As a newcomer, Mike Brey plans to keep a low profile at the ACC spring meetings next month in Florida. But Notre Dame’s basketball coach doesn’t lack for opinions as the conference charts a new direction with 15 teams and a greater Northeast presence.
Brey and I chatted for about 30 minutes Saturday morning as he evaluated talent at Nike’s Elite Youth League at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. After coaching Notre Dame in the Big East for 13 seasons, he’s taking the Fighting Irish to the ACC, part of an expansion that also includes the Big East’s Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
Brey’s insights into Notre Dame’s move are in my Sunday print column. Here are his views on other ACC basketball topics.
Brey applauds the ACC taking over the Big East’s weekly Big Monday slot at 7 p.m., on ESPN next season. That window opened when the Big East’s so-called Catholic 7 took their television package to Fox.
“The power of having that is so important that you suck it up on a Saturday-Monday (turnaround),” Brey said. “We played four of them (last season) and we went 5-3, and I’m going to have a parade. We get blown out at Providence (on a Saturday) and win at Pittsburgh (two days later).
“But you’ve got to have that window because the country is watching. Everybody watches Big Monday. … If anyone in the ACC starts to bring up Saturday-Monday, I can speak from experience. ‘Suck it up, man. You need it. You need it for your program. It’s important to the league.’”
Preaching to the choir, Brey told me he’d also like to see the ACC take over the Saturday night tournament championship slot on ESPN vacated by the Big East. The ACC has played its tournament final on Selection Sunday afternoon since 1983.
“Mike and I were talking about that,” Brey said, mentioning his former Duke boss, Mike Krzyzewski. “I think it would be really smart. No one cares about the games on Sunday. And as a matter of fact, I don’t even think your kids can enjoy it if they win it. I don’t think anyone is plugged in. They’re already looking at (NCAA) brackets.
“I’m the new guy on the block, and I can’t say much, but I would suggest taking that slot. And you know what? It would probably help the two teams, because you’ve got another day (to prepare for the NCAAs).”
Although the new Big East is determined to retain New York’s Madison Square Garden as its tournament home, Brey believes the new ACC has the muscle to intrude. The unknown is, how long of a commitment would the ACC have to make in order for the Garden to agree?
No one anticipates, and few advocate, the ACC ditching the event’s North Carolina roots for a permanent Big Apple home. But ACC commissioner John Swofford and Miami coach/New York native Jim Larranaga are among those intrigued by a northern incursion.
“I know the tradition of Greensboro and the ACC tournament,” Brey said, “and some of my best memories in coaching as an assistant at Duke were in the ACC tournament in Greensboro and Charlotte. But I think it would be really smart to have a discussion about the Garden.
“Everybody was watching the sexiest league the last seven, eight years, the Big East. Everyone’s going to be watching the ACC now, and to rotate through Broadway would … be a natural in my opinion. I’ll certainly give my two cents.”
Notre Dame reached the Friday night Big East semifinals the past four seasons, losing each time.
“Thursday and Friday at the Garden, the electricity in the building is unbelievable,” Brey said, “and Saturday is a given. I’ve got to believe the southern fan bases would be thrilled to go to the city every now and then.
“And you have enough of a northern tier. Syracuse people certainly know how to rally at the Garden. Boston College people remember how to get there, Pitt people, our people certainly.”
With the ACC expanding to 15, Brey said the conference needs to routinely produce the 7-9 NCAA tournament teams that the old Big East did with 16 schools. A record 11 Big East squads made the NCAA field in 2011.
“Now we’ve got to get seven, eight, nine bids,” Brey said. “It’s a key, and I think we will. … People talk about how tough coaching in the ACC will be, but if you wake up and say, ‘If I get to the top eight or nine I get a bid,’ you keep your sanity.”
Finally, I asked Brey about Notre Dame’s 104-101, five-overtime home victory over Louisville in mid-February. The Cardinals never lost again en route to the Big East and NCAA tournament championships.
“Divine intervention,” Brey said. “Our fans are our leaving, I’m starting to think, OK, what’s the postgame speech? Who do we have next? Can we bounce back?
“Then (Jerian) Grant goes into all World B Free mode [scoring 12 points in the final minute of regulation], and the thing is once we got it there (in overtime), we were playing with such house money. You talk about loose. We’re just laughing. Garrick Sherman scores 17 off the bench after being in the doghouse.
“When the one tip-in went in off of Sherman’s head, I thought we had a great shot. … Maybe we’ll get an ESPY. I’ve had fans now in South Bend admit to me, ‘OK, I left, but I went to a bar and stayed there until the end.’
“People still talk about it. (SMU coach) Larry Brown came up to me today. It was the game of the year. I spoke to some graduating seniors, and some of them told me it was the highlight of their four years.”
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns.