One more time at Duke for the Irish coach Mike Brey and Notre Dame nearly steals it

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune
Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) shoots over Duke Blue Devils forward Dariq Whitehead(0) during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

DURHAM, N.C. — Leave it to Mike Brey and his Notre Dame men’s basketball crew to screw up the script. 

Nobody saw this one coming, or going the way it all went Tuesday against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  

Back in the building where he spent eight seasons as an assistant coach, Brey was expected to watch his guys play inspired basketball for about a half. Maybe make a run here and another there, but come the closing 20, it was going to be all Duke, a determined bunch after having lost two straight Atlantic Coast Conference games.

More:Mike Brey's 23 best moments as Notre Dame men's basketball coach

But no way was Notre Dame going to entertain any idea of actually winning ... right?

Well ...

Brey and the Irish came this close from escaping Cameron with the unlikeliest of victories. It was right there. Instead of getting it, Notre Dame allowed a late 3-pointer from someone who wasn’t supposed to make a 3-pointer and Duke held on, 68-64. 

“That was a great college game,” Brey said. “I’m proud of our guys. We battled. We physically got in there.” 

Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey directs his team during the first half against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Competed. Mixed it up. Took some shots, but dished out a few, too. It was nice to finally see some fight in these Irish. This hasn’t been a year to remember for any winning reason for a team that expected so much more, but just haven’t delivered. For myriad reasons. Not at home. Certainly not on the road. Definitely not in league play, where the Irish (10-16) slid to 2-13 with five regular-season games to go. 

Still, they weren’t going to just roll over in this one. Not in this building. Not for this head coach, who announced Jan. 19 that he was stepping away after 23 seasons. Notre Dame needed an A-effort to have any chance at winning this one. It got an A-effort for a stretch in the second half, but in the end, just like this season, it came up short. 

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, especially from super senior guard Dane Goodwin, who learned before the game that he was going to come off the bench for the first time this season. He was, admittedly, surprised. Stunned, even. And sour. 

Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) controls the ball in front of Duke Blue Devils guard Jacob Grandison (13)during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The Blue Devils won 68-64. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last time that happened, last year in an ACC tournament quarterfinal against Virginia Tech, Goodwin was thrown into a full-game funk. He scored 11 points that night in New York, but never seemed very engaged. That was it with bringing Goodwin off the bench. 

Second time around Tuesday, Goodwin responded like an older, more mature player. Someone who wasn’t going to be frazzled by a reserve role. He was as focused and as locked in as he’s been all season. Maybe his entire career. 

“I’m a competitor and you want to play your best,” Goodwin said. “Maybe you reset a little bit and get after it and I did that tonight.” 

Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils guard Jeremy Roach (3) looks to pass as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marcus Hammond (10) and forward Ven-Allen Lubin (2) defend during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The Blue Devils won 68-64. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Second half, in a game that featured plenty of future NBA talent on the other team, it was No. 23 in blue and gold who was the best player on the floor. A man among mere boys. You knew he meant business each time he went in the post, and he went into the post often Tuesday. He’d get an entry pass, corral it with one hand, then whack the basketball with his other hand. 


Just the sound of it said Goodwin was serious. He'd go into his post routine, and it would end with a bucket. Then another. And one more. He was good. He took 13 shots. He made 11. He delivered a season-high 25 points. 

“I guess I should’ve brought him off the bench earlier in the season,” Brey said. “That was an unbelievable performance. He was amazing.” 

Four times Goodwin did that post routine in the second half and four times he scored. He was rolling. At one point, from 12:35 in the second half to 4:29 remaining, Goodwin scored 17 straight. He didn’t just carry the Irish; he willed them into believing they could win. They saw the look in his eye, and they got that same look. 

With 8:29 remaining, Notre Dame was down 10 and on the verge of being run out of the Triangle with another league road loss, its seventh without a win. Seven minutes and change later, with under a minute left, Notre Dame was right there — down one with the chance for the ultimate steal. 

“We played our (butts) off,” Goodwin said. “We put ourselves in position and were one shot, two shots away.” 

Even Brey, working the sideline and the officials as hard as he’s worked the sideline and the officials all season, sensed that, you know what, they could win this one. For real. 

“The way that thing was clicking off, I was thinking, we may just get this back and throw it in at the buzzer,” he said. “I’ve been on both ends of those. It was just a weird game.” 

A memorable evening finally ends

Also a fitting one for these Irish to play. Down, then considered out, but with new life. Serious life. Kind of the way they’ve played in seasons past where they’d been given up for dead but returned with new resolve. Before you knew it, they were up off the mat. Same situation Tuesday. On the verge of being blasted, the Irish lasted. 

