Dec. 23, 2013
An interview with:
COACH BREY: I’m sorry I can’t be there in person. I did a little recruiting after the game Saturday and spending some time with my parents. Before we take questions, obviously, some of the university policy really limits me on what I can get in depth about regarding Jerian’s situation. I think Jerian’s statement answers a lot of questions, but I’ll do the best I can to answer your questions within university policy that I have to adhere to and talk about his situation or talking about anything else as we move forward when we get back to practice on the 26th. So why don’t we take questions.
Q. You’ve been through this before with (Luke) Harangody, (Tim) Abromaitis and (Kyle) McAlarney, what is it about this situation that’s maybe more unique and more difficult as you move forward?
COACH BREY: There is no question when we get back the 26th I want to talk to our guys about how we’ve recovered from devastating blows, losing guys, injuries, suspensions. The interesting thing about most of this nucleus, they kind of witnessed two of them. They kind of lived through two of them and lived to earn a post season bid, Abromaitis and Scott Martin last year. So there is a little bit of a reference point.
I will say this about this, one, being very up front. This is going to be the hardest for two reasons. Jerian is so involved in everything we do on the offensive end of the floor, and we’re trying to negotiate a new league. So from those two fronts, this one is harder. I know I’m very excited about it. There was a little bit of been here done that, and we’re back in that mode again. My staff has been together, and one of the things I talked to my team about and will talk even more about is it’s really like a new season. It’s like the beginning of a new season for us, and that’s kind of how we have to approach it. We have one non league game before we really jump into it.
Q. If you had to play tonight and if you had to play tomorrow, what would your gut tell you the way you would start?
COACH BREY: That’s a great question. I’ve thought about that a lot in the last 48 hours, and certainly we have experience in Tom Knight. Obviously, Tom Knight was the stop gap measure last year when Scott Martin went down. But the other thing that’s been interesting for us is we’ve played small to start games, and that’s helped us get off to pretty good starts.
When we get back, I think starting the 26th through the Canisius game and through three, four days of practice, I think we’d have to really have an open mind to evaluate everything as far as who starts for us. One thing that is clear, you look at our roster right now, Eric Katenda is still kind of coming back. Probably not quite ready for game action, but you have nine other you have nine active scholarship guys, and they’ll all play. I mean, they’ll all be part of it.
We’ve got to look at a little bit of everything. So for some of them that haven’t played much, Steve and V.J., they’re coming back very excited and should be, and we have confidence in them that they can really help us.
Q. From your standpoint, because Jerian was the first DeMatha guy, you’re a DeMatha guy, how tough is this for you to handle moving forward?
COACH BREY: Well, when you’re a parent you get your heart broken, you get disappointed. It was disappointing. But the one thing I want to make clear about Jerian, I love Jerian Grant, and I am really confident that I’ll get to coach him again. That is the case that I think this is going to end in a great Notre Dame story. I think it will end like the Kyle McAlarney story. I firmly believe that.
I’ll stay in close touch with Jerian. I told him I’d be talking to him a lot, talking to him after games. But as a teacher, trained as a teacher, you’re about helping kids get back on track and learn from things. I have every reason to believe at the end of the day it will be just like the McAlarney story.
Q. Is the message you have to give to the team as far as just from from a fan standpoint of view, oh, my gosh, the season’s gone. I’m sure the team has a different mentality or something they need to do to build up their confidence now?
COACH BREY: That’s a great question. I think our guys are excited about the challenge. I think you are completely off the radar. You have minimal expectations given who we’re losing. A lot of times in the past when we’ve been in those situations and I mentioned earlier, that this nucleus of older guys have witnessed two of them, Abromaitis and Martin. That’s when you improve and come together the best. Nobody’s paying attention to you. Nobody knows what’s going on. People have written you off. That’s where you can come together and develop and get better.
One of the things I’ll talk to them about as we’re trying to figure ourselves out in this new season is who are we February 1st? Let’s work on creating an identity by February 1st as we figure this thing out. Also for our fan base, our fan base should say look, they’ve been trained to this. And say gosh, here it goes again. Last I checked they’ve figured this thing out. Our track record, they’ve figured this thing out.
