May 26, 2016
Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey media session transcript, May 25, 2016.
Coach Brey: A lot going on with a program. A lot of good stuff. We can talk about Martin (Ingelsby) and a lot of that stuff is out there but I didn’t get a chance to comment on Anthony Solomon. I wanted to make sure that Georgetown was okay with it. I think it is a great move for him. Think about it now. We have been together 11 years. Eleven great years. We have had an unbelievable run together.
A new challenge for him. He is an east coast guy getting back east. High school for his son, he’s got some options in the Washington area and he is going with a great guy, J.T. III who is a great friend of mine and is on the NABC board with me. A great school and a great program.
With Martin, couldn’t be more thrilled. So proud. He is like a son to me. For him to got back to Delaware, he is a great fit. I always thought he was the best candidate but he was the best candidate for so long, sometimes you lose momentum. He did a great job through the interview process. I am thrilled for him.
I am excited about what I can do with my staff. This staff that we had, we maxed it out together. It was time that we changed on both sides of the coin. It was an unbelievable ride but I think reinvention is great for me.
I will certainly start with a pool of my former players who are qualified, but I am not locked into that either. I am not going to rush. Obviously our guys come back on June 13th, we would love to have at least one of those spots filled by then. If the other wasn’t filled, we will figure it out.
For me, I kind of relate it to how energized I was when we went to the ACC from the BIG EAST. It was like taking a new coaching job. It was energizing. And I am really excited that I can do some things with my staff to keep me energized.
Questions, we can certainly talk about those guys, if you want to talk about our pro guys that are out there – anything you want to talk about. I figured we should have a `state of the union’ with everything that has happened in the last couple days.
Q: Safe to say that if you don’t go to two Elite Eights, maybe you are not talking about staff changes in May? This is what occurs when you have the success that you have had?
Coach Brey: That is fair, Tom. Martin has always been a marketable candidate. I think Anthony has always tried to reinvent has a head coach. He has had a hard time doing that. I don’t think that is fair because the St. Bonaventure thing was a total mess, but at the end of the day your record is your record. But there is no question, I would think from Georgetown’s point of view they would like to get some info on how we have done it out here. In that sense, I think it is a smart move by John Thompson III.
For Martin, even though he was a candidate, the last two years made him even more of a candidate and again I think the timing is great for him there. Now, they are way down. I took the job and it was in much better shape in 1995. He has a lot of work to do but they will be very patient with him.
Q: You have not had to fill a staff position for awhile. You never had to fill two. How do you go about (garbled). If you only do one at a time…
Coach Brey: Methodically. Just methodically. I’ve got a great off season pace going. I am not going to rev that up. We’ll do it. I have Swanny (Harold Swanagan) and Rod (Balanis) still here, those guys, we can hold the fort until our reinforcements come. I don’t want to rush. I want to make sure we do it right and it is the right fit. We will methodically go through it. We may have a candidate on campus next week. That would be a goal.
Q: How important is it for you to get a guy with the experience that you are losing with Slo (Anthony Solomon) going out the door?
Coach Brey: I’m not so sure that is a factor. Recruiting experience can be overrated. With some of my guys in my pool, my former guys, they are young, hungry, classy and get it. Sometimes you just have to be thrown into recruiting. Mike Krzyzewski hired me when I was a high school coach. I never recruited a day in my life.
It is all about personality, communication and building relationships. Of my guys, the former guys I am thinking about, they are all magnificent in that department and some of them have already done it at other schools.
Q: When you talk about `it is time for a change’ a little bit and you `maxed out’ the previous staff. Are you looking for guys that are similar to Martin and Slo?
Coach Brey: Not necessarily. No, I don’t think I am trying to get identicals there. I am trying to get what energizes me. I’ve thought about how do to make moves over the last three years. I have had guys involved with head jobs. All three of my guys have been involved with head jobs so you are thinking about `Plan B’ and contingencies all the time. I didn’t go into this blindly. I have thought about a lot of guys.
This is a special place. You have to understand our mission here and how you are working. And our culture. Which I love and believe in. Not everybody can work here. Certainly the two guys we lost got it to a `T.’ Martin did, he was grad. Slo did, he was a Virginia grad. Having a feel for this place is really a key. You have to be careful. You have to be smart.
Q: So is that why you are looking at former guys since they understand the culture?
