Brey begins to find niche with players
Associate Sports Editor
Sitting in his new office in the Joyce Center, first-year head basketball coach Mike Brey whipped out a National Championship ring from his days at Duke University.
Would Notre Dame find itself in the same situation as it had in July when former coach Matt Doherty left Notre Dame after just one year for his alma mater North Carolina? Would Brey fly the coop if Duke coach Mike Kryzewski decides he’s had enough?
Brey claims that’s not an option. He’s interested in creating his own traditions at Notre Dame.
“They’ve done it there [at Duke],” Brey said. “I’d like to do some Duke stuff here. Between trying to follow Coach Kryzewski and the fact that they’ve done it all there before, can’t we do it here?”
Brey plans to stay at Notre Dame for the long haul, turning the Joyce Center into a place where Final Four teams become commonplace.
“It would be something to try to get it where opposing coaches say, ‘We hate playing at the Joyce Center,’” Brey said, “To be a team that challenges for the Big East Championship.”
Molded at prestigious academic institutions such as Duke, the University of Delaware and DeMatha Catholic High School, it was no stretch for Brey adjusting to the selective admissions requirements at Notre Dame. The first-year Domer is looking forward to getting Notre Dame back onto the East Coast recruiting circuit he’s familiar with from his time at Duke. And he knows Notre Dame isn’t right for just anybody.
“Not every young man is going to be the right fit here,” Brey said. “You’ve got to work a little harder to find a good prospect who’s going to be the right fit and who’s really going to understand what this place is all about and believe in it. It’s not just a factory athletically.”
Eight years beneath the renowned coach Mike Kryzewski at Duke and five years as head coach at Delaware have prepped Brey for the pressure of leading a top-notch Division I program.
“We have somebody in Mike Brey who is a wonderful institutional fit,” athletic director Kevin White said. “I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about Coach Brey and this coaching staff.”
When Brey took over in July as the third Notre Dame basketball coach in three seasons, he knew it would take some effort to win the trust of both his players and the Notre Dame community.
Just over two months later, Brey is well on his way to doing just that. Former coach Doherty is all but forgotten, his name leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many fans.
“Now it’s Coach Brey’s team,” junior power forward Ryan Humphrey said. “He’s going to leave a stamp on Notre Dame where people forget about Coach Doherty. I think we have the right coach for the job.”
From his first days on the job, Brey made an effort to get to know the men on the team, trying to earn their trust and convince them of his sincerity.
After accepting the job on a Friday, Brey flew back to his home state of Delaware. By Saturday night, he was meeting with senior point guard Martin Ingelsby and freshman recruit Torrian Jones, both from nearby Philadelphia.
“Initially I was a little upset that the guy that recruited me and the guy I was comfortable with was leaving,” Jones said. “But Coach Brey called me up the day after getting the job and drove right up to watch when he heard I had a game, without any prior notice or anything.”
Ingelsby, the lone senior on the team, took the transition in stride.
“Coach Brey made the transition really easy for all of us,” Ingelsby said. “He was really honest with us. He’s a great coach and he comes from a great background at Duke. He’s a player’s coach.”
Brey’s definitely the new guiding force behind Notre Dame basketball, but like Ingelsby said, he’s a player’s coach. He plans to allow the team some freedom to lead themselves.
“Martin and Troy [Murphy], it’s their team,” Brey said of his two captains. “It’s important to get teams to take ownership of themselves. This team has already kind of done that. They’ve run themselves when there’s nobody at the helm.”
In steering the Irish to a successful season, the No. 1 goal is a berth in the NCAA Tournament, hopefully followed by a deep run in the tourney.
“Our goal has to be to be high-fiving on Selection Sunday,” Brey said. “I think I can help with that. After last season, there are expectations, and we’ve got to back that up. I think this group’s ready to do that.”
All Sports Stories for Thursday, August 24, 2000