Eight is (Not) Enough

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.


34 thoughts on “Eight is (Not) Enough

  1. Well-written wakeup call to the Powers.

    Coach Brey & Muffet aren’t being given a level-playing field with competitors(practice facility).

    Most fans think BB is given secondary status as compared to football. In my early years as a fan I remember excellent ND BB teams. If scholasic requirements are the same or FB & BB and equal
    emphasis is given in these sports, there is no reason why ND shouldn’t attain excellence in BB
    again instead of not even achieving top hundred achievement as a program. I honestly saw such
    a rating and the small schools that were in the top hundred should make the operating board

  2. GREAT article – any body who has personnel background will commit to Brey’s knowledge of the game and his hard work… but Mike needs a change of scenery

  3. ChangesNotHappening says:

    They were seeing scores of empty seats during the meat of the conference season this past season and no one seemed worried. Also, I am quite sure the place had plenty of empty seats in the 12-13 season during the meat of the conference season. Fans and students are tired of a team that only plays on one of the end of the court and the March results are like the movie Groundhog Day. This season we had a twist that March results were also seen in Jan and Feb (and to be honest it was not looking real promising in Nov and Dec with Grant- the HC losses, the Iowa matador defense game, the OSU choke, and close HC wins versus bad to decent mid-majors).

    Most fans understand the limitations with facilities/admission/university support- but they still want to see a team with toughness and an edge to compete hard every game. These comments about stealing wins and 9-9 being heaven is a losers mentality. Most fans are ready for ND to roll the dice with a coaching change. Even with ND’s limitations there are plenty of mid-major candidates who would welcome the challenge to coach at ND (and in the ACC versus coaching legends) and many of these have credentials on par with what Brey had pre-ND. I can guarantee you none of them would take the job and talk about 9-9 being heaven, or stealing wins, or we tried everything we could to get them play better defense (winner coaches never say that- they say we as coaches we did not do enough to improve defense- those type of comments border on throwing the players under the bus). Practices should (at times) be a war and make the games seem easy and PT should not be guaranteed to anyone and we all know that is not the case. That is one of the downsides with a “Players Coach”. There needs to be a balance of a PC and a taskmaster for College hoop players.

    It is interesting in the season where ND lost Abro, everyone was gushing about the job that Brey did. In this season, everyone seemed to be making excuses for him. That’s called having it both ways- kind of like Digger who would always pump his chest out on graduation levels, but was quick to say Ellis being academically ineligible was all on him not taking care of business. This just in- it is tough to win any games when your defense is historically bad and near the worst of any team in the 6-7 major conferences.

    I really hope you mean this tone, because it would be a welcome change from the scare tactics by several on NDN that if a coaching change was made ND would go back to BB W-L records in the 90’s which in fairness is not an apples to apples comparison to now- especially with respect to ND being in an independent wasteland when JMac took the job. Brey was far from a sure thing when he was hired and while he has made ND BB much more relevant than they were in the 90’s (which frankly was almost impossible not to do) it seems clear we have seen his ceiling after 14 years. His ceiling is nice regular seasons when there is not a ton of pressure (and you can win some big games with 40% or higher trey shooting or if your home court opppenent is not totally focused) and then looking lost/overwhelmed in the NCAAT with mid-majors or majors who beat ND like a rag doll).

    The best talent as far as NBA drafts/career success with ND players in the Brey era were with players he did not recruit. Is the program right now in better shape with respect to what he inherited? I think we all know that answer now with 9-9 next season being Heaven.

  4. ChangesNotHappening says:

    One other comment on what Johnny Mac inherited- Digger in his recruiting laziness left JM 9 players in the frosh-soph class that had recruting rankings at or below those of Matt Farrell and Austin Torres. Digger left him 9 mid-major playes, with the best being Billy Taylor and Lamarr Justice.

    If ND had a new coach in 14-15 he would not inherit 9 players such as those with 3-4 years eligibility remaining.

  5. Mike, I completely disagree. Every year my roomies and I rent a house in SB and get together for a Football Game. We do not make the effort to come across the country for a weekend of men’s bball, women’s bball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, fencing etc etc etc etc even though all of those have done extremely well. Bottom line, don’t compare football to the other sports. Mike Brey is a good man and a good coach and he kept us very competitive in a conference that for a few years was arguably the toughest conference in the land. I would go so far as to say that for some years we enhanced the Big East. Let’s remember what ND really stands for and maybe put our energies into finding a guy with Brey’s spirit and integrity to work the sidelines on football Saturdays.

