No true basketball facility frustrates Notre Dame's Mike Brey

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Progress sometimes leaves Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey perplexed.

Wednesday was one of those days.

On any given day from his corner office in the Joyce Center, Brey will look out his ground-floor window and see the ongoing construction of the $400 million Campus Crossroads project. That includes the massive framework of steel that will eventually become nine-level Corbett Family Hall rising along the east side of Notre Dame Stadium.

While he understands that the project will take the Notre Dame campus into the future, it has also pushed the Irish men’s and women’s basketball programs further into the past.

Prior to the Campus Crossroads project, there were plans to build a dedicated stand-alone practice facility for the men's and women's basketball programs. With the dedicated facility more than a decade overdue, those plans were scrapped when construction for the Campus Crossroads project commenced in November.

“Sometimes when I look out there, I get a little frustrated,” Brey told the Tribune in an interview Wednesday with WSBT’s Weekday Sportsbeat. “That really pushed our practice facility plans back a couple years.

“In a lot of ways, I’ve almost grown tired of talking about it because we’ve talked about it so much.”

The Campus Crossroads project includes a student center. When that is complete, the current Rolfs Sports Recreation Center, located just north of the Joyce Center, is expected to be reconfigured as a state-of-the-art men’s and women’s basketball facility.

Maybe the basketball-only facility is ready in four years. Maybe not.

“We’re not going to be in a practice facility until ’18-’19 at the earliest,” Brey said.

The eventual renovation/transition of Rolfs also remains an issue.

“We’re still fund-raising for it,” Brey said.

Making due with limited space actually may be easier for the Irish programs DURING the season. That’s when the coaches and players and support staff are so focused on the next game, the next practice, the next road trip, the next stop on the schedule that they have no time to take a minute and wonder why everything is so disjointed, so spread out, so non-functional within the Joyce Center for a big-time college basketball program.

It’s a different story in the summer. The pace slows. Coaches unwind. And think. Their players should have a place within the Purcell Pavilion arena where they can go to put up shots if they feel the need to do it morning, noon or night.

That’s not always the case during summer at Notre Dame. The arena’s main floor often is stored away or shipped out for refinishing. And then there are days like Wednesday. With the annual America Youth on Parade on campus, Notre Dame’s basement practice facility – the Pit – was unavailable for any basketball activity.

When that's the case, the programs are sent across the street to practice at Rolfs, which sometimes becomes an adventure.

“I almost got hit in the head with a baton when I was walking to practice,” Brey said. “We have to have the Pit for basketball all summer. That’s something I need to talk to my bosses about.

“We just have to have better access to it in the summer.”

And a dedicated facility for both programs sooner than later. Brey made that point quite clear when Notre Dame moved from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference a little over two years ago. The school’s outdated/non-functional facilities were OK in the Big East, for there were several other league schools (DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall) that faced similar challenges. Not so in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Notre Dame’s basketball facilities - practice court, weight-training areas, meeting spaces – fall far behind the rest of the league.

“The one thing about the ACC is they have all the ammunition,” Brey said. “I don’t want us to be left behind as we put this thing together.”

The Notre Dame men finished 32-6 last season and won the ACC conference tournament.

You can play the audio of the interview on the left hand side of this page or at the bottom of the story on mobile devices. The question about the practice facility starts at 7:38.

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The Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey yells from the sidelines during the second half Saturday, March 28, 2015, in Cleveland. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