Mike Brey On NBA Champion Pat Connaughton: ‘A Role Model For Role Players’
To notice the value the Milwaukee Bucks place on Pat Connaughton, look at where the former Notre Dame star stood when they clinched the NBA Finals rather than his scoreless stat line.
Connaughton, a reserve guard who has averaged 5.2 points per game in six NBA seasons, was one of the five Bucks players on the floor as the clock hit zero in a 105-98 Game 6 Finals win over the Phoenix Suns. He played 23 total minutes.
It didn’t matter that he had scored zero points, missed all four three-pointers he attempted and turned the ball over twice in the game. He had built up enough trust to play through it and play in high-leverage moments after an impactful first five Finals games and three seasons with Milwaukee. And by snatching eight rebounds, he still found a way to help.
His college coach, Mike Brey, was in the stands to watch and entirely unsurprised he made himself useful. In that game. In the playoffs. And as a pro.
“He’s a role model for role players,” Brey said Tuesday before his Coaches vs. Cancer golf outing. “He just wins. When he played for us and we put him in a blue shirt [in practice], the blue shirts won. Put him in a white shirt, the white shirts won. There’s an ‘it factor’ about him.
"He has always been an amazing ambassador for us, but winning a championship highlighted it even more. This is a guy who has a Mendoza business degree.”
All told, Connaughton averaged 9.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 30 minutes played in six Finals games. He shot 44 percent on three-pointers.
“Coming off the bench, we found a way to impact our team every single night,” Connaughton told NBATV after the game, describing himself and Bucks backup forward Bobby Portis. “It didn’t matter what it was. Sometimes we’d make shots and sometimes we’d miss shots. At the end of the day, we need to impact winning in some way.
“We did it with the hard-nose stuff. We made sure we got the energy, the loose balls, the rebounds. Those are possessions that help our team win.”
Connaughton is a 37.5 percent three-point shooter in the postseason and has averaged 4.9 rebounds per playoff game since signing with Milwaukee prior to the 2018-19 season. He has been in the playoff rotation each year on teams that were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference the prior two seasons and the No. 3 seed in 2020-21.
His postseason minutes increased even more this year when Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo, a 66-game starter, sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the first round. In helping replace DiVincenzo, Connaughton averaged 25 minutes in the Bucks’ last three playoff series.
“It wasn’t about trying to do more,” Connaughton said on the Dan Patrick Show. “It was about continuing to do what I do and be my own guy and that it was done over a longer period of time.”
Connaughton became the first former Notre Dame player to win an NBA title since John Paxson in 1993 with the Bulls. His NBA career began with the Portland Trail Blazers as the No. 41 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He averaged 3.7 points and 12.6 minutes per game across three seasons in Portland before signing with Milwaukee.
At Notre Dame, he was a four-year starter and appeared in three NCAA Tournaments. As a senior in 2014-15, he averaged 12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 38 games. The Irish won the 2015 ACC tournament and reached the Elite Eight. He is one of six Notre Dame NBA draft picks in Brey’s 21 seasons as head coach.
“Every kid you recruit dreams about playing in the NBA,” Brey said. “Some of those aren’t realistic, but it’s my job to make them realistic when you get them. On the front end, you have to give them hope and help them see a path. Pat really helped us with that.”
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