As you can tell, I’m energized like my mind is racing in the last 48 hours. Here we go again. How are we going to play? What are we going to adjust to? It has you energized that way. One thing I will say is, man, we need our fans. I hope this would rally them and say, gosh, this team really needs us. We’ve got to have their back as they’re joining into this ACC with some unknowns.
Q. Is there one player you see that opens the door for to give them a big opportunity?
COACH BREY: I don’t think you can say one guy right now. In three weeks there may be a guy. It will be answered by his play. I think it’s best for me to have a very open mind to all the guys. How does this thing evolve a little bit naturally in the first day or two of practice when they know, all right, he’s out. I can do a little more here. Maybe (Pat) Connaughton can do a little more, (Demetrius) Jackson does a little more there. Atkins does.
I think it’s something I don’t want to have any preconceived notions. It’s almost like you go into a season October 15th, I kind of say let’s have a really open mind and let’s just watch. I think you have to do that. Obviously our time constraint is a little tighter, but we do have some gaps. We have another week of practice between Canisius and Duke to keep evaluating.
Q. Can you give a little bit of a timeline of exactly when you find out? You have a tough loss and you meet after the game yesterday morning or when did you learn about it?
COACH BREY: Well, that’s one thing university policy wise I can’t really comment on time line. That is the reason we’re talking about it today is it’s official today. Today is the official end of the first semester, and I felt we needed to address it today. So Jerian was treated like any other student, any other student, any other student athlete. He was able to finish the semester and post as good of grades as he could.
The one thing about Jerian I also want to emphasize is the guy was on track to graduate this May. He’s really a very solid student. He’s certainly made a mistake and he knows that, but he’ll be in position to graduate in December with Connaughton next year. Again, he’s got to go through the process and the reapplication and all of that, and we know that’s a process that you’ve got to go through before you’re back.
Q. I was wondering if you told Jerian anything about what he needs to do or the sort of plan you want to see from him stay in game shape or anything else?
COACH BREY: We’re in real close touch with him. He and I talked a lot yesterday. I think there is some opportunity at DeMatha with Coach Jones and people helping out. One of the things his mother and I talked about is he needs to get a job. He needs to work. I think that’s part of growing up and learning from things.
But there are a lot of people in the Washington area, I mentioned DeMatha, his AAU program, Team Takeover, I think they’d like him to coach the 8th grade team some. I think he may go visit some people. Maybe he goes out and visits Grant who is out west and those type of things.
But I think he’ll have he loves to play and workout. I think in D.C. between Mike Jones’ high school coach and Keith Stevens his AAU coach at Team Takeover, they’ll have him on a good workout plan and we’ll be in close touch with him.
Q. Judging from what you said, I assume you’re not going to remove the red shirt from Cam Biedscheid; what do you expect to see now from (V.J.) Beachem and (Steve) Vasturia?
COACH BREY: I think you consider everything when you lose a player of this caliber. But one of the things Cam and I talked about with this back when the season started, and he was the one who kind of brought it up, what is best for the kid? What is best for the team? I think the five year program is best for Cam on a lot of fronts. I think it’s already helped him here this fall. So my attitude is that we stay the course because that’s what’s best for Cam long term.
Now you can say that because, you know, certainly you feel good about Demetrius Jackson and him getting better and more confident the other day. I was so proud of him how he played in the garden. First trip to New York the other night. But Beachem and Vasturia are guys that our veteran guys are confident in. We’ve seen them practice over 50 practices and their opportunity really goes up. But we need to help them and coach them. But they’re going to get an opportunity and we feel they can help us.
Q. Just a question on the time line of the Ohio State game. Was there ever a question or discussion to not play him based on things that were going on behind the scenes and whether I guess how that perception might go?
COACH BREY: No, because it’s consistent with how students and student athletes have been handled previously. It became official today. Today was when it was official. One thing that’s very clear, Jerian Grant is going to serve a heck of a penalty. He’s really serving a heck of a penalty. Here’s a guy that was on track to graduate, and he needs to because he made the mistake and he owns up to it.
He’s also a guy that’s on track to maybe be a first round draft pick if he continued this. So there are a lot of things. Also, being a student athlete, it plays out in a public forum. There are a lot of things he has to swallow and we have to help him with that. I’ve tried to talk to him about that in the last day or two. But this is the official end of the semester. That is how we’ve handled situations like this.
