Mike Brey to Retire: Legendary Irish coach steps down after 23 years

Author: Liam Coolican

After 23 years at the helm of the Notre Dame men’s basketball program, Mike Brey announced on Jan. 19 that he would be stepping down at the conclusion
of the season.

“I’ve had 23 years, it’s unbelievable, it’s been amazing, but I firmly believe that down the road it needs to be somebody else,” Brey said.

Brey retires as the winningest head coach in the 119-year history of Notre Dame basketball. He led the Irish to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, including back-to-back Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016 and an ACC Tournament championship in 2015.

He came to Notre Dame to restore a program that had become stagnant in the 1990s. The Irish hadn’t qualified for the NCAA tournament for more than a decade following the retirement of the legendary Digger Phelps.

Brey almost immediately turned the program around, qualifying for the tournament six times in his first 10 seasons. He also oversaw the transition from the Big East to the ACC in 2013.

For all his on-court success, however, Brey will also leave a lasting mark on the players he coached and the students at Notre Dame.

“With these seniors ... that’ll be 72 young men that have come through and finished their degree, and that’s like 72 sons,” he said.

He is also known as a students coach — he could often be found, before big games, throwing shirts into the crowd at South Dining Hall or running towards the “Leprechaun Legion” when his team needed a boost from the home fans.

This season certainly hasn’t gone as planned for Brey, despite having five graduate student leaders to complement freshman guard J.J. Starling, the highest-rated recruit ever to play for Notre Dame. The Irish sit 14th in the ACC with a 2-14 conference record. It was the right time to step down, and Brey will be remembered for so much more — on and off the court.