Mike Brey: An honorary bro.
After conception of the BROad Trip idea, we gradually added important details other than “Let’s go to basketball games at all of our alma maters” to the mix. Like, we’ll make T-shirts. We’ll rent a minivan. We’ll bring an XBox and a small TV for said minivan. Maybe the most important addition was “We’ll get pictures of all of our head coaches.”
We did not know if this was possible, but, having covered college basketball for five years, I had a pretty strong inkling that it could. I don’t think I’m making a jump to say that college basketball coaches are by far the coolest and most down to earth in sports. Because college hoops is a bit of a niche sport (especially in the middle of January), coaches appreciate the fans who are crazy over it while most of the country is arguing about whether or not Manti Te’o knew that his girlfriend didn’t exist or which Harbaugh brother is better. I had a feeling that, if we just asked the respective contacts we have at our alma maters, we could get these pictures with Mike Brey, Tom Crean, John Beilein and John Groce, and hopefully Brad Stevens at Butler.
Well, you can imagine how we were feeling about midway through the second half of the Georgetown-Notre Dame game. Like, um, maybe John Thompson III would take a picture with us instead? Because Mike Brey, no, no way Mike Brey would want to stop and smile for the camera with us in his awesome maroon mock turtle neck after his team laid such a stinker (see below for Sam’s game recap).
But, after the game, the Notre Dame director of basketball operations remembered Sam’s e-mail and took us back to the basketball offices, where we waited for Brey. And, sure enough, after waiting for about a half hour, Brey emerged, smiling and shaking our hands and asking us about our trip. When we told him the itinerary, he said, “Can I come?” He seemed as if he could have used a beer or 18, but we still didn’t take him too literally. No, Mike Brey, you can’t come with us. Because you have practice tomorrow morning, and your team clearly needs it, and we need Sam to be happy at some point this winter and spring.
But, we love Mike Brey, and we are feeling better about the prospects of meeting the other coaches and telling them a bit about our journey.
White Castle was a bad choice.
LOCATION UPDATE: We are now in Bloomington, Indiana. Tomorrow night, we will see Indiana demolish Penn State. Basically, all we did was party in South Bend until 3 a.m. while a snowstorm fell around Northwest Indiana. And then we drove Tuesday and somehow found room in our bellies for 30 sliders from White Castle. We’re still recovering.
SAM’S GAME RECAP:
All season there have been little warning signs that this might not be the Notre Dame team many thought it would be coming into the season. With literally every player returning from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, why shouldn’t the Irish challenge for a top-four Big East finish, heck, maybe even a league title? Losses to Connecticut and at St. John’s were easy enough to write off (Notre Dame loses to UConn at home regularly and never plays well at Madison Square Garden). But last night’s loss and, more importantly, the way it went down, is troubling.
All the things that made last year’s Notre Dame team successful — toughness, grit and a firm identity on offense and defense — seem to be totally lacking this year. On offense, the Irish just don’t seem to know who they are. Sometimes, there a team that wants to run through Jack Cooley, who hasn’t been able to sneak up on teams the way he may have been able to last year. Cooley also hasn’t reacted well this season when opposing teams make him the focal point of their defensive game plan.
On defense, Notre Dame is — for the first time in a long time — athletic enough to play man-to-man against other Big East teams, yet is reluctant to do so. Working out of a zone defense last night, the Irish gave the Hoyas wide-open outside shots that, even for an offensively challenged team like Georgetown, were easy buckets.
In a more big picture sense, this team doesn’t have “it,” the way the Irish did last year. Last year, this team was written off by pretty much everyone when Tim Abromaitis went down with an injury, but powered through Big East play with a hard-working, defensive squad. In retrospect, that may have been the worst thing that could have happened to THIS year’s Notre Dame team. It looked like last year was the floor, and that this year’s squad could only go better. As the results have shown so far, the Irish have a long way to go to even get back to where they were last year.
Notre Dame, home of the Cleanin’ Irish.