Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

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

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Page 33 of 47

34 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI N ot that any confirmation was really needed, but Notre Dame men's basketball head coach Mike Brey told Jeff Goodman of Stadium on March 17 he will "100 percent be back in South Bend next season and is looking forward to get- ting the Irish back to NCAA tourney." The longest-tenured coach in Notre Dame men's basketball history, Brey finished the 2021 campaign with an 11-15 record that was capped by his largest margin of defeat, 101-59 to North Carolina in the ACC Tourna- ment March 10. After only one losing campaign in his first 18 seasons (15-17 in 2013-14), Brey experienced the throes of his sec- ond finish under .500 in the past three campaigns, also posting a 14-19 led- ger at the end of the 2019 campaign. He followed up that losing year with a 20-12 mark in 2020, improv- ing from 3-15 to 10-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, before the season ended prematurely during the ACC Tournament because of the CO- VID-19 pandemic. At the time, Notre Dame was barely considered to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble. In his first 17 seasons from 2001-17, Brey steered the Irish to 12 NCAA Tournament bids, highlighted by ad- vancements to the Elite Eight in 2015 — the year it won the ACC title — and 2016. Brey turned 62 on March 22 and has a contract through the 2024-25 season. In the summer of 2019, he discussed with Blue & Gold Illustrated his future. "I love being around it and I know I miss it when I'm not," he said. "I love being around the kids, and I have older, veteran coaches telling me, 'Don't re- tire. Ride it as long as you can.' "Well, I'm not going to ride it if I'm faking it, or if I'm not productive. Believe me, I will be, 'You need a new voice, you need new blood.' I'm not going to go kicking and screaming." Next year, Brey will have perhaps the oldest and most experienced team in Division I college basketball with seven seniors, including 6-10 Yale graduate transfer Paul Atkinson, the Ivy League co-Player of the Year in 2019-20. The Ivy League canceled its 2020-21 season. "I'm also realistic about the big picture of things; you want to be ef- fective here," Brey said earlier this year. "I don't need to be told if I'm not being effective. I'm a pretty good judge of that." Following the fiasco versus North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, Brey acknowledged that an NCAA Tournament bid in 2022, the pro- gram's first since 2017, is a mandate. "I told them, 'A year from this Selec- tion Sunday, our goal should be to see our name flash up,'" he said. "That's the crossroads we're at, absolutely." FAMILIAR PATH Brey joined two other Notre Dame coaches to achieve consecutive ad- vancements to the Elite Eight. Line In The Sand The 2021-22 campaign will have many big-picture implications Head coach Mike Brey has not led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament since 2017 and has acknowledged that earning a berth in the Big Dance in 2022 is a must for his program. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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