Football, basketball worlds collide with Brey's post-game frustration

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

It was the shortest post-game press conference for Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey during his 20 seasons on the Irish sideline.

And it wasn’t even close.

It was the strangest post-game press conference for Brey.

Also, not even close.

Brey settled into a seat in a Donald L. Tucker Center conference room in Tallahassee, Fla., late Saturday night, where he figured to follow the typical protocol of making an opening statement before answering questions following his team’s 85-84 loss to No. 5 Florida State.

Noticeably frustrated by another near-miss in league play — Notre Dame (11-8; 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost its two league games last week by a combined three points and its last three by six — Brey never made it beyond the opening statement, which lasted 64 seconds.

Twenty-one seconds in, after mentioning his team and the other team, he veered in a direction he’s never gone — at least publicly — during his time at Notre Dame.

“Sometimes we’re treated by the officials like we haven’t brought football as a full member, but yet we get a full share of the ACC Network TV (revenue),” Brey said. “Are you kidding me?”

A text message to Brey early Sunday afternoon asking him to expand on/clarify his feelings about football and Notre Dame in the ACC was not returned. Brey is scheduled to speak Monday afternoon on the ACC head coaches’ teleconference.

An email early Sunday evening from ACC assistant commissioner for communications Andy Fledderjohn said he had not received any information regarding a possible reprimand of Brey by the league for his comments.

No Tribune reporter was at Saturday’s game in Tallahassee.

During his press conference, Brey was bothered by three specific situations — a layup by Juwan Durham in the closing seconds where it looked like he was fouled and should have shot a free throw to possibly tie the game, a turnover by Rex Pflueger where it looked like he didn’t travel and a technical foul call on the Irish bench after the Pflueger walk.

“I’m frustrated man,” Brey said late Saturday in his presser. “Come on, man.”

Brey previously traveled this ACC/football frustration road.

In the summer of 2013, weeks before Notre Dame officially joined the 15-member league, Brey reached out to the Tribune to address comments made by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski regarding the Irish football program and the ACC.

In summers past, Brey and Krzyzewski, for whom he served nine seasons as an assistant, often talked about the future of the ACC and conference expansion while out on the July evaluation circuit. Krzyzewski would tell Brey that the ACC was the perfect spot for Notre Dame under one condition — football had to join the conference.

Krzyzewski was asked in the summer of 2013 by a New York Post reporter about the ACC’s decision to add Notre Dame, but allow its storied football program to remain independent.

Notre Dame is the only non-football member of the ACC.

“I think you can’t do something for one that you’re not willing to do for all in these types of situations,” Krzyzewski told the Post. “I would never have accepted, personally, them coming in and not being totally in.”

That stance bothered Brey. On the phone from his summer home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., he sounded a lot like he sounded Saturday in Northern Florida.

“Come on, man,” Brey said. “Come on. In this time of conference realignment, you’ve got to think outside the box and (ACC Commissioner) John Swofford did that. He got us and we’re in.

“Let’s wake up and smell the roses. This is a whole new era.”

A feeling that Notre Dame might not be treated fairly — or maybe equally — by the ACC, whose headquarters are located in Greensboro, N.C., because it’s not a full-time football member isn’t necessarily shared (at least publicly) by the league. The ACC has always known where it’s stood when it comes to Notre Dame and its football independence.

“If Notre Dame reached a point where they were interested to join in football, we would readily have that conversation,” Swofford said last July at the league’s ACC Kickoff conference. “I don’t expect that to happen. When we made the arrangement with Notre Dame, some people thought, ‘Well, it’s just a matter of time in football.’

“I’ve never really thought that.”

Notre Dame always has played football as independent, and wished to remain so when the ACC offered it a conference landing spot for its athletic programs (except hockey) during the conference realignment of 2012 and 2013.

Notre Dame joined the ACC in 2013-14. The men’s basketball team won the ACC tournament championship in 2015, after which Brey joked that he would drive around that summer with the ACC trophy bolted to the hood of his car.

The ACC Network launched on Aug. 22. Saturday’s contest against Florida State was one of 11 Notre Dame games on the channel this season.

The ACC and Notre Dame have an agreement through the 2037 football season for the Irish to play five games a season against conference teams.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey Saturday night against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.