    • ChangesNotHappening says:

      Even before this season, which even the harshest crticis know is not the norm- how about this:

      2 NCAA wins in the last 10 years versus #12 seed George Mason and #15 seed Akron.

      I am a bit surprised at how low some of you have set expectations for the basketball program. I understand that ND is a football school first, but NCAA basketball is a completely different dynamic. 68 teams essentially have a shot at the championship, and major conference schools have ample opportunity to qualify. Every year we hear that, “This is the softest bubble ever.” Praising Brey for consistently getting a 6/7 seed and flaming out in the first round is an amazingly low bar for a major university’s program.

      We hear this this all time about the respect Brey has from his peers- well I don’t quite understand how Brey “being respected by his peers” has anything to do with anything. I’m sure Fred Hoiberg respects Brey. But he also had no problem curb stomping ND with a #10 seed Iowa St.

      Notre Dame got drilled by a lower-seeded Iowa St. Completely outclassed.

      They gave away a double digit second half lead with a bad loss to a really, really average and lower-seeded, Xavier and threw away a great opportunity to advance to the S16 since Lehigh upset Duke.

      They got punked as a #2 by #10 Florida St. That game was never close.

      They had an absolutely brutal loss to #11 Old Dominion.

      Washington St. completely outclassed them in a #4/#5 match-up.

      ND trailed by twenty points to #11 seed, and powerhouse, Winthrop, before bailing out in the first round.

      That’s the ceiling? That’s the “consistency,” as you guys pointed out, that some fans under-appreciate? Notre Dame was able to secure one of the 68 spots in the NCAA tournament, and then flame out quickly? Geez. Are some of you guys missing the Matt LoVecchio Era, too?

      Also, this just in: Brey doesn’t get to feast on South Florida and DePaul 3-4x a year anymore.

      • I can appreciate your frustration, I also suffered watching those crushing losses to seemingly inferior programs. Let me just say that at Duke the admissions criteria and support system for the basketball program is significantly different than for athletes in other sports at that school. I know firsthand. Winning is not everything, and I do not see how we will ever get the athletes needed to go deep in the tourney. Go Irish!

    • Football is king at ND and always will be, I get that. But there is no reason ND men’s basketball should not be able to finish above .500 in the ACC, a league not nearly as good as the depleted Big East used to be. And there were times in the 1970’s and 80’s when men’s basketball was nearly on par with the football program. I like Mike Brey, but unless he can convince better student athletes to come to ND, he’s right, 9-9 in the ACC is about as good as he’s going to produce.

  6. ElkhartIrish says:

    Too many times ND BB has fallen short. Brey is a good guy and competent coach but ND needs more if it wants more.

  7. If anyone wants to understand how far the men’s basketball program has fallen, watch the ESPN special “88-1.” Not just a wonderful memory of a great game but also of a time when, if only for a week, Notre Dame was No. 1 in both football and basketball. We can do better. And we don’t need new facilities – that’s just an excuse for settling for mediocrity. Better coaching and recruits can be had with what we have. There are no good excuses for what is happening in men’s basketball. The women’s team, which is so much fun to watch – especially this season, didn’t aim for a .500 record in the ACC. I don’t remember in my days at ND any coach or team being content with being average. The passion for winning was best expressed by the comment an upperclassman made to me when I was a freshman – Notre Dame never losses, it only runs out of time every now and then. Arrogant? Of course. But it showed a belief that even in a loss, the teams always stepped away believing they should have won. Would like to see the men’s basketball team get back to what Digger put on the floor. Who would have thought that a football school like Notre Dame could break the longest winning streak of all time in men’s basketball? The same people who saw their school, with an average team, break Oklahoma’s winning streak in football. It takes belief and coaching. Not sure I see that in the men’s basketball team.

    • ChangesNotHappening says:

      Really- 40 years ago. Different time and era. Being an independent made sense in the 70’s to early 80’s and ND was able to be in the rotation of teams that had televised games and back in that era there were about 12 teams- now every major conference team has there games televised because of cable.

      Comparing now to that era is apples to oranges, just like comparing ND mens BB to the ND womens team. IMO the mens team can do better than they are with Brey but there is no way (unless some major changes are made with Univ support) that the mens team can every approach the golden era with Digger or what we see now with the womens team.

