Notes from the Geetar: There’s No Way

As I sit in the wake of yet another inexplicable loss by Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team this season, I reflect back on 45 years of fandom and my experiences both following and reporting on this program. That reflection leads me with only one sentence in response.

There’s no way.

el kabong with geetar

There’s no way any Fighting Irish basketball fan of any stripe has watched this season with any degree of satisfaction. Especially coming as it does in the wake of three similar seasons where Notre Dame has cultivated an embarrassing losing streak against ranked teams and soon-to-be four years of no meaningful postseason presence at all. If you think it was difficult to get people to come out to Purcell Pavilion before the pandemic, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

There’s no way a reasonable person can look at this personnel and envision a miraculous turnaround next year. This is not a team of freshmen and sophomores trying to find a way to win, suffering horrible luck, but using this season as a learning experience springboard to later success. That’s what we were all told the 2017-18 season was. Instead, all the season since, including this one, have been more of the same. If Mike Brey is not reaching these kids after three years, there is zero reason to believe it’s magically going to happen next fall.

Speaking of whom, if he’s being honest with himself, there’s no way Mike Brey can be looking at this and see a successful way out. He’s gone from the mountaintop to the crater in less than five years. He had to fire an assistant for absolutely abhorrent behavior before the year began. He has players who obviously are tuning him out and have been for a couple seasons now. Back in March of 2016 in Philadelphia, faced with the prospect of replacing two key assistant coaches, Mike could have retired as the winningest coach in Notre Dame history and gone out on the highest of high notes. Instead, he took the path of least resistance, hiring inexperienced former players for those critical roles, and it’s been a downhill slide ever since that shows no signs of abating. He’s burned through the goodwill those two Elite Eight appearances got him, and he’s about to burn through what’s left if he hasn’t already.

There’s no way Notre Dame as a program can afford a “Mike Brey farewell tour” with next year’s seniors. If that nationally-ranked class had been followed up by similarly-regarded classes, that would be one thing. Instead, it was followed up with haphazard recruiting, resulting in some completely empty classes either due to no recruits in the first place or the departure of those recruits that did sign on, and there’s little recruiting buzz around the program now. Say what you want about MB’s predecessors, but they left him a solid roster and the commitment of a McDonald’s All-American on which he could build. Asking a potential successor to win ACC games with eligibility gaps, a hyperactive transfer portal, and scholarship players rated in the lower quartile of the conference is a fool’s errand, and no coach of any quality is going to expose his career to that.

There’s no way Jack Swarbrick can look at these performances and determine this is the way a Division One program should perform, no matter what he said last weekend in an interview. He can talk all he wants about “view[ing] last year a little bit differently than others”, but there’s no way anyone who knows anything about basketball would view it in any way other than being in a tailspin. MB may have “found a way to get his team to play really well” in previous years, but not only is that not happening this year, it’ll now be four years since it last happened. Jack’s going to have to do his job rather than whistle past the graveyard and once again give a Notre Dame coach an unnecessary extra year to cement even further the evidence that change must be made.

And if Jack actually does his job and makes the change, there’s no way that succession plan can be “call Newark, Delaware, and be done with it”. I liked Martin Ingelsby as a player and like him even more as a person, and there’s a school of thought he was the one who found the diamonds in the rough like Pat Connaughton and coached them up to success. But I know a lot of season ticket holders, and the general response to a potential Ingelsby candidacy at Notre Dame is, “great, more Brey”. If you’re looking to get butts in the Purcell Pavilion seats once the pandemic is over, hiring Moose, unfortunately, probably isn’t going to do it. The only way it works is for him to completely clean house, bring in fire-breathing assistants who can sell the proverbial snow to a Eskimo, and grab the attention of both the fans and the recruits to get the turnaround started. Even then, the chances of success are lower than anyone would like, and a 90’s-esque decade for Notre Dame basketball truly will kill the program.

As a 25-year season ticket holder and the person who literally wrote the book on this program, I’m here to tell everyone involved in this it’s time to turn the page. Mike should quietly resign after the season and move on to what I can imagine will be a very lucrative broadcasting career. Jack should actually put the effort into finding an experienced successor and be willing to open up the checkbook to create the staff that can succeed here. Because if they let this continue, Irish hoops fans will talk about Mike & Jack like they talk about Digger Phelps and Dick Rosenthal.

And there’s no way either of them want that.

