Pondering past, present, future of Notre Dame hoops

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Q As of today, what would you put the odds of Mike Brey being the coach at Notre Dame next year?


A I’d put it at 50-50. The one question Mike Brey will have to ask himself whenever this season ends, and regardless of how it ends, is does he have the energy and the juice and the drive to do what’s needed to do to not only survive but thrive in the ACC? Can this program get back to where it was in 2015-16 or was that as good as it gets? It doesn’t matter who’s coming back or who’s coming in. Does the guy at the top have it in him to coach and lead and teach at this point in his life or is he ready to write another chapter?

Q Given what has happened to this point of the year, it has been an inconsistent season with some coaching challenges, some players who have under-performed at times, and the continuation of a really short bench with only eight scholarship players. The elephant in the room is a highly respected coach with recent success. Is it time for a new voice or for Mike Brey to do a Kelly-like program reset?

Ed Z from Dallas

A Fair question to ponder, but probably one that will be the focus once this season plays out. How does it all end? Do the Irish run the table the rest of the regular season and win a game or two in Greensboro? Do they lose one of next week’s two league road games against Boston College or Wake Forest? I get people want/expect/hope for change, but it’s odd to project what might happen when this season’s still going. At the very least, something does need to change, whether it’s philosophy, staff, roster additions, IF and that might be a pretty big if, Mike Brey decides he’s still got the juice for season No. 21 at Notre Dame.

Q Please help me understand the challenges in recruiting for Notre Dame that makes it nearly impossible for Mike Brey to sign a 5 star player for the men’s team but yet allows Muffet McGraw to sign a five-star player for her team practically every year. Is it simply the men have the one and done option and there are less players that are a fit for ND both academically and culturally?

Lee from Lancaster, S.C.

A Apples to oranges. Yes, the men and women play the same game, but they may as well be totally different sports. There is no one-and-done in the women’s game. There aren’t many looking for the fastest route to professional basketball. They’re true student-athletes and there are more of them who fit Notre Dame from an academic standpoint on the women’s side than the men’s. It’s not even close.

Q Typically Mike Brey likes two ball-handlers on the court. Looking at next year, is Dane Goodwin capable of that or will ND target a grad transfer to help Prentiss Hubb?

Collin from Elkhart

A Don’t forget about Stanford transfer Cormac Ryan, who’s sitting out this season. He’ll be the secondary handler next season. As soon as T.J. Gibbs graduates, Ryan will step into his starting spot and be a main guy for his final three seasons. He can handle. He can shoot it. He can score. He can lead. You’ll like him. A lot.

Q Hi! Why does Juwan Durham get pulled so quickly? He seems to have a skill set no one else on the team has. And he’s been scoring when he’s in, which is more than half what the starting lineup does. I see a big role for him next year, if he stays.

P from St. Paul, Minn.

A Juwan Durham’s just the odd man out, through no fault of his own. It’s the way Mike Brey wants to play, and really, the way Notre Dame should’ve played all year. Durham’s had his moments — career high 21 points against Duke — but Brey believes Notre Dame is at its best with a lineup that features only one big man (Mooney). It better spaces the floor. It gives guys more room to move and cut and pass and shoot and score. Two bigs clutter everything up. Durham will have his chance to be the lone big next season.

Q Has the team actually improved throughout the year or has the schedule softened? Both is not a viable answer.

Rob from Philadelphia

A No Door No. 3? lol....I’ll go the schedule route. Yeah, Notre Dame’s been able to hang with Louisville and Florida State and Virginia ... that’s great. But they still can’t BEAT those teams. Notre Dame has seven league wins, and none have been against teams with winning league records.

Q How many scholarship players will there be next year? Are Nik Djogo and Juwan coming back for fifth years and are there any potential commits still in play? I think Matt Farrell was a February-add back in 2014.

William from Toronto

A Notre Dame will have nine players on scholarship — Prentiss Hubb, Cormac Ryan, Nate Laszewski, Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin, Nik Djogo, Juwan Durham and incoming freshmen Elijah Taylor and Matt Zona. That leaves as many as four spots still to fill (and at least three SHOULD be filled for depth/rotation concerns). How the staff goes about filling those will be interesting. Maybe one rising senior, one traditional transfer and one grad transfer if it’s a really good fit. And Matt Farrell committed to Notre Dame on the eve of its first-ever ACC tournament game in 2014. Think this staff wouldn’t mind finding another Farrell? You bet ...

