Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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38 DECEMBER 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED With the help of longtime Notre Dame athletics staff member John Heisler, Mike Brey — the "loosest coach in America" — shares first- hand experiences of playing memo- rable games, interacting with his talented players and experiencing remarkable moments in his life. From the world of high school sports to the high-stakes atmosphere of the University of Notre Dame, his au- tobiography presents an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the man behind Fighting Irish basketball. The following is an excerpt from the chapter "The Notre Dame Way." I 'm fortunate that now I've been at Notre Dame for a while and I have finally started to have guys who played for me who are now ready to be assistant coaches. I was anxiously awaiting the time to be able to put the staff together like we have it now. Ryan Ayers and Ryan Hum- phrey were warming up in the bullpen for me, and then one day a couple of years ago, I had two guys — Anthony Solomon to Georgetown and Martin Ingelsby to Delaware — leave for other coaching jobs. It was an unbelievable perfect storm of getting your guys back. I had Sean Kearney and Gene Cross before that. We've always had a really good staff here. But it's really neat now that I am able to pick from a pool of my former players. And so when a Rod Balanis leaves to be a head coach, we've got an Eric Atkins there being trained, and you've got some other guys out there who will reach out and may want to come back. I tried to hire Chris Quinn, but he is on the NBA track. He's going to be an NBA head coach someday, and we're really proud of him. But it's so powerful right now to watch Harold Swanagan, Humphrey, Ayers, and At- kins interact with our current guys, knowing they all have been through all the same things at Notre Dame. Sometimes they can do some things that I can't. They can have some one-on-one conversations that accomplish some things I can't get done by myself. In 2017-18 the T.J. Gibbs-Atkins relationship was really cool. These guys have been through it all, and it's really a powerful set- ting to watch. These guys know. They get it. They believe in the pro- gram. They're loyal. Certainly one of the biggest strengths is they all played for me and can translate. If a guy's struggling with his role or maybe doesn't understand something I'm try- ing to communicate to them, my assis- tants can translate because they have been through it all. For this era of play- ers at Notre Dame, I often tell them, "You don't know how lucky you are to have these four former guys around." And we're lucky to have such great connections to the past. A legend named Franny Collins served as a great D.C.-to-Notre Dame connection for me. He was in the DeMatha gym a lot. I never really knew him when I was playing at DeMatha, even though he was around then. But when I was coaching with Morgan Wootten, he was always there. He was bird-dogging the whole area like he always did. He went to Georgetown, and he and former Notre Dame coach Johnny Dee were old Army bud- dies. So he started bird-dogging for Dee, even though Collins didn't go to Notre Dame. And then Digger picked it up and nurtured the relationship. And Collins wanted to help. He was empowered. Coach Wootten had introduced him to me and told me his back- ground. Collins would come to a practice or a game, and I'd see him afterward, so I had a rela- tionship with him. After practice one day at DeMatha, he came up to me. I was just 24. He was al- ways dressed really well and he opened his coat and pulled out a big pen. He said, "Do you know Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, Sid Catlett?" He was going through all these Notre Dame players from the D.C. area. "They all signed with Notre Dame with this pen." I said, "Wow, Mr. Collins, that's un- believable. All those guys?" He said, "I was there for every one of them." I said, "Man, you're good." So it was so neat that I got the Notre Dame job, and his best advice to me was, "Don't change. Don't ever change. Just please keep being yourself." We would get him great seats be- hind the bench when we played at Georgetown during Big East play. Even in the waning years when his eyesight wasn't good, he would come with former Notre Dame for- ward Collis Jones, and Collis would tell him what was going on. It meant so much to me. The D.C. pipeline guy — whom I knew when I was the young JV coach and his- tory teacher — was now sitting be- hind the bench, and I was the head coach at Notre Dame. I always felt so THE NOTRE DAME WAY An excerpt from Mike Brey's autobiography Keeping It Loose: Patience, Passion, and My Life In Basketball

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