Coach Brey: Definitely. I always thought I was getting to a point, you know, my A.D. Jack Swarbrick and I have always talked about this. The last couple years I was getting to a point where now I have guys who played for me, in my program, out there ready to come back. We talked about how exciting that was but yet we didn’t have any movement until this week. I have been waiting to explore former guys because there are a few of them out there who are really gifted.
Q: How do you balance that, you had a group that has success, but yet you also want them to succeed – you were in their shoes too. How do you balance that dynamic?
Coach Brey: You want your guys to leave. Every guy that has left here has left on a positive situation and something he wanted to do. I have had two leave for assistant jobs, Lewis Preston went to Florida and they won the National Championship that next year. Slo went to Georgetown. The rest of my guys left for head jobs.
I’ve not had to fire a guy. I hope because we have made good decisions on the front end on who will be a good fit here. I don’t think any of our staff who have left here – we have always left on a good note. Slo and I hugged each other and we are going to go to dinner with his wife in a week I told him, `we had a hell of a run together’ and we both smiled and said it was great run. But it is time. It gets stale. But we maxed it out. Amen, did we max it out.
Q: You say `your guys…’
Coach Brey: Former players.
Q: Former players here?
Coach Brey: Notre Dame. ND Guys.
Q: Are there technical skills that you always wanted to bring to the staff and now you have the opportunity to look for them?
Coach Brey: Anthony did a really good job working with our big guys this last year. So we need someone to work with our front line guys. Our front line development is very important to our season with what we have lost. That is really on my mind as I look through the pool of not only my former players, but who else has called and checked in.
Q: You talk about your former players, did you remember even when they played for you they had certain traits that identified them as coaches down the road and what were those?
Coach Brey: The ones you are thinking about, they are all captains. They all led. As you have seen who we run the program, I really need my leaders to deliver the message and how we communicate. Those guys have all been in leadership positions. My captains are almost like assistant coaches, you have seen that over the years. All those guys have had responsibility.
I called, (V.J.) Beachem, (Bonzie) Colson, (Steve) Vasturia, I called all our guys and let them know what is going on. I said, first of all, the beat is going on. We are going to keep rolling here. They all said `yes we are coach.’ And I said, really, you three guys are my assistants because your my leaders next year, we will deal with this other stuff here, but it is you three and me running this thing. That has been a great virtue and I think it will be very important.
But the guys that I am looking at, they all were in that seat.
Q: How did the guys take the news, Slo has been here a long time.
Coach Brey: You know our guys are pretty good. He checked in with all of them and our recruits. Guys came here to play for me. So they just need to hear my plan. They heard my enthusiasm of how we can reinvent our staff. Some of the guys I am thinking about, my current guys worship. They see pictures of them in the locker room. They have heard stories about them. So there is great street cred there in that pool.
Q: From a recruiting aspect, how much more difficult does this make it. Sometimes you build a relationship with an assistant…
Coach Brey: Yes, you do, but I don’t think it is a big setback. Right now it is me recruiting the rising seniors. It is my relationship with them. I saw them in April. There are 12 of them that I have to really get to know and I have been since May 1st. It is really me talking to them. We will work some guys off to the new guys but they need to hear from me now. They need to hear from me all the way through the summer the most until that official visit and then we try to close it out. I have been the recruiting coordinator since May 1 and that is the kind of role you rotate into this time of year.
Q: Did it help to have the April period with your guys out there intact?
Coach Brey: You know as a matter of fact John Thompson III and I were talking at the board meeting, he had two openings in April. He had two openings and I think he has filled two but he had kind of G.A.s out there doing leg work because he could not be everywhere. That I got through it with Martin and Slo and that we have got our pool of kids we offered on the board in there, I am lucky with this timing.
Q: I know you want to look at former guys from Notre Dame, but what has been the outside interest with guys calling and saying `hey, keep me in mind and it if it gets this way, I would interested in talking.’
Coach Brey: You can imagine how my phone has been going. There has been a lot of response and there should be. A lot of people want to be part of this thing and learn here. My response has been – really going to a pool of my former guys first, but let’s stay in touch.
Q: How big is that pool?
Of my players? Four or five. You know the suspects.
Q: How great is it to have V.J. (Beachem) coming back?
Coach Brey: He took advantage of the rule. He was not delusional about it, he didn’t get invited to the combine it was just `come on back.’ If he gets a little more confidence from it, that was what I was trying to achieve and I think he will be really ready to capitalize on what he did in March.
