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.