by Mike Coffey
Seems like every time someone mentions the words “admissions” or “facilities” on the Pit these days, the indignation flows thick and fast. A lot of people criticize those of us who bring these things up, using words like “apologist” and opining that our standards for ND basketball are somehow lower than they should be.
There’s a reason we bring them up, though, and it has nothing to do with Mike Brey. We bring them up because both are problems that hold Notre Dame basketball back and will continue to do so no matter who the coach is. They artificially limit the pool of players and coaches who will consider coming to ND to try and make the program better.
“But we can just promise changes to the new guy” goes the common refrain. As long as we show we understand what they need, we can get a hungry good coach to jump at the job. Simple as pie.
Really? Ask yourself if that would succeed if you were interviewing for a job.
You’re well respected in your field, and a company wants to hire you. It used to be an outstanding company, but rested on its laurels for too long and has lost its way. They don’t understand what is needed in the marketplace today and routinely undermine their employees. The guy who [just left / just got fired] might have needed to be replaced anyway, but the company’s ham-fisted decision-making didn’t help the situation at all and, multiple times, left the guy hung out to dry.
Now they want to hire you, and they promise you the moon and that all of a sudden they’re going to start doing things “right” to help you and the company succeed. Never mind over a decade of mismanagement, this time they’re “serious”, and they’ll give you whatever you need to succeed.
Would you believe them? Or, knowing they’re in a bind and might say anything to get you in the door, would you either (a) pass on the opportunity, or (b) require a higher level of compensation to reflect the risk you believe you’re taking? Look beyond the frustration after a very-underachieving season and view it dispassionately as a Rick Pitino or a Brian Gregory or a Mark Few or a Travis Ford or an Oliver Purnell or a Scott Drew would. View it as the person who’d be putting their career on the line would.
The chicken must precede the egg here. Notre Dame must make the decision they want championship basketball and then start to take the necessary steps to bring it to campus. They can’t “get religion” as part of a hiring process, because that’s how you end up getting publicly turned down (see: 1991) or having to overpay someone who isn’t an advancement to get them on campus (see: 1999, football 2001).
Anything it looks like you’re being forced to do isn’t accepted as genuine by anyone. That’s why we push for program support by the school now, when it’s their own decision and not driven by embarrassment or necessity. If they don’t do it, it doesn’t matter if Mike Brey is here in September or not.
Yes, this season was incredibly frustrating. The team underachieved and that is 100 percent Mike Brey’s responsibility. But how much more frustrating is it when you picture what kind of a difference Austin Freeman might have made on this team? How much more frustrating is it when you look at an alleged “facilities upgrade” that looks like it’s being executed in complete reverse order of how it will improve recruiting? What is a game of musical chairs in the coaching offices really going to accomplish in this atmosphere?
For the record, I’m encouraged that Jack Swarbrick understands this. Unlike his predecessor, he understands what ND needs to do to succeed in basketball and is trying to make it happen. But if ND wants to make their next hire a good one, they need to lay the groundwork now. Right now, all we have is a sandy beach.