Q. Can you sort of tell us what the atmosphere was like in the locker room after the game on Saturday knowing this was his final game and what he was like around the other teammates?
COACH BREY: You know what, I love my team. They were really great with him. That’s a tough locker room given that we lost the game and how we lost it. But they were great with him knowing that was it. I think they all know, you know, they love him. They’ll stay in touch with him. But they also know like we’re moving forward. Like we don’t have any time. We don’t have any excuses. We’ve got 20 more games on the schedule to play and have to figure out a new league. I think they’re excited about the element of a new season and some new opportunity for guys that haven’t been playing.
Q. Discussing that post game locker room, I would think this has been particularly tough on Eric Atkins as well as Jerian. How is Eric handling the situation?
COACH BREY: I think it is hardest on Eric. I’m plugged into that as we go through the rest of the season. Eric has been our rock though. He’s been our most vocal guy. He is captain and has been the most vocal captain and strongest personality. One of the things he and I talked about yesterday was I know he wanted to end it differently, that back court together. We all did. But here’s the hand we’re dealt. Now leading in this situation is even more of a responsibility. I think he’s very excited about that challenge. I said, Eric, I don’t know if any captain has had more of a challenge than you will have leading in this situation. I think he’s kind of gunned up for it.
Q. Looking at one other individual player, Demetrius Jackson has gotten a lot of experience and responsibility for the season is this immediately where you have to have an open mind on who is going to be that fifth guy? Right away, do you expect even more out of Demetrius?
COACH BREY: I think no question. I think for Demetrius we’ve got him in the starting lineup. He’s progressed well. I think he’s ready to take a step to be even more aggressive offensively. He’s given us a great defensive presence. He’s been a good playmaker for us, making plays. He has to be more aggressive offensively for us and look to score it more. There is no question. We’ll get to work on that on the 26th.
Q. This may be too far down the line for you to really know, but is the hope, the plan, the theory that Jerian could be readmitted in time for the year?
COACH BREY: There is a process to go through. We really respect the process, and Jarien knows about it. Later in the spring he can start the paperwork on that if all goes well, he would be able to compete in Italy on our foreign tour with our group.
Q. Coach, obviously this has all happened very fast. But have you had a chance to speak to Coach Kelly, or do you have a thought to speak with him just because he’s obviously recently gone through a very similar situation with his team?
COACH BREY: That’s a great question. I have not, and I think being here 14 years I haven’t gone through one of these specific situations but I’ve gone through a lot of different ones. I think every situation is different. Jerian’s is too. I think I have a pretty good handle on this and, again, because again, I would compare it back to the McAlarney situation because even though it was a different rule that was broken, it came at the same time, almost exactly the same time. We threw Tory Jackson as a starting point guard, I believe, against Stony Brook, and we opened Big East play with Louisville. So there is that reference point that’s really helpful for me.
Q. I know you talked about Demetrius’ role, but being a freshman, how much are you willing to put on him? Is there still a fine line right now? What will you tell him about trying to pick up the slack that won’t be there that he’ll have to pick up?
COACH BREY: I think because he started some 7, 8 games and is comfortable, and I was so impressed with his demeanor in Madison Square Garden in a big time game. I think he’s very ready to do more. I remember when I texted him to let him know we’re going to start you. His text back was so confident. I can’t remember. Like I’m ready. Let’s go. Let’s do it, Coach. It was so confident.
Obviously, you know him and people in Michigan know him. He’s a confident guy. He’s been deferring a little bit, which is good, given who we have. He has to defer less, and I think he can handle it. I really do.
Q. We talked about Eric (Atkins) as a leader and as a best friend. But what does this maybe change his role on the court at all?
COACH BREY: It does. He’s got to score more for us, and there are games where he has in his career. He was a scoring point guard in high school, and periodically throughout his career most recently over at Iowa, he can score. So he has to look to score it more for us.
Again, I don’t think that’s some big, crazy adjustment for us. It’s something that he has done naturally, but that he was our quarterback, and we had some other guys scoring. He was running our team, and his stuff was kind of secondary. Now he has to really look to score the ball.
