Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

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

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8 FEBRUARY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame head coach Mike Brey can feel and understand Brian Kelly's current pain. Today, the 17th-year Fighting Irish men's basketball coach is trumpeted as the lone head coach in the country to lead his program to the Elite Eight each of the past two seasons. This year, for just the second time in its 20 seasons as a confer- ence member either in the Big East (1995-2013) or the Atlantic Coast Conference (2013-present) — both considered in their respective times the best basketball competition in the land — Notre Dame began league play 3-0, highlighted by a dramatic rally at Pitt in overtime (Dec. 31) and a sixth straight victory at home ver- sus head coach Rick Pitino's Louis- ville powerhouse (Jan. 4). He even is 5-1 against Duke's leg- endary Mike Krzyzewski, for who he worked as an assistant from 1988-94, since joining the league. One of those was en route to becoming ACC champions in 2015 — another mile- stone in the program's history. Next year, Brey is easily on course to eclipse Digger Phelps (1971-91) for most victories in the program's his- tory (393), which he now has helped move up to No. 7 on the all-time NCAA win chart. However, it was not too long ago that Brey was seen as a Fighting Irish coach who had "maxed out" and had run his course at Notre Dame. DARK DAYS At the start of the 2013-14 cam- paign, Brey's Irish were ranked No. 21 in the country. Thereafter, ev- erything soon imploded to a point where the program couldn't get out of its own way: • A stunning 83-70 loss at home to Indiana State Nov. 17, and then an- other head-scratching upset to North Dakota State, also at home, less than a month later. • On Dec. 21, the Irish led Ohio State by eight points with 50 seconds left — and found a way to lose. • A day after the debacle versus the Buckeyes, star player and future first-round pick Jerian Grant was de- clared academically ineligible. • One of Brey's top recruits in his Notre Dame career — McDonald's All-American Cam Beidscheid — de- cided to transfer. • In February, Brey temporarily suspended another McDonald's All-American because of academic reasons, freshman guard Demetrius Jackson, prompting a fear that he also would bolt the program. • All the while, the Irish went 5-13 in their final 18 ACC games, capped with an 81-69 loss to Wake Forest, usually one of the bottom feeders in the conference, in the first round of the ACC Tournament. After 14 seasons, it was time for a change. Brey had advanced to only one Sweet 16 in that time — and had won a grand total of two NCAA Tournament games the past 11 sea- sons. Unacceptable. He's had enough time. Brey must go. HONEST INTROSPECTION Basketball coaches teach the art of rebounding, but in 2014-15 Brey had to do his own rebounding beyond just on-court performance. "I always say to people, we all know what we sign up for, and you're going to have those put-on- the-mat years — when you're put down on the mat and both shoulders almost pinned," Brey recalled. UNDER THE DOME GETTING OFF THE MAT It wasn't long ago that Mike Brey was where Brian Kelly now is Kelly (left) will try to reinvent himself the same way Brey (right) did after a subpar season three years ago. KELLY PHOTO BY ANDREW IVINS; BREY PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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