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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | 1.20

January 20, 2023

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey has announced he will retire following the 2022-23 season and spoke on Friday morning. 

Opening statement:
“So I’ve got to step down to get the football press conference room? That’s unbelievable. I finally got over here. I finally got over here. Appreciate you all being here and it's not something that, thinking about moving on to the next chapter is something I've thought about (much, but) actually thought about it on the plane a little bit coming back from San Diego, because that may have been a good time. But we had the seniors coming back, we had a heck of a young class coming in and I said, let's go back to work and do it. 

“But about a month ago, Jim (Fraleigh)  and I spoke a little bit and I said, Jim, you know, I think it's time for a new voice at Notre Dame. I've had 23 years. It's unbelievable. It's been amazing, but I firmly believe you know, down the road, it needs to be somebody else. And so let's really seriously talk about that.

“Jack (Swarbrick) and I talked about it this last week and felt now was the time to kind of do that and another thing, I fully own 1-7 in the league right now. We are where we are. We want to get running and get moving. It’s amazing the lengths you will go to announce that you’re leaving to beat the Jesuits. It’s really amazing the stuff you’ll pull off to try to get them.” 

On it being the right time to retire:
”I think it can be a distraction…what’s going on? Is he coming back? Do they want him to come back? I just want our guys to try to focus and play. My thought was: why don’t we give some clarification to this thing right now and see if it helps our group and quite frankly help Notre Dame. That they can get into the process of getting some advanced notice on the search. I’m fully available and Jack and I have talked about helping get the next person. I think that’s a big responsibility for me to help hire the next ‘right’ coach here.”

On what he hopes people will remember about his time at Notre Dame;
“When it comes down to people asking about legacy—with these seniors—that’ll be 72 young men that have come through and have finished their degree. That’s like 72 sons. I’ve heard from a lot of them in the last 24 hours. Those relationships are the key. 

“We've also had some disappointing losses and disappointing seasons, but it's about the guys and the relationships, and I'm looking forward to reunion down the road when we can get a bunch of my guys back because we got a lot of stories.” 

On getting the sense over the last few weeks that this was his final year at Notre Dame:
“I think it's a cumulative effect. When you look back —you guys probably have the stats—from 2000 to 2017, we went to 12 NCAA tournaments and since 2018, we've been the one. That's how you measured man, and I felt we lost momentum.

“It was awesome to get us back last year and that was an amazing experience. To go and win two games in the NCAA tournament. As I looked at the big picture and look moving forward, I just thought, I just think a new voice is needed. And so the accumulation of you know, we miss with Bonzie (Colson) and we're first team out: karma has been kind of weird since that, let's be honest. And we battled and we fought and we've and last year was awesome. And we did some things to do it (to get in). But you know, you're measured by that. We all know what we signed up for, in this profession, and so little bit cumulative.” 

On if he was simply not able to find the juice to pull Notre Dame out of the hole this year:
“I think that's a part of it. I mean, you got the energy to finish with this group. And I want to finish with this group actually these seniors. We actually talked this summer a little bit—and I may have been talking to myself a little bit when we did it—I said, Hey, guys, let's make one last run together. I may use the phrase ‘last dance.; Let’s make one last run together because I may go out with you guys too. 

“We had a really good freshman class coming in love those kids, but there was timing-wise and you know, when you're at a place 23 years, I mean, you can get some fatigue of the routine at the place you're at a little bit. It just is what it is. As I thought about it. a lot over Christmas, I just felt that there just needs to be…It's time for new person. And again, I'm kind of excited about my next chapter. I have no idea what the hell it's gonna be. But I'm excited about that and relocating probably somewhere else. 23 South Bend winters probably been enough.”

On what he thought his end game would and what kept him at Notre Dame knowing football would always be king:
“I think the kind of young men—and so appreciate my guys here today. You skipping class by the way? Probably? Probably. (Looking at team) He can't go on probation in grad school though can you? I got six graduates, come on man. The makeup of the young people that you get to work with here, and I see a lot support. I appreciate some of our fellow coaches here—that’s why we've got a lot of long-term people here and here with me, and that's why we're here man. 

“It's just unbelievable young people to work with and then you know, you kind of made the program yours, you put your name on it, And then it was like, well, I don't want to reinvent at another place and I always felt this would be the last job and it obviously is.” 

On the press release saying he was stepping down and not retiring:
“Retiring from coaching at Notre Dame. I wouldn't rule out being around young people and teaching and coaching again. I don't think I want to jump back into that next year. But you know, take some time to think about it. 

“One of the things Jack and I talked about that was very exciting. and Father John (Jenkins) and I was still being part of Notre Dame and helping and being part of things and I would be honored to do that. I've been so honored man, and I know what got my fellow coaches here. You're out on your rounds and you're the Notre Dame basketball coach. That's a hell of an honor, for 23 years to be identified like that, so I would be really honored to work and I think the first thing we need to work on is, Jack and I get in the next great one here to keep us going.”

On the top moment of his time at Notre Dame:
“Certainly when you win an ACC Championship on Tobacco Road, going through Duke and Carolina was pretty damn good, right? That was pretty good. Those Elite Eights were great, but there's also moments with your guys and different things. When you're talking to them, or going through stuff with them, that are highlights that never become public and type of thing, but (the ACC Championship), that was our second year in the league and we were able to win the tournament down there on their turf. Maybe we can get a little magic back in Greensboro when we go down here in two months.”

