A unique set of events transpired in relative short span this weekend in the world of college basketball.
First, Gary Williams shockingly announced he was retiring as head coach of the Maryland Terrapins after a Hall of Fame worthy career. In his 22-year career at the helm of the 'Terps he helped rebuild a sanction-laden program from nothing to prominence, including a national championship in 2002.
Then, in quick fashion, rumors began circulating about who would ultimately replace Williams. The short list of favorites included Sean Miller (Arizona), Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), Brad Stevens (Butler), and Mike Brey (Notre Dame).
Wait a second, Mike Brey you ask? Many people wondered how Brey earned mention in the above list, but those people were not familiar with his history.
You see, Brey is a Maryland guy. He was born in Bethesda, MD and played at perennial national power DeMatha High School. Few would have faulted Brey for at least hearing more information about the Terrapins' job opening. In fact, rumors spread that Brey was set to meet with Maryland officials this Sunday.
In the end, those rumors turned out to be just that: rumors. Today, Coach Brey denied the reports he even entertained meeting with Maryland and confirmed his commitment to Notre Dame.
The announcement comes as no surprise to Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who said he was "confident" Brey would stay with Notre Dame amid the rumors of a departure to the land of 'crabcakes and football' (well, at least one part of that tagline is correct).
Brey often takes a lot of heat from Irish faithful because his teams are known to exit the NCAA tournament early, even amid high expectations. But consider the pool of talent Brey is limited to. Notre Dame rarely lands elite level basketball talent. Academic requirements are demanding, and those who qualify are often more interested in elite/power schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Georgetown, Stanford, and Arizona to name a few. Moreover, the type of player Brey recruits is not built for immediate impact, rather more inclined to need a year or two of development before contributing.
I, for one, am enormously pleased that Brey is staying with the Irish. He has built positive momentum for the program over his 11-year tenure as head coach of the Irish. While we have not seen many post-season results to date I believe that it is only a matter of time before something clicks and the Irish make a deep tournament run.
Yes, this was supposed to be the year that Notre Dame made a late season run. However, that was not the predominant thought leading into the season, which saw the Irish voted to finish barely inside the top half of the Big East conference.
Without a doubt, after a 27-7 record and a No. 5 ranking in the final poll in 2010-201, I feel blessed that Brey is returning to South Bend instead of his roots in Maryland.
But I feel really good about the momentum of our program here at Notre Dame. I mean, we have worked 11 years to get into this position and get some momentum. I really like where our recruiting is and I am honored to have ND next to my name.
Honored indeed. Irish fans are lucky to have a great coach returning to lead their program.