It will almost certainly be a battle of willpower just for Notre Dame coach Mike Brey to keep his seat, let alone the microphone in his hands.
Brey will be part of the ESPN broadcast team that will call eight nationally-televised games that began on Thursday, July 23, leading up to the $1 million, winner-take-all Championship Game of the second annual Basketball Tournament extravaganza airing on the network over two days beginning Aug. 2.
And as intrigue would have it, the game called by the coach will feature the defending champion Notre Dame Fighting Alumni, a squad comprised of a group of former Irish players all coached by Brey when they attended the university.
So far, eight teams have qualified to join the field of the Super 17 round of the tournament to be held at Chicago’s McGrath-Phillips Arena on the campus of DePaul University, where the ticket price is currently $20 for adults and $10 for children age 12 and younger. None of the teams on hand will encounter a team more poised and unified than the Fighting Alumni.
And yes, Mike Brey is definitely part of the mix. On the eve of last year’s title game, he flew all the way to Boston to have dinner with the team in a sit-down where strategy was surely the top entrée on the table.
“This is a special group to me,” Brey recently told reporters of a team with a returning core of Rob Kurz, Ran Ayers and Ty Nash and this year adding a complement of Ben Hansbrough, Luke Harngondy, Tim Abromatis and Ben Atkins
“A lot of them played together, some of them are from different eras, but it’s been neat,” he added. “They are great representation of our program. They truly are an alumni team. They’re all graduates. It’s really the mark of a program when you have guys like that that are together. Even some of my guys who didn’t play have come to support them, so I couldn’t miss it.”
And as last year’s tournament grew more intense and the Fighting Alumni scratched and clawed to find ways to survive, there were times when Brey simply couldn’t resist the chance to call the shots for them just once more.
“Get in the post,” he yelled to Tyrone Nash, who led the team with 19 points in their 72-68 title game win against Team Barstool. “No threes and rebound,” he yelled and instructed at other times.
In the end, the Fighting Alumni held on and Mike Brey walked away as proud as he’s ever been during his 15-year stretch of winning 300 games as coach of the Fighting Irish. Throughout play, the team stood as a testimony to the influence Brey has had on them.
Over five games, the team’s offense came off seamless and its execution near flawless. Each game saw a different top-scorer emerge and overall, the team shot a blistering 46 percent from behind the three-point arc, even as all the little plays seemed to make the biggest difference.
Now, that’s Coach Brey’s kind of team.