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Coach Brey gets personal in chat

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A small crowd dominated by baseball hat-sporting males gathered eagerly around Irish basketball coach Mike Brey in the Coleman Morse lounge Tuesday night for the second of the Student Union Board’s new series, “Fireside Chats.” Brey touched on many subjects including his predictions for the upcoming season, recruiting, his coaching career and even the ticket lottery, which left many fans empty-handed.Patrick Vassel, programmer of SUB’s Ideas and Issues committee, which organized the lecture series, introduced Brey with a long list of his achievements, including his three NCAA appearances as head coach of the Irish and the $400,000 he and his wife have raised for Coaches vs. Cancer – all to Brey’s dismay. “Make it quick,” the coach said modestly. “We’re all family here.”Brey began the chat by highlighting each of his players, and assessing the impact that each will have this year. The team has, notably, nine returning players and just one freshman, Rob Kurz. “He’s one of the most mature freshman we’ve ever had,” Brey said.”A basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint,” Brey continued, “and that’s what I tell my guys. Every one of them is going to have an impact, somewhere down the line.” He called this year’s team the most talented one he’s coached at Notre Dame.Brey also talked about the team’s powerful schedule, which boasts 13 nationally-televised games, and the importance of getting back into the NCAA postseason tournament, both for the pride of the school and for recruiting purposes. “We’ve got to get back into that bracket,” he said. “I don’t think the guys even need to be told that. There’s just a feeling in the locker room.”Compared to the Notre Dame basketball program of the early 1990’s – which averaged two televised games and 300 student season tickets a year – “We’ve got some credibility back again,” Brey said. Brey then turned to recruiting, profiling each of next year’s four recruits in a complimentary manner. He also explained the program’s methods of recruitment. “We don’t waste time with kids who want to go pro or kids who aren’t likely to come here,” he said, “and most of the guys stay for four years because they want a degree from this University.”Brey identified two mentors from his career: DeMatha High School coach Morgan Wooten and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, for whom Brey worked as an assistant coach. Brey recalled Krzyzweski’s methods of allowing his assistants to get their hands on all aspects of the program, and involving the assistants’ families as much as possible. “I try to do the same thing with my program here,” Brey said.As for the ticket lottery, Brey called the shortage “a good problem” because it reflects students’ passion for the team. There have been talks about gutting and redoing the seating in the Joyce Center to accommodate more fans, he said. “We don’t need anything gaudy, but we need to clean it up,” he said.Brey also discussed his interest in the football program – “We do some great recruiting on football weekends;” his fond memories of 6 foot-11.” Tom Timmermans – “He shot a three-pointer during practice freshman year and I kicked him out, then as a senior he makes six three pointers in the game against UCLA;” and players with big dreams – “Other coaches would say, shut up; I say, you made the promise, now show me.” “I’ve really come to associate with this place,” Brey said at one point. “You get your handprint on a place and you get attached. I’m excited about the future of this program.”Joe Meginnes, a sophomore who attended the fireside chat, enjoyed the variety of Brey’s speech.”It was interesting to hear his outlook for the season and also about his background, with his two mentors,” Meginnes said. “It was also cool to have a more personal setting and be able to interact with the coach.”Vassel said he is pleased with the Fireside Chats so far this year. The committee’s goal was to focus less on big names outside campus and look to the people on campus to whom students might be interested in listening, he said.”I thought [tonight’s chat] turned out well,” said Vassel. “[Coach Brey] talked more about basketball than I had anticipated, but the things he talked about, like team-building and ethics, apply to all areas of life. And that’s what this lecture series is supposed to do.”