Mike Brey may very well end up as the Big East coach of the year. Again.
It’s a longshot – Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is the clear front-runner – but it’s worth considering given how much Brey lost from last year’s team (two starters, including conference player of the year Ben Hansbrough) and that go-to-scorer Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL in November and hasn’t played since.
Yet the Irish are 7-3 in the Big East (15-8 overall) after Saturday’s win against No. 15 Marquette, their fourth straight victory and fourth against a ranked team. Also, Notre Dame is the only team to beat ‘Cuse this season … a tip to Brey’s job performance. Marquette’s Buzz Williams said as much after Saturday’s game.
Brey’s not talking about any of that right now, but he does concede that the season’s been a pleasant surprise and loads of fun. From a Q&A with Jeff Eisenberg:
JE: It’s probably hard to self-evaluate, but do you think this is one of your better coaching jobs since coming to Notre Dame?
MB: I’m having a lot of fun. One of the things I mentioned to our team when we came back from Louisville was we have the assistant coaches in the country. I really believe the rhythm that our staff has been in the last two seasons, I am so pleased with. We really have great teachers and this is a team that needs teaching. We said that especially when Abro went down. It’s what I like to do, it’s how I’ve been trained. So I’m enjoying the journey. I’m not fighting for my job. I’m just enjoying the challenge and journey with this group, and that probably helps me be a more confident teacher.
Brey can worry about accolades in a few months. At this point, the Irish need to string together more conference wins to avoid a sub-.500 record and lock up an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
The remaining schedule doesn’t pose many daunting challenges (two games against West Virginia and one vs. Georgetown), but stumbling blocks against Big East fodder. Losing to the likes of DePaul, Providence and Rutgers can only hurt Notre Dame’s profile. He doesn’t sound worried, though.
“I think our guys are very focused on showing up on Selection Sunday,” Brey said Saturday. “God bless them. They should be because they’ve put us in this position with their focus and business-like approach to go get it.”
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