On what he would tell his successor:
“It’s a great job. This is a great basketball job. It’s got everything it needs, we have that practice facility now. Unbelievable support. You’re playing in a great conference. It’s a great coaching job. Then I’ll recruit him from there. Or her, you never know.” 

On the essential keys to win at Notre Dame:
“I mean you know we've really done it with guys that have high basketball IQ and skill set and skill level. You know, I think you could also you can always work to get a little more athletic here it's it's probably something we hear a lot. I think I hear with football recruiting sometimes you know, when I read some of their stuff, but we've kind of done it with guys that know how to play older guys are going to stick around and grow with you and grow up with you. That's kind of been the MO I don't think that. I don't think that changes. Certainly adding transfers our whole athletic department have picked those off at strategic times and certain basketball certainly has those opportunities.” 

On the hardest point of making this decision:
“​​​​​​​I think around Christmas when Jim and I talked, it was just an overall gut feel moving forward that I want to sprint like heck and finish this season and then it was just it just time. You do have some fatigue at a place and I'm thinking, like, I think it's fair to everybody involved to be upfront and let everybody know where we are and the timing of this. Again, I think it helps, I think it helps on a lot of fronts.”

On how he wants to be remembered: 
“When I took the job in 2000, I didn’t know we hadn’t been in 10 years. I knew there was a dip here at Notre Dame basketball but I didn't know (how long). I really got out here and that was like ‘God it's been 10?' That's kind of amazing. We got back 12 of 17 and it was a pretty good run. We were getting there pretty regularly and winning a game. It's neat to say you get in, but they need to win a game in the postseason too. 

“And so that that was always the thing: can we get in back-to-back? And we got back and can we get this thing where we’re in regularly? Can we get in regularly after Notre Dame had a 10-year drought? 

“I remember in ’99 I didn't make the cut (to be hired). You know, I really tried to get the job. And in ’99 and Bubba Cunningham and Mike Wadsworth, God rest his soul, hired Matt (Doherty) and thank God Matt left in a year. Missy (Conboy) called me—I don't know if Missy is in here?—she called me. She called me at my office and said, I'll never forget, she goes ‘Coach’—she was like, ‘Well, you know, you probably wouldn't be interested.’ 

“I said, Missy, I'm still interested. I think I'm a great fit. Where do I need to be? She said you need to be in DC tomorrow at eight o'clock. I said ‘I'm there we'll do it.’

“Just some memories there, but you know, being back in it (the NCAA Tournament) and that's why last year was important. That’s what gives you, really, your credibility as a program when you can be there pretty regularly.”

On his emotions following Tuesday’s loss to Florida State:
“We’re working like heck to flip the script. We got nothing to lose. We are trying—we want to win an ACC game on Saturday and then go on a road NC State and play it out. I think maybe it can clear some speculation with some heads-up and we can just move forward and play. As a staff, we're trying to figure out how to help our guys better, and it's not like not the first time we've been (down). I've been pushed up, we’ve been pushed up against the wall and trying to dig out of it, and it's motivating and I think our guys are extremely motivated to do . 

“We're all joined at the hip to do it, especially the seniors, especially seniors.”

On his pride in his tenure at Notre Dame:
“I hope I've been—I think I've been—pretty low maintenance, man. Just put your head down and work and you know, (lamenting) well we don't have this, or we don't have that, or they … (no) we just worked man. When you're dealing with (Jim) Boeheim and (Jim) Calhoun and Jay Wright, I don't have time to fight people on campus. I'm dealing with them year round. So my feeling was, everybody's gonna do the best they can and let's do it. 

“I've been lucky with two administrators, Kevin White and Jack, who've, you know, what do you need, how can we help. So my feeling has always been, ‘Just Work. Keep your head down.

“The Pit was great, I loved hiding in The Pit back in the day. But if those walls could talk. Oh My God if those walls could talk.” 

On the traits that are important for the next head coach at Notre Dame:
“The climate of college athletics and college basketball is certainly different with NIL and the transfer portal. And you have to be really energized to manage that and attack that. And I think that would be the first thing. Certainly college athletics may get back on the tracks, we have new leadership, it's going to be interesting to see over the next couple years I'd love to help with that. You know, I offer my services to try and help with that. I've been part of the NABC board and you know, we tried to help with some things. 

“But that's a big, big part of it, and then understanding the mission here. Understanding what this place is all about and embracing it. And you know, I firmly believe I think I've done that I've loved it. I've been honored to be here, but the climate moving forward—and I‘m excited to talk about candidates at the right time about this—the climate moving forward in within our mission. Well, let's talk about that, because it’s, it’s different. It's different.” 

On when he fully embraced Notre Dame does things differently:
“In ’99 when I was a finalist I just felt I was a great fit given my background. I had those years at Duke and understanding being at a great school and how to recruit to it and so I felt there was a really good fit. 

“I will say this though, in 99 and then even in 2000, South Bend Indiana to an East Coast guy was like, ‘How far out is that?’ But the biggie saved me because it was connected to the Big East. I was like, yeah, it's kind of east coast. And yeah (east coast) yeah. So we play in DC and Jersey and Philly? And I can go back there and recruit? Okay, I can work with this. And so, you know, I'm an honorary Michianander now. I'm sure with 23 years, but you know that that was a big part of it.”

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Mike Brey Notebook | 1.20

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