Notre Dame's Brey on short list of California candidates

South Bend Tribune

One phone call may change everything or nothing about the future of the Notre Dame men’s basketball program.

A source familiar with the coaching search at the University of California told the Tribune on Thursday afternoon that Notre Dame’s Mike Brey is among the short list of candidates that athletic director Sandy Barbour would like to speak with to replace Mike Montgomery.

Montgomery announced his retirement Monday after six seasons in Berkeley.

Brey, who is attending the Final Four this weekend in North Texas, was unavailable for comment.

Having recently completed his 14th season in South Bend, Brey is 300-159 with three Big East coach of the year honors (2007, ’08, ’11) and one Associated Press national coach of the year (2011) recognition. He turned 55 late last month.

Barbour has served as Cal’s athletic director since 2004. She was an associate athletic director at Notre Dame for two years (2000-02) and deputy director of athletics from 2002 to 2004. Barbour worked at Notre Dame for athletic director Kevin White, who hired Brey, then the head coach at Delaware, in July 2000.

Montgomery’s time at Cal included four trips to the NCAA tournament and the school’s first regular-season conference championship in 50 years in 2010. He went 130-73 and retired as the third winningest coach in school history.

Montgomery used part of his retirement press conference Monday to support assistant Travis DeCuire as his successor. Published reports indicate that Barbour will use a Texas-based search firm, DHR International, to hire a basketball coach. It’s the same firm that helped Barbour hire football coach Sonny Dykes in 2012. Dykes went 1-11 during his first season at Cal.

Brey’s name was last linked to another job opening in the spring of 2011 after Gary Williams announced his retirement from Maryland. A Maryland native, Brey was thought to be one of the front-runners for the job, but the interest level from both sides never reached a serious stage before Maryland hired Mark Turgeon.

Following the 2011-12 season, Brey signed a 10-year contract extension at Notre Dame. That runs through the 2021-22 season. Late this past season, Brey became only the third coach in school history to win at least 300 games on the Irish sideline.

Notre Dame finished 15-17, 6-12 in its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Despite the season-long struggle, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the Tribune in an interview last month that it did little to shake his faith in Brey’s ability to get the Irish back into the NCAA tournament and contend for a national championship.

Swarbrick said the losing season reaffirmed his belief that Brey is the right man for the program.

“Mike is as good as any coach I’ve ever been around at taking the hand that’s dealt him and figuring how to maximize it,” Swarbrick told the Tribune less than a week after the season ended with a first-round league tournament loss to Wake Forest. “I think in terms of getting the kids to play at a level they need to play and being able to modify his approach to deal with the circumstances, Mike just does an exceptional job.”

Tom Noie: 574-235-6153

Twitter: @TNoieNDInsider

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey walks off the court following his team's loss to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament last month in Greensboro, N.C. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)