Let Mike know what you think in the comments below

13 thoughts on “Notes from the Geetar: There’s No Way

  1. Well, 4 straight years of no ncaa tournament is inexcusable given that we are not talking about the old 48 teamcompisition of the big dance. It then eventually hit 64 teams . You have to be a very mediocre yo poor voa h to jot get your team into the tourney every year or almost every year with that many teams getting invites..but wait….it is not. Whopping 64. Its now essentially 68 teams and yet nd is facing a 4th straight year whereas invitation was not going yo happen under any event . Brey should have been fired as ago. The anomaly of 2 elite 8s notwithstanding jr is basically Mr 1 and done even when he made the ncaa or nit. Losing yo holy cros a sg nd in the first round of the NIT …YUP thats the real overrated, overpaid mike brey.
    Think about this folks. I’m the big east and now acc conference , notre dame under Brey like all teams has a chance to win a regular season league title and or the conference tournament. that’s 2 chance a per season to win hardware and yet out of 44 chances ( 22 seasons at ND ) the guy has won ,get this folks. Only two (2) trophies! The man makes 2 million a year and in over 59 chances to win a league title has 2. That is it!!!!! Folks that is not mediocre. THAT IS DISMAL.
    HIS early tournament exits are his norm …except like this year whereas d for the 4gh straight year nd is going nowhere. Jes just cashing check.Lazy recruiting. Poor asst coaches. ND should have fired him years ago.

    • I disagree with the “years ago” notion. I could have seen it after last year, but before that, there was more uncertainty than you’re making it out to be.

  2. Astute analysis, Mike, and being a longtime follower of the board I know it had to cause some pain to write it. Brey has been a wonderful steward of the program and it similarly causes me angst to not see him go out on top. I would have pegged you as supporting Ingelsby, though I see where supporters might harbor trepidation. It’s surreal to see another Indiana school (Hoosiers) crashing and burning, so there may be two in-state programs looking to start over. Scott Drew anyone?

  3. Mike,

    This might be a long shot, but what would be so bad if Jack went to Boston and spoke to Brad Stevens. He’s
    a native Indiana kid and surely he could resurrect this program. This is a coach that put life into a Butler program
    that in no ways matches ND’s program and or money. Just a thought. Thanks for the articles you write. Honesty is always the best medicine.

    Joe Passaro

  4. Mike, I am an alum who has been closely following ND Basketball for 60 years…I totally agree with you…I like Mike Brey as a person but It is definitely time for a complete overhaul of the program..with the end result being the hiring of a young aggressive coach who is a great recruiter along with a staff of competent assistants…the status quo is an embarrassment and I do not see it improving with the current regime!

  5. Paul Privitera says:

    Simple replacement: Chris Quinn. He was a smart point guard, was a high honors student, spent years in NBA as a role player maximizing his ability and has since spent time as an NBA assistant coach and administrator. Great background and experience and a very intelligent guy.

  6. This was a difficult read for me. I have looked at Mike Brey as a first-rate individual who represented ND with class. As some do, I’ve reacted emotionally at times for basketball losses with an inner “fire the guy” or a “get someone in there who can win these games”, or the like. Once the emotionality wears, common sense reappears (hopefully).

    But when I read an individual who has been inside the program; has lived with the program through all these years, and has maintained (publicly) a decorum about him, and hear the coach needs to step down, it manifest reality.

    In the end, with all positive personal traits aside, bottom line is you’re hired to do a job. As in any profession, if the job isn’t being done, a change needs to be made.

  7. I hope Swarbrick realizes this effects his legacy too.If Brey is not classy enough to resign, then fire him. It cannot go on like this.

  8. Robert Novak says:

    Look at Gonzaga. Year after year success. A great coach can continue to impact a program no matter who they have, because top players want to play for a winner. And Notre Dame can offer a new coach so much more. It is way past time for Brey to retire.

  9. I like Mike Brey. I think most Notre Dame fans like Mike Brey. As a person, I think he is easier to like than Brian Kelly and he has done a lot good things for Notre Dame, definitely leaving his mark on the program in 20 years. But, really, all that is in the past. Four straight years missing the tournament — it would have been four if last season was canceled — is just not acceptable. Maybe Final Fours are not realistic, but making the tournament — and even winning a game or two — is hardly unrealistic. Hell, ND should be a perennial Sweet Sixteen type team. Brey needs to go. Hell, I think he needed to go two years ago.

  10. If this was the way the football team was playing, what would happen? We should not have lower expectations on the hoops court than we do on the gridiron. Simple as that.

  11. I agree with Michael. I think expectations for the men’s basketball program are far lower than they should be. I may be in the minority among ND fans in this regard, but this is what I would set as the expectations for this program:

    1. ND should be in contention for the NCAA tournament EVERY YEAR. ND should make the NCAA Tournament a minimum of 7-8 times per decade. The NIT should be the single-season floor for this program.

    2. ND should make the Final Four at least once per decade.

    3. ND should seriously contend for the Final Four (i.e., Sweet 16 or Elite 8) at least 2-3 additional times per decade.

    I don’t think these expectations are unrealistic. And let’s be honest, while Mike Brey is a likeable person and certainly a credit to Notre Dame off the court, he hasn’t met these expectations in 20 years, or even really come close to them. Yes, the football team is not performing to expectations now, but it is not performing anywhere near as low relative to expectations as the basketball team presently is. If this were the football program, there wouldn’t even be a discussion as to whether the coach should be replaced.