Mike Brey addresses decision to leave Notre Dame, what’s next for him

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 10:59 AM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey addressed the media on Friday morning after it was announced on Thursday evening that he will be leaving the program at the end of the 2022-2023 season.

Brey did not seem deflated or defeated in Friday’s press conference. In fact, he led the conference with a tension-breaking joke about having to step down in order to get the attention that’s normally reserved for the football program, which drew a bunch of laughs.

From there, Brey was insightful, introspective, and admitted what many have known for weeks leading up to the announcement — that the Irish men’s basketball program needs a new voice.

He took responsibility for just one conference win in eight games so far this season, and he admitted that he was considering stepping down while on the plane ride back to South Bend after the Irish were knocked out in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

But between seniors coming back and a young, talented class, Brey decided to come back for another season.

“These seniors, we actually talked this summer a little bit . . . I said ‘Hey guys, let’s make one last run together,’” he said. “I may have used the phrase ‘last dance’ after it. ‘Let’s make one last run together because I may go out with you guys, too.’”

But he said the time for a change has come after his 23 seasons with the program.

“I’ve had 23 years. It’s unbelievable. It’s been amazing, but I firmly believe down the road it needs to be somebody else,” Brey said. “(Notre Dame Athletic Director) Jack (Swarbrick) and I talked about it this last week and felt now is the time to kind of do that.”

Brey still has 12 more games in the regular season, plus the ACC tournament, so he’s not done just yet. In fact, even after this season ends, the 63-year-old may not be done coaching yet.

Brey clarified during the press conference that he isn’t necessarily retiring from coaching altogether, as he touched on the prospects of returning to coaching in the future. However, he did confirm that he will be “retiring” from Notre Dame.

“I wouldn’t rule out being around young people and teaching and coaching again,” he said. “I don’t think I want to jump back into that next year. But, you know, most need time to think about it.

“Again, I’m kind of excited about my next chapter,” he continued. “I have no idea what the hell it’s going to be, but I’m excited about that and relocating probably somewhere else. 23 South Bend winters has probably been enough, so I’m kind of excited about that, too.”

Brey will leave Notre Dame as the winningest head coach in the 119-year history of the program, with 481 and counting. But the one thing that’s eluded him in his time at Notre Dame is a national championship.

While Brey has never won a national title or made a Final Four, that doesn’t change his legacy on campus. He’s led the Irish to 13 NCAA Tournament berths — including three Sweet 16 trips and two Elite Eight appearances. He also led Notre Dame to an ACC Tournament championship in 2015.

When Brey was asked about his legacy and how he wants to be remembered, the wins were the last thing on his mind.

“With these seniors, that’ll be 72 young men that have come through and have finished their degree and have played for me,” he said. “And that’s like 72 sons, and I certainly have heard from a lot of them in the last 24 hours. Those relationships are the key.

“We’ve had some amazing wins and fun stuff,” he continued. “We’ve also had some disappointing losses and disappointing seasons. But it’s about the guys. It’s about the relationships.”

So, where does Notre Dame go from here? The program will be searching for only its second head coach in more than two decades. Brey said he will help Swarbrick choose the next head coach.

When asked what the next head coach needs to do to succeed, Brey pointed to the changes in the climate of college athletics, saying the next coach will need to focus on managing NIL, as well as the transfer portal.

But since the season isn’t over yet, he talked about his goals as the Irish prepare for their next game on Saturday afternoon against Boston College at Purcell Pavilion.

“We’re working like heck to flip the script,” Brey said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We want to win an ACC game on Saturday and then go on the road to NC State and play it out. I think maybe it can clear some speculation and some heads up, and we can just move forward and play.

“As a staff, we’re trying to figure out how to help our guys better,” he continued. “It’s not the first time we’ve been pushed up against the wall. I think our guys are extremely motivated.”

In terms of sending Brey off with a trip to the big dance in his final season, the Irish are likely going to need to win the ACC tournament.

And while he may not be getting a yearlong “retirement” tour, Brey will likely be celebrated in every arena he visits throughout the rest of the season.

You can watch the full press conference at the video below: