Relatively Speaking

Some of the discussion in the wake of Notre Dame’s first ACC title in men’s basketball has revolved around the position this win deserves in the history of the program. After all, ND fans can remember a lot of big moments — Dwight Clay’s shot from the corner, Orlando Woolridge taking down the Cavaliers, 29-clap-clap-and-one-clap-clap, 61 points from AC against Ohio U, etc. etc.

My position? This one is the biggest of them all … perhaps sitting second to the win over DePaul that propelled the team to the 1978 Final Four, but in the same rarified air … and I’ll tell you why.

The thing that has always bothered me about Notre Dame basketball history is, like Boston College football history, it’s composed of the team depriving other people of doing things rather than doing things themselves. Watching Clay’s shot on YouTube will always get me out of my seat, but at the end of the day, I remember Notre Dame’s achievement is a reflection on what the opponent failed to do. I would never tell an attendee of the 1977 game against San Francisco they’re not an MVP, but there aren’t any banners in Purcell Pavilion for that win.

I still love all of those moments. But they’re moments only Notre Dame fans can love. Our feelings about them aren’t tangible.

Tonight’s win, on the other hand, is very very tangible. Decades from now, the Atlantic Coast Conference statistics will list Notre Dame as its champion for 2014-15. A banner will be hung next fall when the team reconvenes on campus, and that banner will remain there forever. There was a goal to be achieved, and this team walked out on the court and took it when many many prior ND teams had failed.

For all the fantastic moments Notre Dame basketball has brought its fans in 100+ years, that “one Final Four” during the video pregame introductions has been pretty lonely. Now there’s an ACC Championship to put up next to it. And in three weeks, who knows?

42 thoughts on “Relatively Speaking

  1. The ACC champ (automatic bid) is usually a No. 1 seed That wll not happen this time. But it is rewarding to see the orphan basketball programs finally shaking loose of the football identity. If the men continue to progress, the women’s team will become secondary. 1) Because it is tougher to do in the men’s game. 2) The fans will migrate towards the men. As a lifetime basketball fan and a writer of more than 40 years, I can say let’s do something with this magnificent moment. At least a Sweet 16 as the best men’s program in the state.

    • “If the men continue to progress, the women’s team will become secondary.”
      I find this comment depicting a sexist attitude.

      Saying that the women’s team has to be treated as second class citizens in order for the men’s team to grow and thrive, reminded me of the sexist comments former UCONN head coach Jim Calhoun said about the 1995 UCONN women’s team, who won UCONN’s first basketball championship. He said that women’s basketball should not be televisied because it took time and attention away from the men’s teams and only old women and children attended the women’s games; therefore, the women’s game is inferior to the men’s and not deserving of being nationally televised. Calhoun was roundly critisized in Connecticut for those sexist comments and it further deepened a rift between him and Geno Auriemma. However, Geno was and still is close friends with Kevin Ollie, the current UCONN head coach, and while Calhoun was a sexist jerk, the men’s basketball players supported the women’s team and vice-versa.

      As I recall, former ND Men’s basketball head coach Matt Doherty praised the ND women’s team during a televised interview in 1999. Coach K of Duke also praises Duke’s women’s basketball teams. Neither saw their women’s team accomplishments threatening their manhood or interfering in the development of their own teams. In 2001, I recall seeing Mike Brey in the ND section at the NCAA Women’s basketball championship where the ND women won the title against Purdue.

      At UCONN both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are supported enthusiastically. While most fans support both teams, the women have a cohort of loyal followers who prefer the women’s basketball games due to it’s emphasis on mastering the fundamentals over making the game into a dunking contest. The men have their cohort too.

      UCONN is the only college to have the men’s and women’s basketball teams win national championships in the same year twice. Why can’t Notre Dame do that? In fact, I challenge Notre Dame to do that.

      Instead of putting the ND women’s team in second class status, why not challenge the men’s team to do as well as the women’s team, who have a national championship under its belt, 2 ACC Tournament and Season titles and been to the Final 4 multiple times. It’s not easy winning titles in the women’s game either.

      Every year, I cheer for both the ND men’s and women’s basketball teams and am proud of their
      accomplishments. ND alumni and fans should cheer for all ND teams to do well.

  2. Geoffrey '73 says:

    If they start putting up busts of basketball coaches, Brey’s bust will belong as much as Phelps’.