Q Hi Tom, do you think us going 20-13 — assumes we go 3-2 to finish league and then go 1-1 in the ACC — gets us on the bubble for the NCAA tournament?

Greg from Pittsburgh

A Wishful/hopeful thinking, but not even close. Going 3-2 in that scenario means Notre Dame likely loses to Florida State, right? Notre Dame really needs that game, and losing another along the way means it loses to yet another league team with a losing record. That’s a crusher right now. Nothing less than running the table in the regular season and winning two will get them into NCAA tournament discussion. Notre Dame’s best league win on Feb. 20 is against Syracuse, which has a losing league record. The Irish haven’t cashed in on any of their chances ... that really backs them into the corner.

Q Mike Brey does seem burnt out, but isn’t there a certain sentiment that since he’s gone through the growing pains with the sophomore class, he might as well hang on to reap the hopeful rewards?


A Anytime a coach or a player or even a member of the media looks to “hang on” it’s probably time to go find something else to do. At some point, when that fire goes out, it’s hard to get it back.

Q What am I missing with SportsBeat and other local media talking about Notre Dame and the bubble? Notre Dame is so far from the bubble they need binoculars to see it. Don’t you agree? They have beat no one. Even if they win out in the regular season, I think they would need a crazy ACC tournament run, which I don’t see happening.

Eric from South Bend

A Yeah, not seeing the “b” word even with the binoculars. Just look at the resume. When your best league win is against a Syracuse team that has a losing league record, it’s pretty thin. I wrote before the Carolina game that at the very least, Notre Dame needs to win out its final six (now five) regular-season games, then re-evaluate for Greensboro. It gives everyone something to talk about on a slow Notre Dame football news day, but it’s wasted energy. For now.

Q Do you foresee any transferring happening? Nik Djogo or Juwan Durham maybe being grad transfers elsewhere. I dont think Brey is going anywhere.

Joey from Highland, Ind.


Shortest answer of the day — no.

Q Where would you rank John Mooney in the Brey Era for Big Men? Top Five for sure, maybe No. 1.


A John Mooney the best big man in the Mike Brey era? Troy Murphy, Luke Harangody, Bonzie Colson, Ryan Humphrey raise their hands ....

Q Do you truly honestly believe this team can make a name for themselves in the ACC tourney? Get a first round bye, then win game 1, and then win 1 or 2 more?

Justin from Fort Wayne

A Do they have to make a name for themselves? Everyone knows their name ... and their game. Can’t say for certain they’re going to do this and this and this in the ACC tournament until we see the bracket. This is what I believe about this team — it has to win each of its last five games. Then we’ll reevaluate.

Q Wondering if you or others feel the same. In NOV, if you would have said 11-9 and a first round bye in the ACC tourney, you’d have taken that deal in a second. Especially after the last two years. But let’s say that happens. I still feel kind of “Meh” it’s nice but....I don’t feel any buzz (no pun intended), or bounce out of this group. Is it the team? Brey? The fans? You ink stained wretches? lol

Joe from the South Side

A Come on, Joe ... it’s all OUR fault. Don’t you know that ... Seriously, I think it’s the fact that Notre Dame is nowhere near the NCAA tournament that there’s no buzz. But the fact that this program has a chance to go 11-9 or 12-8 is nothing short of staggering given the fact they went 3-15 last year. OK, so 12-8 may not get them into the field of 68, but to quadruple your league win total from the previous year? That fact can’t be forgotten if Selection Sunday isn’t an option.

Q If only Notre Dame had hung on against Kentucky in 2015 ... they win that game and the championship is theirs. No one can ever convince me otherwise. Then maybe Notre Dame hoops finally has national respect, but probably not.

Murph from South Bend

A True ... I said it that night we left Quicken Loans Arena, back when it was Quicken Loans Arena, that Notre Dame wins the national championship if it beats Kentucky. There was just a sense being around that team in Greensboro and then in the NCAA tournament that they were riding a wave to somewhere special. It was magic.

Q Any rumors of old Big East teams coming back on the schedule in the next few years?

Jim from Dayton, Ohio

A Notre Dame and Georgetown are supposed to start a two-year series (home and home) next season. After that, Marquette rotates on for a two-year series (home and home). Maybe after that Villanova, but we’ll have to see where both programs are then in terms of the head coach. Also possible to add another Big East non-league game when the Crossroads Classic dissolves (and not a year too soon).

Where does senior power forward John Mooney rank among big men who have played for Notre Dame coach Mike Brey?