Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM APRIL 2023 45 MEN'S BASKETBALL what fit the type of student-athletes we were recruiting to Notre Dame," said Martin Ingelsby, a former Brey guard and assistant who's now the head coach at Delaware. The Irish might not have matched NBA talent with most teams, but they collected the right mix of talent that meshed. They wouldn't beat them- selves. They made sound decisions. Notre Dame usually had the shooters to stress defenses, a forward to comple- ment them and guards with passing in- stincts. There were few ball-stoppers or possession-enders. Upperclassmen were aplenty. "Teams can talk about sharing the ball in November and December, but can you share the ball in February and March?" Balanis said. "We did that. Guys bought into that." That was, in essence, Brey's system, and not just in the X-and-O sense. It was a mindset. A lifestyle. The best way to teach and ingrain it was to get on the court and play. More five-on-five, less drill work. Just … play. "Guys were excited to come to prac- tice every day, because it was going to be a fun experience, they were going to get up and down," Ingelsby said. "Mike was going to coach us but have some freedom to let us play." The skill in Brey's approach was not letting freedom turn into inmates run- ning the asylum. These were, after all, still college students. When Brey needed to zag and push a different but- ton, he did. He banned one of Cornette's teams from the locker room for a week of practice and let undergrad intramural teams use it as a way of reigniting "edge and grit" during a bumpy stretch of the season. "I don't know how many times he kicked the team out of practice," for- mer Notre Dame play-by-play radio announcer Jack Nolan said. "There are a few white boards across the country that are no longer in one piece." Brey's curveballs worked, though, be- cause players knew they had a leash. They could misstep and know it wasn't an automatic ticket to the bench at the next timeout. He was stern when neces- sary, but not to the point where it erased the looseness that became his team's overarching theme. Being loose is a phi- losophy, yes, but it's also a persona. Brey oozed it to the point where it was not just his trait, but also the program's. "That's a social skill he has outside the game, inside the game, inside the locker room," Cornette said. "Just in life, he's a relationship guy. He's good at getting people to disarm and engage." EMBRACING HIS PLACE Coaching basketball at a football school is a daily lesson in humility, at least for those who want to avoid ran- kling their bosses. Brey, though, had enough reason to raise a fuss. He in- herited a dated, drab arena. The team's weight room was on the other side of the old Joyce Center from its locker room. It practiced in "The Pit," a non-exclusive facility buried below the arena. "We had what we had, man, and we had to make it work," Balanis said. All the while, Brey kept rolling. Kept winning. Kept his mouth shut publicly. Even turned less-than-ideal circum- stances into positives. Can't get every recruit into school? Find the ones you can get and really invest in them. Foot- ball consumes the oxygen? Feed off its energy and host recruiting weekends on game days. Practice in a dingy base- ment? Get everybody there for some undistracted hard work. "The Pit was isolated," Nolan said. "It was like Las Vegas. What happened in The Pit stayed in The Pit. You could go down there, get the team and staff together and work really hard together." Notre Dame has a fresh arena and a sparkling four-year-old practice facil- ity now, two statements that it wants to aim high in basketball. Its Brey-era success showed it could, even if hoops is not the bus driver. The changing tides of modern college basketball are a new wrinkle, and one that Brey didn't navi- gate as successfully as required. But if whoever replaces him tackles it with the forward-thinking approach that fueled Brey's best days, Notre Dame can regain its footing. "They need someone who's going to rebrand it again," Cornette said, "is in- novative in their own approach, who's going to be progressive in this ecosys- tem that's ever-changing." A new identity, you might say. What that identity becomes is less important than its mere existence, but the model of hard-to-guard, veteran teams that share the ball fits the pro- gram even in the age of NIL and the transfer portal. Maybe it lives on past the Brey era. Maybe not. What's clear now is that the expectations of being in the bracket and advancing in it that Brey restored will transcend his tenure. May as well frame them for all in the locker room to see. ✦ 2022-23 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE & RESULTS Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 10 Radford W, 79-76 Nov. 13 Youngstown State W, 88-81 Nov. 16 Southern Indiana^ W, 82-70 Nov. 18 Lipscomb W, 66-65 Nov. 22 Bowling Green^ W, 82-66 Nov. 25 St. Bonaventure& L, 63-51 Nov. 30 Michigan State% W, 70-52 Dec. 3 Syracuse* L, 62-61 Dec. 7 Boston University W, 81-75 Dec. 11 Marquette L, 79-64 Dec. 18 vs. Georgia+ L, 77-62 Dec. 21 at Florida State* L, 73-72 Dec. 27 Jacksonville W, 59-43 Dec. 30 Miami* L, 76-65 Jan. 3 at Boston College* L, 70-63 Jan. 7 at North Carolina* L, 81-64 Jan. 10 Georgia Tech* W, 73-72 (OT) Jan. 14 at Syracuse* L, 78-73 Jan. 17 Florida State* L, 84-71 Jan. 21 Boston College* L, 84-72 Jan. 24 at NC State* L, 85-82 Jan. 28 Louisville* W, 76-62 Feb. 4 Wake Forest* L, 81-64 Feb. 8 at Georgia Tech* L, 70-68 Feb. 11 Virginia Tech* L, 93-87 Feb. 14 at Duke* L, 68-64 Feb. 18 at Virginia* L, 57-55 Feb. 22 North Carolina* L, 63-59 Feb. 25 at Wake Forest* L, 66-58 Mar. 1 Pittsburgh* W, 88-81 Mar. 4 at Clemson* L, 87-64 Mar. 7 vs. Virginia Tech$ (ACCN) 7 p.m. ^ Gotham Classic at South Bend; & Gotham Clas- sic in UBS Arena at Belmont Park, N.Y.; % ACC/Big Ten Challenge; * ACC game; + at State Farm Arena in Atlanta; $ ACC Tournament at Greensboro, N.C. "When you looked at Notre Dame, you knew what the identity was. Coach developed an identity that had sustainability and relevance." FORMER NOTRE DAME FORWARD JORDAN CORNETTE (2001-05) ON BREY

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