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  • Time for Point C

    by Mike Coffey

    Back at Thanksgiving, with the Irish slogging through the non-conference slate and Tim Abromaitis secured on the bench with a wrecked knee, I would have bet a couple multiples of my mortgage my NCAA bracket wouldn’t include the words “Notre Dame”.  In fact, I gave at least a couple minutes thought to how running a CBI pool would go over here, since we’ve never had to do one of those before.

    Yet here I sit filling out my NDN pool sheet, and there I see the magic words.

    Whoda thunkit?  Not me, that’s for damn sure.  And there are about a dozen players and half a dozen coaches who deserve all the credit in the world for making that happen.  Instead of rolling over and giving up, they went out there and proved everyone wrong, winning 13 games in the Big East, finishing third overall, and securing the conference tourney (which still blows, by the way) double-bye.  An outstanding accomplishment for such a young and depleted squad, and if South Florida hadn’t come from nowhere to get an NCAA berth as well, Mike Brey’s name likely would have been on the Coach of the Year trophy yet again.

    12 straight years of postseason play, nine of them in the NCAAs.  93 home wins in the last 100 games.  A top-15 recruiting class coming in, and finally some fanbase traction on the sorely-needed practice facility.  Like Virginia Slims, ND hoops has come a long way, baby, and that won’t change regardless of the result on March 16th.

    But is it as far as it can go?  That’s the $64k question, and one that all the aforementioned folks need to start asking themselves.

    When Mike Brey got here, ND was in a 10-year NCAA drought.  That thirst was slaked by three bids in succession, and the goal was set to get to the tournament consistently after missing it for so many years.  The playing arena was dilapidated and shoddy, with duck tape securing some of the hardware.  Two years ago, it got a complete facelift and finally looks like a major college facility.  The program was rudderless, with two coaches in successive seasons and fan and student apathy at a peak.  The butts are going in the seats again for the most part, and people are interested in watching ND win again.

    Mission accomplished.  Time for the next mission.

    No one should expect to go to the Sweet 16 every year.  Very few teams do that, let alone teams with the natural hindrances ND endures in men’s basketball.  But it’s also not enough to look at the bid itself as a be-all end-all anymore.  We’ve grown beyond that status, and that which does not grow withers.

    No, we won’t and shouldn’t expect to make the Sweet 16 every year.  But how about once every five?

    No, we won’t and shouldn’t expect to make the Final Four every year.  But how about once every 10?

    Are those reasonable goals?  Given where ND is now, I believe they now should be well within reach, provided everyone involved from Jack Swarbrick on down commits themselves to them.  It may require more work to accomplish, but a lot of similar work has been done in the last 10 years.  Last time I checked, no one at Notre Dame was afraid of hard work.

    The house that the owners burned to the ground now has its foundations re-laid and a decent first floor.  It may not be the mansion it was before the damage, but there’s space to be explored between there and here.  Let’s get the hammer out.

    21 Responses to “Time for Point C”

    1. Very well said.

    2. I love this article (mostly because it is actually about basketball and not just thoughts on the football program) because it says what I have thought for some time and I agree with the sentiments about Mike Brey and the program expectations. I love what Mike Brey has done. I do remember 5, 6 years ago having conversations badmouthing Brey’s limited use of his bench, but no more. Mike Brey has not only proved he can coach, but represent the University with class. For those that wish Mike Brey away, watch what you wish for, because nobody better is coming in behind him. I would even say the next contract should just be blank on the number of years and let Mike Brey decide when he is done. I feel he has earned that.

      The only other point I want to make is that the facelift on the Joyce Center was not a positive in my mind. Contracting the size of the arena to me said they cannot grow the program (I know that was not the intent, but certainly the way I feel). I know they had limited options, but putting fewer people in the arena did not give me a warm feeling they were trying to turn a corner with the program. They also left people like me, out of towners with families who come in for one or two games a year, on the outside looking in. I spent a decent amount to put my family in the bleachers and then they raised ticket prices by 50% to pay for the seats they took out. It was hard enough paying for 6 people initially, now even more difficult. I just don’t see where the decisions they made on the renovation will help build the fan base in the future.

      Just my 2 cents.

    3. Simply put – Notre Dame is not taken seriously as a basketball school and probably never will be. I forget his name but about 10 years ago we had a BB coach who had played with MJ @ North Carolina and we were winning games and the Dean Smith retired from NC and they called our coach and he was

    4. GONE. Just like that. When it pleases us we steal football coaches from lesser programs and when it pleases the big time basketball schools they steal coaches from lesser program like us. So it is so it shall be.

      Mike Brey is a fine coach – I don’t question that. But Notre Dame is NOT a big-time basketball school now now will it ever be so. I hope they beat Xavier but I don’t think they will. If they do they STILL won’t make the sweet 16.

      P.S. – Hope I’m wrong.