You know what’s funny? He was in that mode in the second half. He started Saturday night he started the half, hit a three. He’s driving. He took a three in transition that he never really took when he’s just our quarterback. I thought to myself, I love it because you’ve got to do that. And you’ll have to do that moving forward. So, you know, he’s got to hunt it a little more. Again, I don’t think that’s something that’s just totally foreign to him. What guy doesn’t want to shoot more?
Q. You mentioned Kyle a couple of times. Could Jerian potentially benefit from reaching out to a guy like that just to see how he handled the process and that kind of thing?
COACH BREY: Yeah. That’s a great question, and yes, and I mentioned that. We will make that connection. He’s met Kyle, because Kyle worked camp a couple Summers ago and played with our guys when Jarien and his team was here. Not last summer, but the summer before. He came out. He was thinking about getting into coaching until he got a great offer in France. I told him don’t get into this coaching stuff too soon.
But anyways, absolutely. That is the best resource. We’ll connect those two at the right time.
Q. The readmission process, what’s all involved in that? Do you have any inkling that anything that could go wrong with Jerian admitting that he maybe wouldn’t get readmitted when the time comes?
COACH BREY: I can’t predict what’s going to happen and we respect the process and the things that he has to go through. As far as applying for a fifth year that is a separate issue. You can’t apply for a fifth year until you’ve done eight semesters here. Jerian will have done seven. So if Jeri is readmitted and back with us, he would graduate in December and then at that point he would apply for the fifth year, which would take him through his eligibility in the spring.
Q. You covered most of it, but if you could go back to V.J., Steve Vasturia emerged as part of your rotation, was V.J. on the cusp at that point?
COACH BREY: Yes.
Q. You probably had to choose between the two of them.
COACH BREY: Yeah, we’ve gone back and forth a little bit in practice. I think in games, there is no question. Steve has had a little bit of the upper hand. But V.J. has got to be part of things. He does and he’s ready. He’s ready. Really, you’ve heard me talk about this, the three freshmen in Jackson, Beachem and Vasturia, when they played against the three older guys in practice. There were days they put it on them. So I think the older guys know they’re good, and we need them. I think the coaching staff looks and says we’ve got a lot to work with here, and it’s our job to nurture V.J. even more.
Q. On Saturday Zach Auguste had five rebounds. Any chance you see him starting this Sunday against Canisius?
COACH BREY: I’m open to anything, as I mentioned earlier. I think that was asked very early in this. I’m open to anything. Zach is really playing well. He had a tough stretch right before the Delaware game. I think starting with the Indiana game and the practices leading up to Indiana he’s back in a great rhythm. He’s very important to us, and absolutely he would have a chance to start because I don’t know who that fifth starter is going to be on Sunday.
Q. You touched on the reaction in the locker room after the game. What was it like for your preparation knowing that on Saturday that was the last game you would coach Grant this season?
COACH BREY: I didn’t really I tried not to think about it much. You just try to I think it hit me more afterwards, especially walking out of the arena is when it hit me. It was one of those things where I think I just kind of said you coach your team. This is your team. Obviously, it’s going to change, and when it changes, then deal with it. But I’m sad for the kid. He was down. I’m sad for the kid because I love him and he’s done so much for our program. He made a mistake, and, my God, he is going to pay for it.
But I think what’s keeping me upbeat is I really feel he’ll come back better. I’m thrilled that because he did red shirt, because we red shirted him, he has a chance to come back. If he doesn’t red shirt as a freshman, this could I don’t think this is a very good story how it ends. But I think it could become a great story because he has the year of eligibility. I’m excited that I’ll probably have a great chance at coaching him again after he reapplies.
Q. When, exactly, did you know for sure that he’d be done after Ohio State, with today being the official end of the semester?
COACH BREY: I’m not going to comment on timetable. I think you always know when there is an issue. But we knew this became official today, and that’s why I wanted to address it today.
We felt we should get Jerian’s statement out last night and we did that. But our policies don’t really let me comment on it until the official end of the semester, which is today.
Q. It won’t be the first or the last player that knows they’re ineligible right after the last day of the semester?
COACH BREY: Yeah, like I mentioned earlier, I mean it’s almost like it’s practice number one on the 26th as we move forward and trying to figure this thing out. Again, as I mention earlier, the nucleus of older guys have gone through this twice, so there is some reference point. But this one will be harder. That is not lost on me. This one’s harder.