NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Martin Ingelsby is headed to Delaware to become a head coach. Anthony Solomon is returning to his roots in Washington D.C. at Georgetown.
Notre Dame head basketball coach Mike Brey believes he’s in a position to surround himself with former players to deliver the message to his 2016-17 basketball team, his 17th with the Irish.
“I’m excited about what I can do with my staff,” said Brey Wednesday afternoon. “The staff that we had, we maxed it out together. It was time for a change on both sides of the coin.
“It was an unbelievable ride, but reinvention is great for me. I will certainly start with a pool of my former players, who are very qualified. But I’m not locked into that either and I’m not going to rush.”
Change has been rare for Brey during his first 16 years at Notre Dame. Continuity is king and the easy-to-work-for Brey has created an environment that is conducive to those who fit Notre Dame and are in it for the long haul.
Rod Balanis, who has been on board since Brey’s arrival in 2000, and former Irish player Harold Swanagan, who will be in his eighth year as coordinator of basketball operations, will hold down the fort during the transition.
Former players from which Brey could choose were all former captains at Notre Dame – Swanagan, Ryan Humphrey, Chris Quinn, Tory Jackson, Ryan Ayers and Ben Hansbrough.
The young group of candidates – Brey said he will consider others with no connection to the Notre Dame program and that several have reached out – has varying degrees of experience in the coaching world.
Quinn is on the Miami Heat coaching staff. Ayers is in the college ranks with Bucknell. Humphrey and Hansbrough served as directors of player development at Northwestern and Western Kentucky respectively. Jackson has coached in the high school ranks.
One of the least of Brey’s concerns is experience on the recruiting trail.
“Recruiting experience can be overrated,” Brey said. “With some of my former guys in my pool, they are young, hungry, classy (and they) get it. Sometimes you just have to be thrown into the recruiting.
“Mike Krzyzewski hired me when I was a high school coach. I had never recruited a day in my life. It’s all about personality, communication and building relationships. Of the former guys I’m thinking about, all are magnificent in that department and some have already done it at other schools.”
For Brey, understanding Notre Dame is critical.
“This is a different place,” said Brey of Notre Dame. “You’ve got to really understand our mission here and our culture. Not everybody can work here. The two guys we lost got it to a T.
“I now have guys who have played for me in my program that are out there and ready to come back. I’ve been kind of waiting to explore former guys because there are a few of them that are really gifted.”
Brey said he hopes to interview at least one candidate by next week. Ideally, he’d like to have at least one of the two openings filled by June 13 when the players return to Notre Dame for the summer.
Among the former players mentioned, Humphrey and Swanagan would make the most sense to coach the big guys while Ayers, Quinn, Hansbrough and Jackson were guards.
Ayers is a leading candidate to fill one of the spots. His father, Randy, was head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers and at Ohio State.
“We need somebody to really work with our frontline guys,” Brey said. “That’s really on my mind as I look through the pool of former Notre Dame players and who else has called and checked in.
“The ones you’re thinking about were all captains. They all led. I really need my leaders to deliver the message. Those guys have all been in leadership positions. My captains are almost like assistant coaches.”
According to Brey, the current players – led seniors Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem – would be receptive to the addition of former players to the coaching staff.
“Some of the guys that I’m thinking about, my current guys worship,” Brey said. “They see pictures of them in the locker room. They’ve heard the stories of them. There’s great street cred in that pool.”