  3. Great team effort!!! The timeout by Coach Brey!! What did he say there?? This may be another Gipper-like memory.

  4. Great perspective Mike. Next 2-3 weeks will be big in terms of how 2014-15 is ultimately remembered, but that banner is a rare achievement for this program instead of just another moment. At the time I witnessed it, I had thought the UVA win in 1981 would springboard another Final Four run (perhaps more), but Danny F-ing Ainge ended that dream and made UVA just another moment. Beyond happy and proud for Mike Brey and this team. On to something even bigger and better in the coming weeks!

    • “F-ing Danny Ainge”? HOLD – THY – TONGUE! I’m a Bostonian and “F-ing Dany Ainge” helped the CHAMPIONSHIP CITY OF BOSTON Celtics of the ’80’s to THREE NBA Championships. (do the Mormons celebrate “The Holy Trinity”? Curious) Oh, OK. I was class of ND’89. And “F-ing Danny Ainge” is helping restructure the Celtics into a present-day champion. (coach Brad Stephens coached at Indianapolis’ Butler U before taking-on the challenge of the Celts) As a Domer, I can accept your disappointment with Dandy-
      Danny A. So I guess I’m kool with your ND-enthusiasm. You (hopefully) meant no disrespect toward MY Celtics. Peace. (;

  5. El K, I was there for 29-bumbum-and ONE! And you are 100% dead on. It was great, but this team is a champion, cutting down the cream of the ACC. Beating NC in these circumstances is cathartic. I remember the Irish losing to them on St. Pat’s years ago and it still irks. And Duke beating them in the final four semi in 1978. So yes, this is just so huge!!! I’m still smiling!

    • Actually Boomer Michigan State beat us in the 78 Final Four. MSU were lead by some guy named Magic. We lost to Duke in the consolation round.

      • Incorrect. Michigan State and Magic Johnson beat ND in the 1979 Elite Eight. ND lost to Duke in St. Louis in the 1978 Final Four (and then lost to Arkansas in the consolation game).



  7. How big was this win? It doesn’t get any better! No matter what happens in the next few weeks, this team and this coach are something special. What a year, what a group! I love these guys…. Seen a lot of good ball over the last 55 years and these guys remind me of the “69 to “73 Knicks. Can’t say much better about a team and can’t say enough about the coach. It’s a great day to be a Domer.

  8. Frank Johnson says:

    Beating UCLA – a dynasty with an 88 game win streak- was a bigger accomplishment. UCLA was in the heart of a run that included 10 NCAA titles in 12 seasons, including seven in a row with four perfect 30–0 seasons. This team is very good, and winning our first Conference tournament was priceless, but beating UCLA is the gold standard. UCLA didn’t fail to win, we beat them and Shumate, Clay, Dantley, Brokaw deserve their recognition as the accomplishment it was and will always be.

    • Respectfully disagree. UCLA was the biggest single win – yes. But these guys just climbed a mountain of a season that culminated with 3 great wins in 3 days and a title in the premier hoops conference. This is the biggest achievement.

    • Phil Loscoe says:

      The win over UCLA was certainly a great moment. But a few things knock it down a few pegs: About 10 days later we went out to Pauly Pavillion and got destroyed by something like 30 by the same UCLA team. Then, in spite of a great 25-2 regular season, we lost in the second round of the NCAAs to a Michigan team that wasn’t nearly as good as the Irish. (Early NCAA exists were not the divine Providence of MIke Brey coached teams only). Winning conference tournament games on the road are greater achievements, at least in my opinion. There is far more pressure in post season tournament play than there is in a regular season game. I agree that UCLA didn’t exactly lose the game as much as ND won in on 1974, but from the UCLA perspective it was one of the all-time choke jobs in UCLA history. UCLA had control of the game until the Irish closed with a great run. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, but we see it as a great comeback win (which it was), but a lot of others saw it as a major gag-job on UCLA’s part.

    • I still remember the return match with UCLA. Boy did they put a whooping on us. The ACC win is a great accomplishment to be sure, but going to the final four is still a better one. In those days we didn’t have a conference championship to win, so it was all or nothing. Let’s see how far we get in the tournament before we start comparing this team to the likes of Tripucka, Laimbeer and Hanzlik.

