by Mike Coffey
Yesterday, I talked about the poor performance this basketball season and put the onus on Jack Swarbrick and Mike Brey to do something about it. Not 24 hours later, we have our first indication of Brey’s attitude about next season, and frankly, it doesn’t inspire confidence.
In interviews following the first-round ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest, Brey was quoted as saying, “Nine league wins would be heaven next year“. If he’s to be taken at his word, he expects a .500 in-conference record next season to be a top-quality result for his team.
Sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. And I suspect it’s not going to work for (what is turning into a dwindling number of) ND basketball fans either.
Regardless of sport, I expect a Notre Dame coach to push his or her charges to their utmost. As the old saying goes, aim for great and you’ll at least get good. I believe in setting high expectations as a rule, and MB’s statement here falls well short of that standard. If he thinks his players or the fans will get fired up over a nine-win ACC season, he’s got another think coming.
In a response to the BGI season review, Lou Somogyi points out you can make a statement like the one Brey made two times in your career: (1) when you’re just starting out and “underpromise and overdeliver” can benefit you, and (2) when you’re already a legend and it’s written off as gamesmanship. In neither of those cases, though, does the coach making the quote actually believe what he’s saying. He’s expecting to do better and saying what he’s saying for another purpose.
The trouble here is, I think MB actually believes nine ACC wins next year would be an achievement. If that’s the case, well, we got trouble in River City, because as I said, I don’t believe that and I doubt many of my fellow hoops fans do either.
The Battle of ND Basketball these days is one of expectations. Unlike in football, the people in charge of delivering the results have different criteria of evaluating those results than do their “customers”. Based on Brey’s comments, it’s reasonable to guess that disconnect flows from Fr. Jenkins’ and Jack Swarbrick’s offices all the way down the food chain to the staff.
Given that calcification, I’ve been (and remain) reluctant to spend any political capital trying to effect change. When people with juice are interested in the results, as we saw in football, pushing things like the Call for Change — a project that started via real-life connections between people and not message board flotsam — has the potential to move the needle, however small that movement. My efforts a few years ago to do something similar for basketball, however, had a much lower success rate, particularly when people felt their participation might affect their football ticket access. So my desire to burn the time and calories to try again is at rather a low ebb.
But perhaps feelings are different now. Perhaps if people stop bloviating on message boards and start writing letters to the people on the BOT entrusted with this program, the juicy people will start to get involved. Perhaps if alumni and season ticket holders show up at ND Night Q&A’s armed with intelligent questions about the lack of quality men’s basketball at ND rather than vapid “how does the defensive backfield look this year” queries, the administration will start feeling some pressure. Perhaps if people are willing to hold back their donations and convince their friends to do likewise, ticket lottery be damned, the issues might start getting some attention in wider circles. Perhaps if Jack and Mike walk into Purcell Pavilion during the meat of the conference season and see scores of empty seats, the message might start to get through.