  8. Stanfordhall says:

    Wow, all it took was one poor regular season for the boo birds to rear their ugly heads. The assumption–and let’s be clear it’s just that–one could get in Mike Brey’s head and interpret his words after a difficult season and know the intent behind his words is a little arrogant. Instead of interpreting his words, let’s look at the results. The guy has earned some credit in my trust bank. Yes, this season was horrible. And yes, there is no denying the poor performance in the NCAA–I don’t have a good explanation for the poor record there, other than to say a lot of those games could’ve gone either way. But Brey has fairly consistently gotten the most out of the talent on his teams and put together solid regular seasons. So this year was bad. So what. Lots of great coaches have a down year or two. Cut the man some slack and don’t get hung up on his words. Look at the results. If you want to lead a revolt over one bad regular season and some lean NCAAT results, don’t expect me to grab my pitchfork. I’m not with you on this one.

  9. Joe Schaefer ND '59 says:

    Next season there will be 14 members of the ACC. That means, does it not, that Brey would be shooting for a conference record of 9-5 going in to the tournament

  10. Hey … my dad’s a great guy, too, but that doesn’t mean he’s suited to bring the ND basketball program to a respectable, at least top 20 level, commensurate with what’s expected from all facets of the University. There’s lots of great guys out there who aren’t great basketball coaches. MB is obviously one of those. 14 years of mediocrity is enough. Cut our losses and lets start over. I’m sure a new energetic and innovative coach can get us at least 8 ACC wins next year ! I think it’s “worth the risk”. Ha ha.

  11. The reason ND hoops is mediocre at very best is because that is the commitment the school has made to the sport. forget the facilities –they are fine. The philosophy of the program is to accept average to above average talent and perform in an average way.
    Brey has underutilized his average talent more often than not. Look at Breys game plan for the past decade. Play 6 or 7 players , don’t develop the younger talent, slow the game down and play poor defense. Not surprising they don’t win more

  12. Mike Brey’s time has come. When all is said and done Digger remains the best coach ND has ever had and Moose Krause the last great AD. You can’t extend a coaches contract unless you see improvement on the Horizon,and Swarbick settles for mediocrity, BRING BACK MOOSE!!!

  13. While wins, losses and rankings are certainly factors, there are things far more important to being a coach at my alma mater. Coach Mike Brey is an OUTSTANDING mentor of young men, and, for this, he ought to be feted- not criticized by the presbyopic scrutiny of those who seem to measure a college coach purely with a numerical percentage.

    Nevertheless, let us first deal with your measuring stick. How can you ignore what a bizarre season was 2013-2014? First a young man (Biedscheid) transfers AFTER agreeing to red shirt in order to work on his physical strength, another (Grant) fails to make grades for the second semester in a row, a third (Burgett) has to undergo a mid-season cardiac procedure following a scary onset of symptoms, yet another (Jackson) teeters on the brink of academic disaster from which Coach rescues him with a bit of tough love temporary exile and then, finally, the fifth (Sherman) suffers a dislocated finger on his shooting hand. Rather than decry our record, quite frankly, I celebrate it. In the face of these adversities, being damn near .500 is an athletic accomplishment in itself.

    Have you forgotten that the Irish had not been to the Dance in 10 years until Mike Brey arrived in 2000?

    Now let us move on to more meaningful scales of worthiness. Have you forgotten that Mike Brey is the 2011 AP Coach of the Year and Henry Iba winner, a three time Big East Coach of the Year (2007, 2008 and 2011), the 2008 Skip Prosser Man of the Year and the 2012 winner of the Jim Phelan award?

    These recognitions are handed out by those who know and understand the true value of a leader and human being rather than by some bombastic nattering nabobs of negativism.

    Have you forgotten the work Coach Brey has done with the likes of Carleton Scott, Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody and Jack Cooley? Beginning the program as boys and ending as men, each of those who have matriculated through Mike Brey’s program will tell you that the most positive extra-family influence on their life has been the thinning haired guy who used to wear turtlenecks.

    Maybe you want a coaching carousel, but this true Domer does not. I want Mike Brey to be at the University of Notre Dame until he either says it’s time to retire or until he shows he is no longer the man who exemplifies the meaning and spirit of du lac.

  14. I don’t know if Matt Doghtery was a nice guy but he seemed to get the most out of his players. Sometimes being a nice guy just doesn’t get the job done.

