Prister’s Thursday Thoughts

Many would expect Mike Brey to hire at least one veteran assistant coach, which he may do. But he’s intrigued by the chance to surround himself with former Irish captains.


Martin Ingelsby landed his much-coveted head-coaching job at Delaware.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Martin,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey of his first point guard at Notre Dame in 2000-01. “I’m so proud. He’s like a son to me.

“I always thought he was the best candidate, but he was the best candidate for so long, sometimes you lose momentum. He did a great job through the interview process and I’m thrilled for him.”

Not expected, however, was the departure of Anthony Solomon, who made a lateral move (at best) from the ACC to the Big East, although the Georgetown basketball tradition is rich.

“We’ve been together 11 great years,” said Brey of his relationship to Solomon. “We’ve had an unbelievable run together. It’s a new challenge for him. He’s an East Coast guy. He’s got some high school options for his son in the Washington (D.C) area. From Georgetown’s point of view, they’d like to get some info on how we’ve done it out here.”

Brey will now turn his attention to hiring two new assistants, and from the sound of it, there’s a good chance both could come from a pool of former players/captains that includes Ryan Ayers, Ryan Humphrey, Harold Swanagan (who already is on Brey’s support staff at Notre Dame), Chris Quinn, Ben Hansbrough, Tory Jackson and Eric Atkins.

Brey will no doubt receive his share of criticism from the cheap seats if he goes for two of his former players. Most are inexperienced coaches. Quinn is the most qualified as a member of the Miami Heat staff, but would he leave the NBA for an assistant’s job at his alma mater?

Ayers has been an assistant at Bucknell for a couple of years and comes from a coaching background with father Randy an experienced head coach from the NBA (Philadelphia 76ers) and Big Ten (Ohio State).

Brey called “recruiting experience” overrated, which makes recruiting aficionados roll their eyes. He doesn’t look at recruiting like most on the outside do. He’d rather take a player who fits his program than a player with a fourth star. Brey recruits players to his system first and pure basketball ability second (although shooting ability and basketball IQ often are prerequisites).

Brey has become a master at turning three-star prospects into college stars and even NBA-caliber players.

Entering his 17th season on the job, Brey has a comfort zone at Notre Dame, particularly on the heels of back-to-back Elite Eights. Who’s going to prevent a coach who just took Notre Dame basketball to its greatest heights – or second greatest heights at the least – from seeking a comfort zone on his coaching staff?

Brey believes he has all the X’s and O’s he needs in himself as the decision-maker. What he feels he needs are assistant coaches who help provide the atmosphere that is conducive to success his way. That means guys who create a positive atmosphere and, in this instance, guys who understand the Notre Dame atmosphere and can sell it.

But let it not be forgotten that Solomon played the heavy for Brey when it was necessary, and that will be missed. None of the above-mentioned candidates likely can play that role, other than, of course, Hansbrough, who was as hard on his teammates when he was a player with the Irish as any assistant coach could be.

“I kind of relate it to how energized I was when we went to the ACC from the Big East,” Brey said. “It was like taking a new coaching job. I’m really excited I can do some new things with my staff to keep me energized.”

It will be interesting to see if Brey goes for two former players or one former player and a more experienced coach. The latter option would be, from the outside looking in, a more wise course of action. That’s not to say it would be the best course of action.

My prediction: Ayers and Humphrey.


Brey assistants at Notre Dame who have gone on to head-coaching positions have not done well. Solomon left briefly for St. Bonaventure and went 24-88 in four seasons.

Other Brey products include Gene Cross (Toledo), Sean Kearney (Holy Cross) and Lewis Preston (Kennesaw State). Cross was 11-52 in two seasons at Toledo. Kearney was 9-22 in one season at Holy Cross. Preston was 9-67 in two-plus seasons.


Of course, the situations often have as much to do with the records as the coaches themselves, and that’s what makes Ingelsby’s task so daunting. Delaware fired Monte Ross after 10 seasons in Newark. The Blue Hens were 17-43 the last two seasons. Ross had a 132-184 record during his tenure.

But Ross did some good things at Delaware, too. The Blue Hens won the Colonial Athletic Association in 2013-14 and made the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in the school’s history, two of which came under Brey, who was 99-52 in five years at Delaware.

