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Notre Dame Football

Inside A Plane Ride With Mike Brey And Marcus Freeman

June 29, 2022

Mike Brey and Marcus Freman had met in passing, but the two Notre Dame head coaches had yet to have an extensive conversation.

That changed last week as Brey and Freeman shared a two-hour plane ride from South Bend, Indiana, to New York. Brey was headed to Brooklyn to support his first one-and-done, Blake Wesley, at the NBA Draft, while Freeman attended an event for Notre Dame's Law School.

"I finally got some quality time with our new football coach," Brey laughed on Tuesday afternoon. "We got two hours to talk. He got the job a year ago as defensive coordinator and he's off and running. We're over here running.

"He gets the head coaching job, and I went over to this press conference. I never got to meet the man, and I felt bad. We talked for 10 minutes at the reception before Don Bishop's retirement and then we got two hours the other night in the air, which was great."

Freeman had also wanted to sit down with Brey and the plane ride proved to be worth the wait.

"It was the first time I ever got to interact with him for an extended period of time," explained Freeman to ISD on Monday afternoon. "It was really cool to get a chance to spend some time with him. He's got stories for days. He's been through so many football coaches here - to hear his stories, it was quite the opportunity."

Brey, who has been at Notre Dame since 2000, has seen many changes to college athletics, including athletics moving its department-wide offices out of the Joyce Center, which used to allow coaches to get to know each other.

Notre Dame has seen six head football coaches named during Brey's time and that's where he started his stories.

"I'm the old guard, man," Brey said, chuckling again at the memories. "I told him about the George O'Leary press conference and my son still has a shirt 'By George It's O'Leary.'

"We were telling Charlie Weis stories because my son worked for him at Kansas. We got great Charlie Weis stories. We were going through it all."

Perhaps the story that stuck out the most was due to coaches mixing in the Joyce Center.

Urban Meyer knocked on Brey's office door and asked for a few minutes.

I told him to come on in and he says, 'What do you think about Bowling Green for me?,'" recalled Brey. “It caught me off guard, so I said, 'Urban, I don't know if I can give you any advice on the football world, but I will say, would going to Bowling Green be like when I left Duke to go to Delaware?'

"It was a great experience because I left a major program and I went to a mid-major to learn how to coach and make mistakes in front of 2,000 people instead of 15,000 people.

"I ran into him at Dick Vitale's event about four years ago and he goes, 'Bowling Green, man. You told me to do it.'"

Freeman's path to becoming Notre Dame's head coach skipped the Bowling Green stop, but he appreciated the humor.

"It worked out pretty well, so Marcus was laughing about that," Brey said. "Our schedules and paths are different, so it was really neat to spend some time with him. I'm thrilled for him.”

For Freeman, the time getting to know Brey was priceless as it wasn't so much about learning but finding perspective from someone who has seen it all at Notre Dame.

"It was more of getting to know each other," said Freeman. "I didn't realize he had been here for so long. He's seen so much and has so much insight on this place. The perspective he brings - it's a big picture perspective.

"You think about a man that's been here 20-something years and the different things he's gone through, it makes you continue to pull back and see things through a different lens."

Brey saw a young coach who not only embraces Notre Dame, but one who will work for it.

"He really knows our place and our mission," Brey explained. "He gets it and embraces it. I think that's really smart because the coaches that have had success here in football or any sport - our mission is a little bit different and you better embrace it, or you're going to beat your head against the wall and be angry.

"For a guy who has really only been here a short period of time, Marcus really gets it and sees it as a positive as I have always done."

Brey also pointed out that he has noticed Freeman's desire to recruit for Notre Dame.

"The recruiting over there is fabulous to date," said Brey, Notre Dame’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach. "He's young and he just loves to recruit. If you don't love to recruit, I don't care if you're 38 or 63 like me, if you can't get into that mode, you better get out. I've always said that to myself. When I can't get juiced up to be on the road and everything, then you have to get out. He just is really wired on that front.

"It's really about talent acquisition now at our level. You have to get dudes. The Xs and Os, your staff can handle a lot of that. You can hire really good people, but you better get dudes. He gets it."

As for the next time the two will be able to meet up, it might be a while, but both are looking forward to it.

"It was really enjoyable," said Brey. "We left it well, maybe we can get to dinner if we have a break. When I have a break, he's in fall camp and when he has a break, I'm playing in March, but I'll be there on the sidelines in September supporting our head coach."

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