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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | March 15

March 15, 2022

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey spoke in Dayton as the Irish prepare for the First Four game on Wednesday night. 

On being in the NCAA Tournament:
“Absolutely honored to be here and to be part of this. We've missed it in recent years. And I've missed it desperately. And to be back in it, we're thrilled. We're honored. We didn't overanalyze seeds or anything like that.

“But I think we felt we had a pretty strong resumé, finishing second in the league, that we were going to have a shot at this thing and that's all you can ask.”

On Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell:
“This is my fifth Rutgers basketball coach I'll coach against. The only program that's had more coaches in my tenure is Notre Dame football. They've had six. (Laughter).

“I know this Rutgers program well. I know the game is not in the RAC. I've got some bad nightmares coming out of there. Steve Pikiell is one of the most gifted coaches in our profession. You know a little bit of my relationship with Chris Christie, Governor Christie. He was a Delaware guy, and we got to know each other back in the day. Both his daughters have been managers for me.

“When he called me and said we have a chance to get this guy Pikiell from Stony Brook, I said, send the plane and give him 10 years. This guy will stabilize it and then he'll build it. And he absolutely did. He's an old-school, throwback b-ball coach, and utmost respect for him. And he's got one heck of a tough team that's tough like him.”

When you're in the business, and as long as I've been in it, you watch and you listen, especially when we -- the pandemic knocked us out of being on the road in the summer. That's when you rub shoulders with guys and you get to know them, and you're sitting at a game with them, and he's watching one dude and you're watching another.

On playing against Pikiell at Stony Brook:
”Certainly I remember him -- he was at my alma mater at GW. When I was on the road I used to ask, how is Foggy Bottom. Always impressed with him. Impressed with the toughness and how hard his group plays.

“And just there was a consistency and a stability. He is who he is every day. And this is what we're going to do. And certainly it's what Rutgers needed at the time. And it's been magical for them. And, again, I've had a lot of Big East flashbacks watching their team play, seeing clips from the RAC, tough guys, physical guys, old guys.

“We used to go up and down I-95. Here come the Seton Hall guys. They look like the Rutgers guys. Here they come, coming at our lane, coming at our throat. So that's been kind of cool to think back through the Big East memories with them.”

On emotions of getting back to the Tournament:
“I've missed the logos. I've missed -- yesterday we stretched to the song "One Shining Moment." I've missed all that. I'm channeling all of it as much as I can, and trying to help our guys with it, to enjoy it.

“And as much as we want to win and we're going to be hungry, I don't want us uptight. I want us to smile a little bit when we're playing. I'll be smiling on the sideline tomorrow because these are opportunities you don't get much playing in this thing.”

On educating team on First Four history:
“When I had them at my house on Sunday, you watch all the projections. And the Rutgers people went through it with us. We're here. Are we out, are we in. We're all trying to wonder. And I had my assistant, I said print up people that have used the First Four in the last six, seven years as a springboard.

“And certainly UCLA and Mick Cronin last year beating Michigan State and moving on. I remember the VCU team because we were in Chicago with them when they jump-started out of Chicago. We beat Akron, lost to Florida State. And you're going, God, they're pretty good. And all of a sudden they're in it.

“I just want them to have a little bit of a reference point. I told them, I said if we get it done, we're flying right to San Diego after the game and we're hanging and sleep is extremely overrated during the NCAA Tournament time.”

On what Notre Dame worked on since the ACC Tournament:
“What we watched on Saturday was our 10 turnovers in the first half against Virginia Tech. We have been really good taking care of the ball. Now, that's going to be a challenge tomorrow night, because these guys are crafty. They're crafty gamblers, you know. They reach.

“It's I-95, man. It's like Riverside Church and the Gauchos. You ever watched them play in the summer? They're picking guys' pockets from behind. I've lived it all and I'm watching and I'm going, oh, yeah.

“We have to be really good with the ball. And we can't turn the ball over like that. We've been very efficient offensively this year. We've been smart at controlling tempo. That's very much going to be a key. And one of the keys is going to be can you guard your own guy, because these guys will square up on you and they're going to take you off the dribble. Can you stay in front of your own guy and play one-on-one defense?”

On being a First Four team despite finishing second in the ACC:
“I kidded, maybe I jinxed myself. A month ago, I said, I know the ACC has taken on a lot of water, I said am I in the America East again? Am I in a one-bid league? I actually felt I was in the America East, the way that everybody was talking. I said, we better get the one bid like I did when I was in Delaware those two years.

“You look and go, god, we were 19-5 since Indiana, but I was mentally prepared, like, whatever showed up on Sunday for the kids' sake, because only Paul Atkinson has played in this tournament -- turn it and embrace it and be ready to go.

“Some of my assistants, I hear them talking about, they're 10 -- and Rutgers is doing the same. Us and Rutgers. Anytime you're in this you're going wait a minute, that 10 seed, you know. Probably we're both saying, Michigan, what? (Laughter). Anyways, we're thrilled to be here. And I know Steve is too.” 

On Rutgers guard Ron Harper Jr.:
“He's a great story. I remember him a little bit on the circuit and was typical of what Steve has done and we've kind of done it a similar way. Maybe guys that aren't recruited at a super high level, you get them in your program and get him better.

“And his nucleus is that. And Ron is the epitome of that. I think he got himself in great shape. He's gotten himself in great shape. But there's a feel for the game, good size. And he's earned all of it. He had to come and grind to get there.

“Really both these teams playing last night, again Rutgers had the experience last year. Hell, they were in the tournament when it was shut down. They were a three-year NCAA Tournament team. And we lost some momentum there when we were the first team out. And I'll tell you what, that one stings, when you're first. Anthony Grant's around here, I'd go hug him.

“We've been scratching and clawing to get back. But both nucleuses of kids have had to work their way, scratch their way to this. I think it's a good story for both teams.

On early ACC Tournament exit making the team hungry:
“I would think so. We were very disappointed in how we performed there. Come to find out, that team that beat us -- funny story, when I hired Anthony Solomon back here last spring, which was a key hire for us, he said tell me about the league. I said Virginia Tech. He said, what? Duke -- I said Virginia Tech.

“They've had our number and they've not been a great matchup for us. So we really respect them. But just how we, our shot selection, our turnovers, being loose with the ball was disappointing. And it's something we've addressed. And it's something that, against a team that can turn you over, we've got to be really good with it.”

On Blake Wesley not showing emotion on Selection Sunday:
“It's a neat story, isn't it? It's kind of a neat story. And Blake, I think Blake's year has been even better because he's been playing against, and again tomorrow night, old guys all year. College basketball has gotten old because of the transfer portal and granting the extra year and two teams. But this is a guy that came in as a legit 18-year-old, and against a lot of old guards in the ACC, he was really good.

“He's the hardest on himself. So I want him to bounce back and smile and not feel like he has the weight of the world. He doesn't feel he has to carry us. Those seniors have really helped him. But you're right, thankfully our name flashed up within the first five minutes because I have been in tense locker rooms. I've never been in a tense -- my house has never been tenser as we're sitting there.

“I'm sitting there going, what's the speech if we don't get in? Because there's no way we were playing in the NIT. There's no way. There's no way I could have got these guys to play in the NIT. And I know I probably shouldn't say that because the NCAA owns it. There's no way.

“So we pushed all the chips to the middle of the table and I was tight as a drum. That's why I smoked a cigar after Selection Sunday. I needed something.”

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Mike Brey Notebook | March 15

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