Q: What have you heard about Demetrius (Jackson)?
Coach Brey: Ten to 20. You know certainly his numbers – hey, how about the Irish? We got dudes that can jump. We got two of the top five vertical jumps. ND basketball, baby. I am really proud of that.
His numbers were great, we knew they would be. He was fabulous in his interviews with the GMs that I have talked to. You guys have talked to him, you are not surprised. So I think he has put himself in a great position in that 10-20 slot.
Q: And what have you heard about Zach (Auguste)?
Coach Brey: On the fringe of the second round. He is intriguing. He is a ball screen, roll guy. He can run. He is an energy guy. He will probably work out for 20 teams. I don’t know how much the combine was that big of a deal for him. I was disappointed he wasn’t invited, I thought he should have been, but I think these 20 workouts – something is going to pop there if he gets drafted. He is definitely going to be in a summer league and I think he has got a great shot.
Q: Now that they are expanding the draft with the new rule, allowing more players to go through the process, do you feel that the combine should be larger?
Coach Brey: Yes, I would be in favor of that. What hurt was a senior like Zach not getting invited because we had all these underclassmen who really put their name in knowing there was no fear and they could come back. I think that bumped some seniors. It definitely affected Zach. They probably should look at expanding that thing a little bit. That is something the NABC Board that I am on, we met in Indy last week, that is a suggestion we are going to make to the NBA.
Q: Any chance Notre Dame goes back to Newark (Delaware) next year?
Coach Brey: I think there is always a chance of that. We are going to get back there someday there is no doubt about that. Whatever Martin is comfortable with. I’d love to bring the Irish back there. He has got some rebuilding to do right now though.
Q: When you are looking at the current team, this is something you looked at specifically in recruiting as you are going, filling Zach’s shoes…
Coach Brey: After our spring workouts, (Austin) Torres, Elijah Burns, Bonzie is going to be Bonzie. Torres, Elijah Burns, Martin Geben, Johnny Mooney. We have got to get something there. Is it three of them? Is it two of them? It has got to be at least two of them. I think Martin Geben has a great opportunity.
I think you heard me say at the end of the year or in the postseason, the junior year light bulb. Zach Auguste. V.J. Beachem. Why can’t it happen for Martin Geben. He has been in our program for two years and I have a feeling he will really step forward just from watching him in the spring and we will get a summer together here soon.
Q: V.J. has shown flashes of being that guy, what does he have to do to kind of…
You know what we have to do? For Beachem and Vasturia we have to screen for them more. That has not really been our style of play. Zach was a ball screen roll guy and them spotting up and shot faking.
When Martin Geben was in with our starters in the last practice. I told him, the only thing I want you to do offensively is get Beachem and Vasturia open. He and Elijah Burns know how to set good illegal screens. Borderline illegal screens.
As I think about our offense moving forward, those guys need a little help getting their shot. They are not just going to take you off the dribble. So I think we have to be really conscious of that and Martin is really good at that. He is a really good offensive rebounder. It is not like we have to throw it into him 20 times and make a post move. He can also make a 15 footer and you know what? Before he leaves he will make some threes because he can shoot the ball.
Q: Looking at the back court, replacing Demetrius, how much of that is (Matt) Farrell and how much did Farrell’s tournament affect that?
Matty Farrell set himself up as a key guy with how he played in March. He was probably wondering about his future. Matter of fact, we talked about that. But for him, this is how crazy sports are. He is not playing. We kind of get him back in there. He plays great in March, then Jackson goes pro. He is sitting in a pretty good spot right now.
T.J. Gibbs will play a lot for us. He will play and spell Matty and also play with him. T.J. is very ready to help us right away. He is a key guy to get ready this summer out of our three young guys because we are going to need that skill set with what we lost.
Q: Can you describe Gibbs’ game? It looks pretty well rounded and complete.
It is Tory Jackson-like, but shoots it better. He can shoot the ball. He can play off the ball. Like Tory, he has very good strength. He has an edge about him. When you have to play one-on-one against those two older brothers your whole life and you are playing on I-95, you are playing for your life. There is a toughness about him. There is a maturity about him, like Rex (Pflueger) and Matt Ryan that is not typical of an 18-year old. He is going to be very ready to do it.