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Notre Dame Basketball

Brey to team: 'You're going to have all the ammo'

July 20, 2021

As visuals, it was hearkening to a military cliché as Mike Brey discussed the dramatic changes Tuesday to his Notre Dame basketball staff since the 2020-21 season concluded.

Brey referenced a lack of munitions for his Fighting Irish program and pointed the finger at himself to rectify the situation.

Notre Dame's all-time winningest coach is hoping that he's done just that with a staff revamp that includes the return of heralded assistant Anthony 'Coach Slo' Solomon, as well as Antoni Wyche.

This comes on the heels of Notre Dame's dismissal last fall of former assistant coach Ryan Ayers.

“We were a man down this season,” Brey said in reference to Ayers, whose post was temporarily filled last season by Scott Martin, who's returned to working with Irish personnel. “And that didn't help, even though everybody did the best they could through the pandemic and guys in different roles.

“But as I fought through the winter, I said, 'We have to come back with all the ammunition.' That's actually the theme that I've given the group. I used the example, I've got a great trainer now in Nixon (Dorvilien). That first floor (of the Rolfs Athletics Hall), we get that first floor humming. We've got our academic support through the roof. We've got Alan (Wasielewski) handling you guys, maybe you don't agree with me but I think he does a great job. But I said, 'That third floor up there, where we were, and we were a man down, I've got to give them the best.'”

Brey said he told his players that he would address the shortcomings.

“I told them that. I said, 'You're going to have all the ammo,'” Brey told reporters Tuesday inside Rolfs, after the ninth of the Notre Dame's 10 scheduled summer practices. “Because they want to be coached. We moved chairs around. The guys who have moved around have been like, 'Hey, we've got to do this for the team. This is what we're doing.'

“Certainly the two new guys bring some energy and a different perspective. And it's been very good for me, personally, too. I needed that.”

Martin and Rod Balanis, who occupied Brey's top assistant's chair for several seasons, have transitioned into roles overseeing the program's personnel and scouting. Harold Swanagan now is an assistant athletics director with a focus on student development.

“We're full staff,” Brey said. “We got all the ammo. I thought back when we were a man down and Ohio State came in here (last season). Didn't they have like 11 guys in polo shirts all over the baseline? I don't want to have that many, but this thing with NIL and analytics and advance scouting, we gotta have more. Jim and Jack were like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' I like where we are mid-July.”

Coach Slo said he's seen in Brey an instant impact from the program reboot.

“I can see it in his walk. In his talk,” Solomon said. “I think he's got a great bounce to his step. He knows we've got a lot of work to get done, but we've got a nice core nucleus here right now that's gotten punched several times. And I think we've got a group, they're excited for the opportunity to get going for this upcoming season. They know it's not going to be easy, but what I've seen through five weeks is that they're willing. They've been willing students with regards to the game of basketball towards getting better.

“It's all about being connected. Player to player, player to coach and then us as a group of adults working with young people. We've all got a responsibility and we've got to uphold it.”

Solomon has been front-and-center in Notre Dame's summer efforts not to rebuild but simply to build, as Brey said, a defensive identity.

The veteran assistant likewise wants to rebuild the steady success that shined through 12 NCAA Tournament appearances for the program from 2001-2017, including nine of the final 11 seasons in that span.

Notre Dame suffered through an 11-15 campaign a year ago and has lost 61 games since the onset of the 2017-18 season.

“The edge that I spoke about was being a part of it again where we can be consistently good again at Notre Dame,” Solomon said. “We've all got that common goal to play in March, but you've got to earn your way to play in March. That excited me, that got my juices flowing again.”


Brey said the Irish may start trying to get Robby Carmody more active at the end of August as Carmody, a fourth-year player, attempts yet another return from injury.

Carmody missed the entire 2020-21 campaign after he required surgery for a fractured patella during his return from surgery after he suffered a season-ending ACL tear during the 2019-20 season.

Brey likewise said the Irish expected to officially open preseason practice October 1.

He noted that he had been out recruiting with his staff five of the past six weekends and was scheduled to be out this coming weekend as well. Brey said the Irish need a larger signing class, as they're scheduled to graduate seven players from their current roster, and planned to host major official visit weekends to coincide with Notre Dame's first two home football games, Sept. 11 vs. Toledo and Sept. 18 vs. Purdue.


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