MEN'S BASKETBALL: Banquet honors program
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Senior Staff Writer
"Back Where We Belong" was the theme of the annual Notre Dame Men's Basketball Banquet Wednesday night.
Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.
Back to winning a Tournament game for the first time since 1989.
Back to the national rankings, as the Irish finished the season 23rd in the final USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll.
Back in the national limelight, as Notre Dame won the Big East West Division title, its first league championship, hanging the banner at Wednesday's banquet.
The Irish got back where they belong behind the work of a host of players and behind-the-scenes figures honored at the banquet. The most important keys to this year's success were first-year coach Mike Brey, senior captain and point guard Martin Ingelsby and junior All-American Troy Murphy.
"Long-term, you will see that we have the best coach in the country here at Notre Dame," athletic director Kevin White said of Brey Wednesday.
Brey joined the Irish on July 14 to replace Matt Doherty as the third men's basketball coach in as many seasons, leading the team to a 20-10 overall record in his first year, good enough to achieve the No. 1 goal of an NCAA Tournament bid. The Irish went 11-5 in the Big East, besting .500 for the first time since they joined the league.
"There's a handful of institutions in the country — not many — that make a coach better, and this is one of them," Brey said.
The new Irish coach awarded NCAA Tournament watches to the team, noting that 61 teams (with the 64-team tourney pool expanded to 65) receive the watches. He pointed out that the other four tourney qualifiers, the ones that make it to the Final Four, earn rings.
Brey plans to stick around as the Irish work towards earning rings and make sure there won't be four coaches in four seasons.
"I guarantee I'll be standing here next spring," he said.
Doherty's departure made room for Ingelsby's return to the starting lineup. The 6-foot senior started throughout his first two seasons beneath head coach John MacLeod, before losing that spot to Jimmy Dillon when Doherty came on board.
Ingelsby, asked to give senior remarks, thanked his parents and Coach MacLeod before acknowledging a couple more distant benefactors.
"I also want to thank a couple guys who couldn't be here tonight — Roy Williams, Larry Brown, Eddie Fogler — a couple of guys who made this year so enjoyable," Ingelsby said, mentioning several candidates who were ahead of Doherty in line for the North Carolina coaching job.
Ingelsby, who won the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne-Student Award with a 3.405 GPA last semester in marketing, went on to thank Brey and his teammates and pledge a return to Notre Dame.
"Wherever I am next year, I'll be sure to be rooting for you guys," Ingelsby said. "Hopefully I'll be back here someday."
As this year's starting point guard, Ingelsby ranked among the top 10 nationally in assists, posting the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big East at 3.16. He averaged 8.2 points and 6.4 assists for the Irish.
Ingelsby now heads to the Port Smith camp, a camp for NBA and other professional league prospects. If playing doesn't work out, he plans to coach, with Notre Dame a goal in his future.
"One day, my goal is to get him back here on our coaching staff," Brey said, "and sooner rather than later.
Murphy won the Notre Dame National Monogram Club MVP Award after becoming the fourth player in Big East history to win multiple Player of the Year awards. He also became the only Notre Dame men's basketball player besides Adrian Dantley to be a two-time consensus All-American selection.
"I certainly believe his drive and his will drove us back to the NCAA Tournament," Brey said.
The 6-foot-11 power forward is debating whether to head to the NBA or remain in school for his senior year.
Senior reserve Hans Rasmussen was also honored.
Rasmussen came to Notre Dame on scholarship as a freshman, left Notre Dame for the University of Portland and returned to Notre Dame to complete his career.
"I want to thank Coach Brey and his staff for allowing me to finish the dream that I started," Rasmussen said.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, April 5, 2001