HAGERSTOWN—University of Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey might feel like a rock musician on a quick, whirlwind tour.
He was in Hagerstown on Monday, Minneapolis on Tuesday and in Boston today before returning to South Bend, Ind., for a day. Then he’ll be off for Phoenix with Richmond, Va. next, and it’s all part of the NCAA college basketball live period for Division I coaches.
Brey started his trip visiting the Gael Center at St. Maria Goretti, where he took in a workout session that included his newest recruit, Martin Geben. He’s still on the trail of possibly two more verbals.
“We got our top choice and I’m able to enjoy today,” Brey said on Monday. “The rest of the trip, it’s gameday for me.”
By NCAA rule, coaches are not permitted to talk specifics about those who have made their verbal commitments until they sign on the dotted line Nov. 15.
Following the workout, he addressed the group as a whole, but during the 90-minute session, he and assistant coach Rod Balanis were watching Geben and the others.
Brey is no stranger to the region and spent time talking with former Goretti coach Cokey Robertson.
A graduate of DeMatha High School, Brey became an assistant coach under Morgan Wootten at DeMatha before he landed an assistant position at Duke in 1987 under Mike Krzyzewski. He went on to the University of Delaware with for his first head coaching position in 1995 and then to Notre Dame in 2000 when he succeeded Matt Doherty.
All Brey wanted to be was a high school coach and at one time thought he would be the head coach at Churchill High School in Montgomery County, but he could not secure a physical education teaching position.
The rest is history for Brey.
Notre Dame currently has seven straight 20-plus win seasons, but Brey — who signed a new 10-year contract last year — is still trying to find the formula that can get the Fighting Irish to the Final Four.
The Irish will once again have senior Eric Atkins at guard — the 6-foot-2 star a graduate of Mount St. Joseph of the Baltimore Catholic League.
New for Brey and the Irish is the switch from Big East basketball to the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes a trip to Comcast Center against Maryland, in its last ACC season before moving to the Big Ten, this Jan. 15. Oddly enough, Brey said he’s never been in Comcast Center.
“It’s like going into a new job with new styles,” Brey said. “I grew up an ACC fan, went to Lefty (Driesell’s) camps. Now we’re going to Tobacco Road.”
Notre Dame’s inaugural ACC game will be on Jan. 4 at home against Duke.
He also thinks, soon enough, the ACC postseason tournament will move from North Carolina to New York City at Madison Square Garden.
Meanwhile, Geben was back at business as usual on campus Monday with classroom studies and evening basketball.
He described his visit to Notre Dame “the coolest” and is happy the process has come to a halt so he can focus on studies and basketball where he’ll lead the Gaels this winter.
“It’s a load off my shoulders,” Geben said. “I hope to work hard and be a starter and that was a factor in my decision.”
Notre Dame will lose two of its big men to graduation following the 2013-14 season.
Geben visited the campus with his parents, who were flown in from Vilnius, Lithuania.
He was able to mix it up with the current Irish players in the Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame’s home arena. He met professors, had a dinner with Brey, went to mass in the Basilica and was thrilled when he walked through the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium to watch the Irish play Temple.
Geben had a strong summer of basketball with Team Takeover (D.C.) and playing with his native Lithuania team in the world games. He credited former DeMatha star Victor Olidapo, now with the Orlando Magic, with working with him on his game.
As a youngster in Lithuania, never did he think he would be in this position.
“I hope my story is inspiring,” Geben said.