    5. Excellet article. I don’t think it’s bashing Brey to ask if this is as far as we can go.A deep run in the post season every four or five years is not too much to ask.

    6. The ex NC player i referred to is Matt Doherty.

    7. It’s all about money. ND is near the bottom of the Big East in budget. Sweet sixteen/Final four will require a capital investment. Brey has outperformed given the budget. Let’s see that he gets what he needs and the sky is the limit.

      • Good point. it is worth pointing out that at such schools (?) as Kentucky, one of the favorites this year, every year Caliapiri recruits a #1 ranked freshman team which is clearly recruited not for the educational experience (can you say GRADUATE boys and girls?) but to get them to the NBA asap. This is the extreme example, of course but it is why I made my discouraging comments earlier – we can’t compete with that.

        Nor should we try. I remember 1978 when we got to the final four. That was nice. Every now and then is nice.

    8. Geoffrey '73 says:

      What is “duck tape”? I know what duct tape is. Thanks for a good article.

      • Both are acceptable. In fact, they may have actually used Duck Brand Duck Tape. Anyways. Originally, it was called duck tape as it was designed for amphibious vehicles in world war two. They needed strong, durable, malleable and waterproof tape…Like duck feathers.

        After WWII, it was used in the duct industry and name was changed after that.

    9. martinjordan says:

      When Carlton Scott chose not to return this became a rebuilding year even with Abromaitis. When Abro went down it became an NIT year. These kids have given everthing they’ve got but they’re running on fumes. I’d really like to see them get one win in the tourney. That would be a great rebuilding year.

      Brey’s challenge is to develop a solid 8 man rotation so the starters are not worn out in March. Next year might be the first year since Brey arrived that they will have enough quality depth to do it. IF (big IF) Abro and Martin are granted sixth years then next year they would start with Cooley, Grant, and Atkins. Garrick Sherman could come off the bench to spell Cooley, Connaughton could be the sixth man spelling any of the other four, and hopefully Cameron Biedscheid can rotate in with Abro and Martin. If Drago, Brooks, and Knight don’t step up their games they could be odd men out.

      If, as ND expects, Abro does not return then the starting lineup remains unchanged and Drago is still the sixth man (but he’s got to work on his ball handling), Sherman backs up Cooley, and Biedscheid, Zack Auguste, and Austin Burgett compete for that 8th spot. Joey Brooks is just too much of a wild card to count on for regular minutes. I don’t know if Eric Katenda will ever play as he has to learn to play the game win one eye.

      • jimmygates says:

        a friend of mine talked to abro and he said its looking good for a 6th season and i think you are underestimating biedschied hes the 30 overrall recruit and hes 6’7

        • martinjordan says:

          I’d love to see Abro back! It’s ND that is not opitimistic. I don’t really know the criteria the NCAA uses to grant sixth years. I can only compare it to the Ron Powlus situation. Powlus missed his entire Freshman year do to injury but played 8 games in his 5th year before being injured against Navy. Even though Abro only played in two games of his 5th year he sat out his Freshman year voluntarily. Would it make a difference with the NCAA that he voluntarily sat out his Freshman year?

          I know he’s a highly rated scorer but is Biedscheid good enough to unseat a starter? I could see him moving into the sixth man spot.

    10. The Irish not a big time basketball school? Don’t tell Muffet.

    11. frank carpin says:

      if brey happy with nd, we should be happy with him…doubt we get another coach that can match his achievements…the question is what can brey accomplish in another setting? probably more ..

    12. “we can’t expect to make th sweet 16 every year”. From 1970 to 1979 ND made it 8 out of ten including 6 straight from 74′ to 79′.
      “realistic expectations are once every 5 yrs”. Reality is ND made it to the sweet 16 once in the last 25 yrs.
      I understand this isn’t the 70’s and I am not completely bashing Brey ( I think he’s a great coach) but I do not think its asking to much from this program for more post season success then we’ve had. The “little enginge that could” and “look where we were in Nov.” stories have been all to common lately. We need to start adding success in March chapters to these season stories.

      Also, to everyone saying ND is not a bBall powerhouse and never will be I offer this fact: ND is in the top 10 all time in tournament appearances and they are the only school in the top 10 that never won an NCAA bBall championship. The list is literally the royal roundtable of college bBall and ND.
      We’ve historically under achieved in the post season.

    13. mpsND'72 says:

      Mike Brey has the best “major sport” coaching job at Notre Dame. The program has no great expectations; never has, never will. Basketball at Notre Dame is a nice Winter diversion, until that other really-major sport at ND kicks-off Spring practice. That’s the way it always has been and will always be. Amen.

    14. Just an FYI – Matt Doherty just got fired again. From SMU.
      Wonder if he misses Notre Dame now . . .

    15. Mike Brey’s best job ever.Very proud of the team Too bad they could not seal the deal.However, this does make your point.When do we go to the next level?Every year the movie has the same ending regardless of the cast.