Mike Brey, winningest coach in Notre Dame history, to step down after season


Another of college basketball’s most recognizable faces on the sidelines is preparing to say goodbye.

Mike Brey, the winningest head coach in Notre Dame history, is stepping away from the program at the end of the season, the program announced Thursday.

After 23 seasons in South Bend, the 63-year-old is ready for a new chapter in his life. For more than two decades, Brey has been the face of Notre Dame men’s basketball, and he should be remembered as the man who resurrected the program from a state of irrelevance and turned it into a regular in the Tournament of NCAA. When Brey took over for Matt Doherty in 2000, the Irish were mired in an 11-year Big Dance drought that dated back to the Digger Phelps era in 1990.

Enter Brey, who led the Irish to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first three seasons, including a Sweet 16 trip in 2003.

Brey won at least 20 games in 16 of his 23 seasons in South Bend. He was also a three-time Big East Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year with a 27-win team in 2011.

His most memorable Irish careers came in 2015 and 2016, when Notre Dame went to back-to-back Elite Eights behind the likes of Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, Zach Auguste, Bonzie Colson & Co.

Before those two runs, the Irish had not advanced this far in the tournament since 1979.

In recent years, Brey’s program has gone downhill. While an epic win over Rutgers in the top four, and a follow-up win over Alabama, produced a round of 16 appearance last season, it’s the only time Notre Dame has made a postseason appearance in the last five years .

The Irish entered this season with some promise and were picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll. An 8-3 start was encouraging, but Notre Dame is 1-7 in ACC play and has suffered another major slump.

An 82-74 loss to a lowly Florida State team on Thursday, a game in which the Irish fell behind 32-8 at home, may have sealed the punch for Brey. Afterwards, he went on a long rant about how he felt he didn’t know where to go and said he’s spoiled his players too much.

“We’re going to keep working hard, keep being positive and keep fighting. That’s all we can do,” Brey said after the loss. “We’ll talk more on Thursday and figure out a plan to move forward.”

That plan is for Brey to step away from coaching, and he’s the latest known coach to say goodbye to the stress of college basketball in the ever-changing world of the transfer portal and NIL.

Asking a couple of coaches from around the country about Brey’s impact, here’s what they had to say:

  • “He’s a professional! A coach who gets it! He understands the student-athletes and he understands the mission of college athletics. We don’t have many real ones. Mike Brey has been one of them.”
  • “A great coach, so he never took himself too seriously in a profession that he’s very good at. He had a unique perspective among college basketball coaches who are generally too important. And he thrived because of it.”
  • “I heard him talk to a bunch of coaches one time. They asked him about setting team rules. He said, ‘We have a sign in the Notre Dame locker room that says, ‘Take care of your homework. and basketball, and us.” It will do me good.”

Brey began coaching in college as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski from 1987 to 1995. In 2019, Krzyzewski had this to say about Brey: “Mike helped develop our program. He was an integral part of us winning back-to-back national championships and going to seven Final Fours in nine years. Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker … Those guys were incredible. .”

As a result, Brey landed a head coaching job, leading Delaware to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in three straight 20-win seasons from 1998-2000 before landing the Notre Dame job.

As for where the Irish turn from here, it will be interesting to see what athletic director Jack Swarbrick does. This is the second major opening in college hoops next to Texas, but not on the same level as the Longhorns, who are currently ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25. The Irish are close to a job in the top 40.

For now, it’s the end of an era that spanned nearly a quarter-century, with far more wins than losses and the program’s winningest coach in Brey.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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