Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 AUGUST 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY PATRICK ENGEL M ike Brey had not seen his staff in nearly three months, and the angst was boiling over. He needed a solution, and found one. Every Wednesday since early June, Brey and his assistants have met for lunch on the Brothers Bar and Grill patio. There have been zero discus- sions about the upcoming season or the prior one ended by pandemic, he said. For him, it's therapeutic. It's a fine holdover until Aug. 1, when Brey will see his entire team for the first time since mid-March. That day can't arrive any faster for him. "What you really miss is the young people energizing you, just being around them, their personalities and the relationship part of it," Brey said. Still, the 61-year-old Brey is not blind to the health challenges this basketball season could bring and the risks of doing a job based on a college campus — an atmosphere where even university leaders expect COVID-19 cases to appear after stu- dents come back. The risks have led the health experts advising universi- ties to recommend professors over a certain age to teach courses online. Many of those recommendations suggest professors 65 or older stay off campus. Dr. Jon McCullers, a pandemic expert who chaired the task force that established reopening guidelines for the University of Ten- nessee System, sees greatly increased risk of death from COVID-19 at age 55 and older. "That's not that old for a college professor," said McCullers, an as- sociate dean at Tennessee's college of medicine. "Part of the idea of of- fering a hybrid model is professors should be able to make a decision on if they want to be there." It's also not that old for a college basketball coach. The ACC alone has five coaches who will be at least 70 when campuses reopen this fall. The dangers for older professors are pres- ent for older coaches, too. The deci- sion to coach this season will be left to the coaches themselves. "There's risk there and they ought to be careful," McCullers said. Brey is willing to take it, but he has considered the drawbacks. A typical day of coaching can involve huddles, locker room talks, practices and film sessions in tight quarters. There is also travel and exposure to another team. Because universities cannot control every student's every move- ment on their campuses, a bubble like the one the NBA designed at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., for its restart in late July is impossible to create. "When 6,000 or 7,000 students roll back into South Bend and campus, that's going to be interesting," Brey said. "I feel like I'm taking care of myself and my health is good. I'm not sitting there and looking para- noid. But there are times you think about it and go, 'Hey, you're 61 and had a [heart] issue 12 years ago.' "Right now, I have so much energy that I want to teach and run a prac- tice that I might pass out from excite- ment. That's basically my mindset on it." 'CONFIDENT MOVING FORWARD' Part of Brey's eagerness to return centers around the chances the vi- rus has already run its course with him. Upon Notre Dame's arrival in Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC Tour- nament, he felt ill. Nothing he experi- enced was a direct COVID-19 symp- tom, he said, but he was operating at less than 100 percent. He's not ruling out the idea that he had it. "We got down there on a Sunday night; I didn't have a lot of energy, I was aching," Brey said. "I didn't have any of the breathing [problems] or fever, but it was the run-down flu symptoms on steroids. Then you play the Boston College game and you're sweating, and then you have Virginia. We came back and I was hurting the next week. I think there's a chance. "I didn't get tested at that time and I got through it, I'm fine. I called my doctor and he said, 'If you don't have a breathing problem or a temperature, there's no need to do anything. Just keep an eye on yourself and rest.'" Brey took an antibody finger-prick test in June, and the results were negative. Still, he's not ruling out the idea he had some form of the virus. In the months since the season ended, Brey has kept up a regular swimming and Pilates routine. He tweaked his diet and thinks he's in his best shape of the last five years. He speaks of his current state with a small aura of invincibility, but mea- sured with an acceptance of the un- known. Brey's 21st season as Notre Dame's head coach is going to look and feel different than all the others. PHOT0 COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA FULL SPEED AHEAD The 61-year-old Mike Brey is going to coach this year, but is keeping an eye on how to stay safe and mitigate risk

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