Coming off tremendous success in recent years at Notre Dame, Mike Brey isn’t considering just any job at this point. But for the Bethesda, Md., native, turning down the chance to return home and coach at Georgetown sends a strong message that he’s likely finishing his career in South Bend.
Brey is part of an aging core of ACC head coaches that includes Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim — the nation’s oldest head coach — and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who are both in their 70s. Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton aren’t far behind at 68. Neither is UNC’s Roy Williams at 66, nor Louisville’s Rick Pitino at 64. At age 58, Brey comes in as the seventh-oldest head coach in the league.
Brey has brought the Fighting Irish to heights unseen since the days of Digger Phelps. Over the past three seasons, Notre Dame has twice appeared in the ACC Tournament championship game. In 2015, Brey’s team claimed the school’s first-ever ACC title. The Irish have appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments and reached the Elite Eight back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.
Under Brey, Notre Dame has become one of the ACC’s models of consistency. Its combined record of 37-17 in ACC play over the last three seasons ties Duke for the third-best in the league over that span. Only Virginia’s 40-14 record and North Carolina’s 39-15 mark were better.
Brey’s recruiting style has proved to be effective. The Irish aren’t targeting one-and-done types as much as productive, multi-year college prospects. As a result, Notre Dame has been chock full of veterans for each of the last three seasons. But like many of their ACC peers, the Irish have been churning out NBA players. The recent list includes Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson, and it may soon include Bonzie Colson.
There will be challenges for Notre Dame in 2017-18 with the losses of V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia. However, Brey will again have several veterans at his disposal, including Matt Farrell, Rex Pflueger, Martin Geben and T.J. Gibbs. The Irish are still waiting on All-American big man Colson to make his decision on next season. If Colson returns, Notre Dame will be one of the preseason favorites in the ACC.
Unlike several of his ACC peers, Brey doesn’t have to worry about job security as he enters the twilight of his coaching career; he’s not sitting on a hot seat right now. If Brey is able to outlast some of his older contemporaries, he might even position himself to become the ACC’s elder statesman a few years down the line.