  9. There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this ranks squarely at the top of the greatest moments in ND hoops history. In large part because it was a series of moments that crystalized into something that has eluded Notre Dame in the 20 years of conference competition: a tournament championship. I contend that beating the royalty of the conference, Duke and North Carolina, on consecutive nights in the virtual backyard of both schools is an incredible achievement for the program. To beat two of the greatest programs in the history of the sport in what amounted to hostile road games is very satisfying. I think I’m almost happiest for Mike Brey, who I have always felt maximizes what he can get out of a program that has historically played at a disadvantage and gets little more than crap from fans for his work. He’s a class act and a heck of a coach, and it feels good to watch him achieve this success. Frankly, he deserves it.

  10. Geoffrey '73 says:

    Beating UCLA had already been done a few years earlier (1970?) by Carr, Catlett and Collis Jones. The beat Rowe, Wicks and Bibby.

    That was a mere 80-game streak, but still a comparable feat.

    In 50 years’ time, the first ACC title will have a higher importance in Irish memory.

    • Perhaps, but if so it will be in part because those of us who stick up for the UCLA games will be long gone by then.

  11. The win was great, but we must build on it. In football (and yes, I realize basketball is a different sport in many respects), we look down on those who settle for conference championships. I think we need to focus on the brass ring, but first things first. Let’s take care of Northeastern, then the winner of the Butler-Texas game.

  12. Coffey’s point was that this team did what no other ND team has ever done: put together a series of big wins to take the title in a major tournament. Digger’s teams did nothing but choke year after year in the NCAA. The singular wins like the ones over UCLA were great but they merely spoiled another program’s outstanding success. That’s BC-like. It’s a great point, and what makes this a truly special ND team.

  13. I was thrilled by the win, and I do think this is the biggest win in the school’s B-ball history, with the possible exception of the Elite 8 win. I came of age in the Digger era, and was also at the 29-1 game. All through our Big East tenure, I was interested in, but did not really care if, we won the Big East tourney. I was used to being an independent, and only cared about the NC. I went into Saturday feeling that as well. I came out with a different view, partly the result of my texts exploding and partially realizing that a conference championship means something and it is something important. Breaking other team’s win streaks are nice accomplishments. All great teams have those moments, but they also have championships. Now we do too.

      • Understood. Neither is a Final Four. I was commenting in response to “For all the fantastic moments Notre Dame basketball has brought its fans in 100+ years, that “one Final Four” during the video pregame introductions has been pretty lonely.” If you’re gonna go back 100 yrs, then there are accomplishments akin to that one Final Four.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          True, but to current fans and players, none of whom were alive for those NC’s, something like an ACC title is a lot more meaningful.

  14. Thank you, Fr. Ted. Don’t bet against any Irish team during 2015. The students stood out in the cold to bless Fr. Ted’s passing on March 4th, and our athletes will play proudly for him this year.

  15. I’m reminded of a couple of good things: Big Paul Nowak’s shot while on his back on the floor against DePaul (I think it was DePaul) and Paul Hornung’s willingness to give up BB and let some other guys play on the ‘ 56 BB team

  16. Winning the ACC is the biggest accomplishment and top moment. Winning a big game at home is great, but to do something like this team did in a “neutral” environment is bigger. If all of those big wins were on the road, I could agree with some posters that say a win other than this ACC Championship would be the biggest moment.

  17. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! And BTW, I take back all of my negative comments about Mike Brey over the past 15 years. He has grown tremendously and learned much about how to coach basketball in the football environment at ND. The ACC Championship and a couple of wins (at least) in the NCAA will go a long way toward recruiting more elite talent to ND. GO IRISH!!

  18. In the illustrious history of one of the greatest basketball programs of all time,I am wondering if UNC ever sustained a run of 22-2 against it.I would guess the answer would be a resounding “no”.Anybody know for sure? Congrats to the Irish and best wishes for a successful run in the NCAA .
    King Rmk

  19. ACC Tournament championship was a great moment, but I will still take the win over UCLA. It was a historic moment in college basketball. I respect anyone who disagrees, it is just my perspective that it will be remembered longer. Hopefully there is something even better to come. This team has been very fun to watch,

  20. I was a kid watching ND upset UCLA in 1974, but the 2015 ACC Tournament championship game was better than that. ND got to bring home a trophy and cut down the nets.

    The 1978 Final Four ND team is still my best ND Men’s bb memory right now. But my #2 best memory of ND men’s basketball was this year’s team’s ACC championship game and season to-date.

  21. Great Accomplishment! Here’s to an Elite 8 showdown with those big bad Wildcats. I am trying to stay optimisitic despite past performances. Brey- dont coach tight —have the kids playing fearless ball and let the chips fall where they may.