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Observer Editorial: A true Notre Dame man

| Friday, March 27, 2015

With the NCAA tournament in full swing, Irish men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey is one of the most visible figures in sports right now, especially after his team’s two nail-biter wins over Northeastern and Butler last weekend.

But for members of the Notre Dame community, Brey is consistently one of the most visible figures on campus, not just in March.

Whether he’s patrolling the sidelines during a game at Purcell Pavilion, grabbing lunch at South Dining Hall or dropping by dorms to encourage students to watch the Irish in action, it’s hard to go a long period of time without spotting Brey.

However, Brey doesn’t come by just to make an appearance and drum up ticket sales. He is approachable and just as eager to talk about what students did for spring break as he is to discuss the latest Irish victory.

Like his counterpart on the women’s team, head coach Muffet McGraw, he’s genuinely involved in the Notre Dame community instead of confined to his office in the Joyce Center.

Although he might have bigger things on his mind, such as landing a five-star recruit, figuring out how to break through a tough 2-3 zone or running a program in one of the most difficult conferences in the country, we can always count on Brey for a good conversation, even if it’s not about basketball.

We can also count on Brey to show enthusiasm and optimism, even when times are tough. Notre Dame’s 15-17 record last season was far from stellar, and many of us decided we didn’t want to sit through any more home losses this year.

But Brey never gave up on the Leprechaun Legion, sending reminder emails before big matchups to make us believe our presence was just as important as a step-back jumper from Jerian Grant or a hard-fought rebound from Pat Connaughton. “We need our sixth man,” Brey would tell us, and his sixth man would be there to cheer after a key 3-pointer, bang on the seats during opponent free throws and chant, “We are ND,” after an Irish win.

Now, possibly more than ever, we want to let Brey know we’ll always have his back because he’s an integral part of the Notre Dame family.

After last night’s win over Wichita State, the Irish are still dancing in the late stages of an unbelievable season. The team has reached its first Elite Eight since 1979, and its 32-5 record and ACC tournament championship were pinnacles many of us thought were unattainable after last year.

Brey has led an incredible turnaround to prove that Notre Dame is, once again, one of the nation’s top programs.

But more so than that, we want to show our support for Brey because of the tremendous courage he displayed last Saturday, when he announced to his players, assistant coaches and the media after the overtime win over Butler that his mother, Betty Brey, had died that morning.

Brey said he didn’t want to make the day about him. He wanted the focus to remain on his players and their game. His commitment to both his team and Notre Dame as a whole shone through as he coached the Irish to yet another victory, despite his loss. Brey’s selflessness reinforced our knowledge that we have a man of high character — a true Notre Dame man — at the helm of the men’s basketball program.

“The strength that he had to have had to go through it without mentioning it, without acting like it, he hadn’t skipped a beat,” Connaughton said after last Saturday’s win. “I just hope he knows this team is here for him.”

Your team is there for you, Coach Brey, and so is your Notre Dame family. You’ve always had our back, and we’ll always have yours.

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