

This is one of Brey’s strongest recruiting classes at Notre Dame and he is really getting after it for next year’s class as well. Having a good recruiting class every year is something Brey must do to ensure that the Fighting Irish can remain competitive year in and year out.

Channeling his inner Mike Krzyzewski

Prior to his five-year stint at Delaware and coming to Notre Dame, Mike Brey was an assistant at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke Blue Devils were very similar to the Irish before Krzyzewski arrived in 1980. They had a previous coaching regime that would consistently get the team into the tournament, but they could never bring home the hardware. And although it doesn’t seem like Brey has laid the tracks for a powerhouse like Krzyzewski, it did take Krzyzewski 11 years at Duke before he won his first title (with Mike Brey on the sideline)… Who knows, this decade could have unforeseen surprises for Fighting Irish fans.

Like Brian Kelly, Notre Dame was Mike Brey’s dream job and everything else just a stepping stone until there. His goal was to turn Notre Dame around like Krzyzewski did with Duke, recruiting the smartest players with the best personalities, and turning them into outstanding ball players. Brey was familiar with the academic standards a coach faces at Notre Dame, as they were very similar when he arrived at Duke. But he was confident he could establish a “national recruiting network (like he) developed at Duke… here at Notre Dame.” Although Notre Dame hasn’t had consistent recruiting, Mike Brey seems to know this as he has really hit the ground running these past two seasons. For Notre Dame to have perennial success and for Brey to get another contract extension, getting top notch players in and developing them every year is a must.

Mike Brey as a Notre Dame man

Coaching qualifications aside, Mike Brey is the ideal “face” of a Notre Dame program. Coach is always e-mailing the student body, asking them for their support at upcoming basketball games, and thanking them afterwards win or lose. When tendomer, myself, and other students camped out for basketball games it was almost a given that Brey would come out with an order of pizza pies to hold us over and help us stay nourished/energized to cheer on the Irish. He can be frequently seen in the dining hall or around campus, talking to students and actually engaging in conversation outside of basketball. During preseason dorm talks, Brey always precedes a student’s question by asking them their name, home town, and major. If a detached onlooker were to see this they would think he was a professor, not the head basketball coach! There isn’t a high-profile coach in the country more reachable, and he is truly an asset to the university. Let’s hope that he can continue to bring in strong recruiting classes like this past one, and lead the Irish to the NCAA tournament year after year like he did upon his arrival a decade ago.


  1. Just found this old paragraph from Dick Vitale:

    "Certain coaches just fit certain programs. At Temple, John Chaney knows the city of Philadelphia well and he's a perfect fit. Tom Izzo is a blue-collar worker who fits ideally at Michigan State. Mike Krzyzewski fits like a glove at Duke. The same can be said for Brey and Notre Dame."


  2. Great post, spot on.
    I remember my freshman year the last time we hosted midnight madness prior to the season when Coach Brey had a packed JACC fired up for the highly anticipated season that featured Colin Falls dropping bombs and Russell "The Love Muscle" Carter throwing down nasty jams. An unknown freshmen named Tory Jackson quickly became a star at point guard due to his constant hustle and playmaking ability, and another new kid straight out of Small Town, USA named Luke Harangody gradually grew into his role as the BEAST of the Big East.

    That night at midnight madness, Coach Brey randomly selected two students from the crowd to shoot from half-court for $15,000. As someone who could count on one hand how many times I had played basketball in my life (mostly due to height limitations) I was pretty nervous when he picked me. As then Leprechaun Kevin Braun handed me the ball all I was thinking about was not looking like an idiot in front of the crowd. I tossed up my best attempt and I swore it looked true, but sadly it rimmed out. No 15 Gs for me...

    Later on in the season I was wearing my Leprechaun Legion t-shirt in South Dining Hall and someone behind me asked how I was enjoying the season so far. I turned around to see Coach Brey standing there, and we proceeded to have a full conversation about Notre Dame Basketball. He even recognized me from the half court shot, and said he also thought it was going in but that I had to work on my release. Here I am a freshman nobody and the head bball coach of the Fighting Irish (now ranked after knocking off #1 Alabama in a huge upset and my favorite sports memory as a student, but I'll leave that story for another post) is taking the time to have a friendly conversation with me?! That really blew me away.

    Fast forward to 4 years later as I get on the bus following my last official game as the Leprechaun with the band and cheerleaders on our way back to ND from New Orleans. We had just been upset in the 1st round of the tourney, and Coach Brey boards the bus to thank all of us for our support all season long. He then apologizes for the defeat. We give him a standing O right then and there.

    That's just the type of guy Coach Brey is. He is a great Notre Dame Man and a true asset to our university. May the luck of the Fightin' Irish be with him for the rest of his career under the Golden Dome.


2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(