Jan. 29, 2016
By John Heisler
It’s admittedly a bit of a bizarre look–the Under Armour shoes paired with the business suits.
But University of Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey doesn’t care.
Well, actually he does care–and that’s why he and his coaching staff are taking part in Suits and Sneakers Awareness Week (Jan. 25-31) on behalf of the Coaches vs. Cancer program, founded by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (more than 4,000 college and high school coaches are expected to participate).
When the Irish play host to Wake Forest at 1 p.m. Sunday at Purcell Pavilion, check the sideline look. Brey and his assistant coaches will be wearing white Under Armour basketball shoes along with their more formal coats, slacks–and some ties. Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning and his staff also will participate.
The coaches wear sneakers to remind the public about all the ways they can reduce their risk of cancer–eating right, exercising, making healthy lifestyle choices and following cancer screening guidelines.
It’s personal for Brey. His involvement began in 1995 (when he was head coach at the University of Delaware) after his father Paul, who passed away in December, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
– Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) January 31, 2016
“That opened my eyes to it,” says Brey, “and I’ve been part of it ever since. It’s something that touches close to my heart, and it is the chosen charity of the NABC. So we have many coaches very involved in fighting this disease.
“We’ve made progress. You look at statistics and there is progress being made at beating this. Now is the time to pour it on with fund-raising efforts, to keep the research alive–and maybe we’ll see a cure.”
The Suits and Sneakers program also includes wearing of special gold shoelaces as part of the Princess Lacey’s Laces initiative. The laces, made available by Shoe Carnival, honor Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old Michigan State basketball fan who passed away due to cancer in 2014. The laces are symbolic of efforts to eliminate pediatric cancer.
Brey’s dedication and involvement with the Coaches vs. Cancer (CVC) Program continues to produce record-setting numbers in the South Bend and Michiana areas. Notre Dame ranks as a leader among universities and colleges across the country in funds secured for CVC and the American Cancer Society,
Since 2000, Brey has helped raise more than $2.6 million for the South Bend/Michiana community’s fight against cancer. Notre Dame’s head coach was the recipient of the 2003 CVC Champion Award, given annually by the CVC National Council and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He has been a national board member of the council since Ferbruary of 2003.
The next Night of the Stars will be held July 29, 2016. It’s an exclusive event held in a private residence where extraordinary individuals from the local community are honored for making a significant impact on the fight against cancer. the CVC Golf Classic, presented by Four Winds Casino & Resort, will be held July 31 and Aug. 1, 2016. It begins with a silent auction on the night of July 31 featuring sports memorabilia and experiences – and continues Aug. 1 with a four-person golf scramble and awards dinner at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend.
Brey has earned numerous accolades for his commitment and participation in fighting various health issues:
— The March of Dimes presented Brey with the 2007 Franklin D. Roosevelt Award for volunteer service to the South Bend area. In September 2009 and 2015, Brey was among five head coaches to traavel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network Leadership Summit & Lobby Day on behalf of health care reform with regards to cancer research.
— In 2013, Brey partnered with the American Heart Association to create Men of Heart, an initiative to put men on a heart healthy path. He hosts three events each year as part of the initiative, to both raise money for the AHA and raise awareness for men’s heart health.
— In 2014, Brey was the recipient of the Ray Meyer Coach Award, presented by the Ed Kelly Sports Foundation in Chicago, and was honored by Dick Vitale at his annual gala to benefit The V Foundation. He also was named to the National Advisory Board of the Positive Coaching Alliance.
— In the summer of 2014 Brey’s former players donated $40,000 to CVC after they combined to win a check for $500,000 when the Fighting Alumni claimed the title in the first edition of The Basketball Tournament.
Meanwhile, the current Irish team this season has adopted local 12-year-old Maddox Snyder, who is fighting leukemia. That relationship is part of the Notre Dame athletic department’s Fighting Irish Fight for Life program.
The CVC initiative nationally has raised nearly $100 million to support the American Cancer Society’s mission.