  15. Hey Judge Irish … Maybe if Brey was “mentoring” better, he wouldn’t have key players in academic trouble. Alright that was a bit of a cheap shot. But we can get a lot of “integrity guys” to come in and be a “nice face” over a decade, “do things the right way”, win 20 regular season games a year, yada, yada, yada. That stuff represents 50% of his pay. He’s not earning the other 50% … which is to get to the post-season and perform well. College basketball is all about playing well in the conference and NCAA tournaments! 14 years and never a Big East conference tournament championship game appearance and we can count the total NCAA wins on about one hand. I’m sure other “high character” coaches out there who can do much better than that! Find one of those guys and make a change … NOW!

  16. MB has had his moments but he is consistently applauded for doing well with “the talent he has”. That is the problem. In most other schools and even in many other sports coaches recruit kids with great athleticism and make them in soccer, or football or basketball players. Our roster has 1 or maybe 2 athletes. He needs to start recruiting much better right now. Look at what Brad Stevens did at Butler with just a couple of good basketball players and then others who could keep up with the man they were guarding. I don’t buy the admission angle. I would think after all of the kids MB has recruited up to this point that if there were a couple of kids he needed to take a chance with the Admissions people would work with him. Time to shorten the lease and get BB headed in a direction that is fitting for 2014 and beyond and not something from the 80’s.

  17. Brey has served his purpose for the Irish–now ND should move on and try to eve late the program. Mediocre teams at best should not be the goal.
    the overall lack of athleticism and the inability to hold a lead on any team will not suffice. Poor utilization and development of the best recruit they have had in over a decade points to Brey being way over rated. I get that he is a mentor etc but so are many others that win. Lets stop making excuses for an average coach

  18. Brey said they racked their brain trying to get the team to play consistent defense yet nothing worked. Yet we have the same staff for next year. His latest recruit is a guy who we beat out Boston College for, who is not ranked highly by anyone.If he can’t get his kids to play, defense, and can’t recruit better, how will things ever change? I doubt a summer trip to Italy is the answer.

  19. Good guy, good coach, good ambassador, not good recruiter, not good developer of young talent, time to change

  20. The Irish were preseason top five in the ACC. They lost Jerian Grant. Does anyone think that they would finished outside of the top five if they had grant?They lost their leading scorer. They lost a lot of close games. Grant would’ve been the difference. Granquist easily the difference between 15 and 15 and 20 and 10

  21. I think the ship has sailed on ND Basketball. I’m OK with that. Take a look at the physical appearance of the top teams’ best players…we are boys among men…Those guys at the top basketball schools are clearly NOT student athletes. I wouldn’t WANT to cheer for some thug at ND. Our guys are student athletes, and if they don’t make the grades, that have to leave.

    • ChangesNotHappening says:

      So ND was boys versus men when they played Indiana State and North Dakota State? How about Virginia, where the recruiting rankings for their players mirror ND’s and their experience level was also very comparable (they had in their starting line up a frosh PG and soph center). How about Wake Forest and their 3 star recruits- case in point, Vasturia was the higher ranked prospect than his HS team mate Overton at WF. Miami lost 90% of their scoring off last years team and was averaging 60 ppg when they played ND (which put them about 345th in the country at the time), they put up 74 points versus ND’s swiss cheese defense. In the NC State game, ND faced 4 freshman who played between 13 and 23 minutes (75 minutes total and a soph PG who played 17 minutes and looked like Ollie from Hoosiers.

      In the ACC, I can buy the boys to men comment in games versus Duke, Cuse, UNC, and next season Ville- beyond that you sound like Brey or Noie with that tired cliche.

  22. Mike Brey has certainly had a mixed bag of results at ND. He’s had some very good results when you least expect it. Then down years when it’s least expected. ND is giving MB a pass due to his prior success and the graduation rate of his players. Too I believe his players seem to really like MB. That said the ND BB program has lost any prestige (in recent years) it had. Just look at the top 150 high school BB players and where they have committed. Study the commitment list and you will see other (lesser) universities moving up the ladder. I don’t believe anyone (fans) expect ND BB to be Duke, NC, or, other top 15. However you have to be able to recruit a player or two from the top players in the country (somewhere on that list). MB goes to his own beat and maybe next year will be better. It’s seems from watching that the coach has lost his passion for the game. Regardless MB is certainly NOT the long term answer for ND BB. A repeat of this season would most likely find MB resigning and working in some other capacity at ND. The AD certainly must have his eyes on several programs. Just look at UVA and their success the past two years. I like the VCU coach and think he would really turn the program around. The BB job is much more of a plumb job today since joining the ACC. Time will tell!