If you want to know what makes Mike Brey’s mind work, what makes him such a fantastic coach, his background in education is right there at the top of the list. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish leader has experience motivating kids, and shaping their potential.
“There’s certainly three sets of groups that have impacted me as a teacher. My parents. I’m the product of two educators, so I grew up around the dinner-table talk that way. Morgan Wootten, I was going to his camp when I was 9 years old and heard him give lectures and then was fortunate enough to go play for him, and then I went back and coached with him. So still a voice of reason and a mentor today,” Brey said at the NCAA Tournament Regional in Chicago’s United Center.
“And then obviously eight years with Mike Krzyzewski. I’ve had really great training. But Morgan is an educator and a teacher and a communicator, and that’s probably, between my parents and him, that’s probably the biggest things I took certainly from Coach Wootten. And he watches every one of our games, and I can’t believe he can text because he texts me after games, he is firing off texts left and right. He’s the best.”
Brey’s three biggest influences are his parents, playing for Morgan Wooten, possibly the greatest high school basketball coach in history (and the namesake of a national player awarded to Doc Rivers’ son Austin in Chicago on Tuesday) and Mike Krzyyzewski, a Mt. Rushmore college basketball coach. In keeping the Duke connections, Rivers became the fifteenth winner of the annual male Morgan Wootten Award, will attend Duke next year. Previous winners include Harrison Barnes (2010), Kevin Love (2007), Dwight Howard (2004), LeBron James (2003), Jason Williams (1999) and the award’s first recipient Shane Battier (1997). Rivers beat out finalists Anthony Davis (Perspectives Charter School – Chicago, Ill.), Michael Gilchrist (St. Patrick High School – Elizabeth, N.J.) and James McAdoo (Norfolk Christian – Norfolk, Va.).
Brey is the reigning Big East Coach of the year, and it’s the third time in five years he’s won the award. He’s made 15 appearances in the NCAA Tournament as a head or assistant coach.
During his days at Duke, Brey’s teams went 31-5 in the big dance, reached six Final Fours (1988-92, ’94, two national titles (’91, ’92) He is 6-6 in the NCAA tourney at ND. If he can get by the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, he’ll return to the sweet sixteen.
“When you think about us, we’ve only been in the league 15 years. That’s not long to establish a league identity, and I still think our fans are getting accustomed to Big East basketball out here in the middle of Big Ten country.
And we haven’t done our fans any favors because we keep changing the Big East. Now you guys are in and you guys are out and TCU’s coming in. So we’re — I love the fact that we have an identity in the league now. It was probably a job — could be a good job but struggling right now. I love the fact that it was in the Big East. I was an east coast guy, and I felt, even though I was coming out here to South Bend, Indiana, that you played in D.C. and played in New York and played in New Jersey, and you could recruit down there. I was confident coming out. If they were in the Big Ten, I don’t know it would be a great fit for me, but it was great in the Big East. Potential, I guess, was potential to get it going again, you thought,”
Brey said Saturday about his decision to come to South Bend.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com