SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Mike Brey said he started thinking it was time to step down as Notre Dame’s coach on the March plane ride home from the Irishman’s NCAA Tournament run.
By Christmas, those thoughts turned serious, and last week I was sure.
“From 2000 to 2017, we went to 12 NCAA tournaments,” Brey said at a news conference Friday. “Since 2018 we have gone to one. That’s how they measure you, man. I felt like we lost momentum. It was amazing to have us back last year, and it was an amazing experience to go and win two games in the NCAA Tournament, so as I look at the big picture, I think a new voice is needed.”
Notre Dame announced Thursday that the 63-year-old would step down at the end of the season after winning a school-record 481 games and leading the program for a school-record 23 years.
The team is 9-10 overall and 1-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, one of the worst seasons in program history before a home game Saturday against Boston College. Which is why Brey thought it necessary to announce now that this is his last season.
“I think it may be a distraction: speculation, and what’s going on, is it going to come back, do you want me to?” Brey said. “I want our guys to focus and play, and I thought, why don’t we clear this up right now and see if it helps our group and, frankly, helps Notre Dame, who can get into the process of getting advance notice about a search. ”.
Brey hasn’t ruled out coaching again, but said he plans to take at least a year off. He said he would also assist athletic director Jack Swarbrick in the search, calling it “a huge responsibility for me to help hire the next right coach here.”
Brey was a finalist for the Notre Dame job in 1999, but the Irishman hired Matt Doherty instead. Doherty left for his alma mater, North Carolina, after one season, and Brey was signed out of Delaware after leading the Blue Hens to two NCAA tournaments in three seasons.
Notre Dame broke a 10-year NCAA drought in 2001 and made 13 total tournament appearances under Brey. He won 15 tournament games, tying the school record, and Notre Dame reached back-to-back Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016.
Brey was the Big East Coach of the Year three times and won 146 conference games, which still ranks fifth all-time in the league. Notre Dame moved to the ACC in 2013 and two years later, Brey won the conference tournament title by defeating Miami, Duke and North Carolina during a 32-6 campaign. The Irish returned to the ACC tournament semifinals in 2016 and the ACC championship game in 2017.
Brey said it might have made sense to leave after last season, when the Irish went 24-11 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament after breaking into the First Four. But he said he wanted to see through the six graduate students on his list.
He also pointed to the new challenges that come along with the name, image and transfer portal, saying that a manager has to be “really energized to handle that and attack that.”
Notre Dame’s Brey says ‘we lost momentum,’ the time is right originally appeared on NBCSports.com