Prior to the recent stretch that cost Ross his job, the Blue Hens were 48-22 in CAA play.

Ingelsby has his hands full. One, because he’s dealing with multiple transfers now from a program that has sunk in recent years, and two, achieving the successes that Ross did prior to the recent decline will be difficult.

Let’s put it this way: If Ingelsby has success at Delaware, he’ll be a candidate to succeed Brey some day.


Many times when the Irish Illustrated staff sits down to write a story -- let’s say some type of statistical analysis -- we go into it uncertain as to what the results will show. We often let the stats/trends tell the story.

The defensive concerns for the 2016 team are real and extensive. Sitting down to write “Let the Battles Begin didn’t reveal those concerns for the first time, but it did pound home the very real possibility that if you thought the first two years under defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder were rocky, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Notre Dame’s defensive concerns heading into the ’16 season cannot be overestimated. You know which players are gone from last year, led by Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day, and now they have to do it with a much less experienced defense.

The pass rush looks nonexistent. There’s no reason to think the red-zone issues have been solved. If seven of 11 non-option-based teams rushed for at least 150 yards with Day and Smith in the lineup in ‘15, what would prompt optimism against the run in ’16 with no established three-technique and inexperienced linebackers Nyles Morgan and Te’von Coney as the projected starters?

Here’s a very real scenario to fear. If you thought Joe Schmidt got caught up in traffic in the running game between the tackles, imagine the difference without a penetrating Day to attract attention from the interior offensive line.

Morgan and Coney are more physically talented than Schmidt, but no linebacker is very good with offensive guards running free and taking clean shots at them, and that is what’s going to happen if the Irish don’t shore up their nose and defensive tackle positions from the spring.

James Onwualu is a smart football player. Morgan should be ready to roll. No one takes his responsibility more to heart than Drue Tranquill. Coney has a lot of ability. But when these players are being counted on to be no-doubt-about-it starters, most of which are unproven, this is a defense sitting on very shaky ground.

It’s a good thing quarterbacks Cody Kessler (USC), Connor Cook (Michigan State), Kevin Hogan (Stanford) and Jacoby Brissett (N.C. State) are gone. The Irish are going to need every break they can get on defense.


When Notre Dame opens the 2016 football season at the University of Texas, it will mark the debut of new mascot Bevo XV, a longhorn steer. He replaces Bevo XIV, who died last October.

The tradition of a steer as the Longhorns’ mascot began in 1916 when alumnus Stephen Pinckney collected a whopping sum of $124 to purchase a steer that went by the name of Bo. The name was changed to Bevo since “beeve” is the plural of beef down in red meat country. (Note: Texas’ original mascot was an American Pit Bull Terrier who went by the name of Pig.)

The Bevo lore is rich. There’s the story of Bevo II, who reportedly charged an SMU cheerleader. Only the skilled use of a megaphone kept Bevo II from inflicting damage. Bevo III escaped and ran roughshod over the Austin campus for a couple of days.

I’m not sure which Bevo it was, but I saw him live for the 1971 Cotton Bowl in Dallas when Notre Dame and Texas squared off. I believe it was Bevo XIII who was patrolling the sidelines at Texas Memorial Stadium when Jim Sanson booted a field goal as time expired in Notre Dame’s 27-24 victory over the Longhorns in 1996.

Not sure how good the Longhorns under Charlie Strong in 2016 are going to be. But the atmosphere for a Notre Dame appearance in Austin – just the fifth in history – will be electric. Bevo XV will play his part in the pageantry.


• As a lifetime “Notre Dame guy” and an ’82 graduate of the University, I believe wholeheartedly in the “it’s not a four-year decision; it’s a 40-year decision.” I get it and believe it. I like how the University promotes the significance of a Notre Dame degree. It’s essential to recruiting success.

But I have to smile when I hear a recruit say that if you get a degree from Notre Dame, you’re “set for life.” The degree provides the opportunity; it takes more than a piece of paper to achieve success in your career/life.

• Man’s greatest myth: It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it. Yeah it is.

• Man’s greatest lie: I remember it like it was yesterday. Top Stories