Mike Brey Confirms Return To Notre Dame Next Year
Just in case some more confirmation was needed, Jeff Goodman of Stadium reported on Monday that Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey, who completed his 21st season at Notre Dame this month, indicated “he will 100 percent be back in South Bend next season and is looking forward to getting the Irish back to NCAA tourney.”
The news is not a surprise. Earlier this month Brey had told The Athletic’s Seth Davis, “Absolutely not. No way,” when asked if he would step down this year.
The longest-tenured coach in Notre Dame’s men's basketball history, Brey finished the 2021 campaign with an 11-15 result that was capped by his largest margin of defeat, 101-59 to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament.
After only one losing season in his first 18 seasons (15-17 in 2013-14), Brey experienced the throes of his second finish under .500 in the past three campaigns, also posting a 14-19 ledger at the end of the 2019 season.
He followed up that losing year with a 20-12 mark in 2020, improving from 3-15 to 10-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, before the season was cancelled during the ACC Tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Notre Dame was not considered to be even on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
In his first 17 seasons from 2001-17, Brey steered the Irish to 12 NCAA Tournament bids, highlighted by advancements to the Elite Eight in 2015 and 2016. It marked the third time in the program’s history the team had back-to-back placements in the Elite Eight, joining 1953-54 under head coach John Jordan and 1978-79 with head coach Digger Phelps. The 1978 crew reached the Final Four, the only time that has occurred in men's Fighting Irish basketball.
The seven NCAA Tournament wins from 2015-17 are the most ever by the program over a three-year period, and in 2015 Notre Dame also won its first and lone conference title (ACC) since breaking away from its independent status and joining the Big East in 1995. It would then link with the ACC in 2014.
Prior to Brey’s arrival in 2000, Notre Dame did not earn an NCAA Tournament bid 10 straight years from 1991-2000.
Overall, Brey has a career record of 447-247 (.664) at Notre Dame, posting both the most victories and defeats. This includes a solid 207-159 (.566) ledger in two of the most cut-throat basketball leagues in the country, the Big East and ACC.
Brey will turn 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 retire. 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 Player of the Year in 2019-20. The Ivy League canceled its 2020-21 season.
Also returning from that veteran-dominated group are third-team All-ACC guard Prentiss Hubb, who led the Irish in scoring (14.6 points per game) and the ACC in assists (152). Forward Nate Laszewski was second in scoring (13.3) and paced the Irish in rebounds per game with 7.3.
Other seniors coming back are guards Dane Goodwin (11.8 points per game), Cormac Ryan (9.9) and Trey Wertz (8.3), plus Robby Carmody, whose first three years all resulted in health setbacks, including missing this past season to continue rehab on an ACL tear.
In many ways, 2021-22 is a now-or-never referendum for Brey.
“I’m also realistic about the big picture of things; you want to be effective here,” said Brey 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, which would be the program’s first since 2017, is a mandate.
“I told them, ‘A year from this Selection Sunday, our goal should be to see our name flash up,’” he said. “That’s the crossroads we’re at, absolutely.”
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