“We never felt out of it,” Goodwin said. “We felt we had it.” 

Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Former Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski (left) and wife Mickie watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Duke Blue Devils warmup at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

What a win it would’ve been. With Mike Krzyzewski back in the arena for the first time since he became the former Duke coach — sitting in the front row of the baseline nearest the Irish bench — Brey watched Goodwin put the guys from South Bend in position to grab it. Right there for the taking. 

Goodwin wasn’t the only Irish with some serious swagger. Freshman guard J.J. Starling also had it. You could see it as he pulled up with a transition 3, then delivered on a drive to bring the Irish within one, 63-62, with 35.3 seconds remaining. 

Whoa, this was getting good. 

One stop. That’s all Notre Dame needed. One defensive stop. Get that, get that defensive rebound, and the way Goodwin was rolling and the way Starling got going late and the way the Irish were believing, they were getting out of Cameron with a last-second shot/win. 

Notre Dame even got the defensive possession it needed at the end. Held tight. Forced the Blue Devils out of the lane and push the ball into the corner, preferably to freshman Mark Mitchell, who came into the contest shooting 36.1 percent from 3. Starling checked Mitchell and made sure not to allow an easy baseline drive/dunk. He forced Michell into the corner 3. 

Feb 14, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils forward Dariq Whitehead (0) drives to the basket as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard JJ Starling (1) defends during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The Blue Devils won 68-64. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell took the 3. He hit the 3. Crusher. A one-point game became a four-point game with 10.8 seconds remaining. Story of this season for the Irish. 

“That’s a heartbreaker,” Starling said. “I’m still thinking about it, but we’ve got to move forward. It hurts not getting this one.” 

Tuesday was Brey’s sixth and final visit to Cameron as the Notre Dame head coach. He’ll finish 2-4 with the first win during the memorable 2016 Elite Eight run. This one had all the makings of that one right on down to Mike K on Mike K Court. 

Exiting the visitor’s locker room before tip, Brey took a detour from his path down the sideline to where Krzyzewski and his wife, Mickie, were seated on the baseline. He leaned in and offered a few words. 

I said, ‘Damn, we had some fun in this place, didn’t we?’” Brey said. 

Little did he know how much more fun awaited over those final 40 minutes. Brey was often in his element. On the officials. On his guys. Coaching this one and coaching it hard.

Brey and K also spent time together during the Irish shoot-around earlier in the afternoon. That’s when Krzyzewski presented Brey with a commemorative bottle of wine with Notre Dame and Duke logos on it. It also has the words, “You’re the guy for Notre Dame.” 

Former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, left, and his wife, Mickie, laugh with Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, right, before an NCAA college basketball game game in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

That’s what Krzyzewski said to Brey at the old Palomino Restaurant and Bar in Indianapolis when the Notre Dame job opened in 2000. Brey got the job and stayed two-plus decades. He beat his old boss six times. Tuesday should've been win No. 7 over a program he helped get to six Final Fours and win two national championships.

After this one, Brey might’ve been tempted to crack the bottle open on the charter flight home. It was a loss, another loss in a season filled with them, but it was a night worth savoring. And remembering. 

As Brey departed the post-game interview room, his path back to the locker room took him across the court in the empty arena. He recalled so many good times in that gym, then forced a smile at the thought that the Irish were so close from pulling off the impossible. The improbable. He probably hadn't noticed, but he had stopped right at halfcourt to finish telling a story. 

More:At a time when he often pondered his team's basketball future, Mike Brey instead decided his

The game was over. The last visit to Cameron was over. Brey was disappointed for his guys because his guys needed this win more than he needed this win, but he was happy to have the moment behind him.  

Next time he comes back through, Brey promised, he’d be in the front row like Mike K, or even jumping around with the Crazies. He laughed at the thought. It was a long night; it was a frustrating night, but at least the night, the moment, the game, was over. 

“This,” he said as he looked around and thought back to the last few hours and the last few days that led up to them, “was exhausting.” 

One day, he’ll think back on that last game at Cameron, likely with a glass of that wine from his old boss. Bet he savors both. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.


NOTRE DAME (64): Laszewski 1-4 2-2 5, Lubin 4-7 2-2 10, Hammond 3-9 0-0 6, Ryan 2-8 1-2 7, Starling 4-13 0-0 9, Goodwin 11-13 1-2 25, Wertz 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 26-61 6-8 64. 

DUKE (68): Mitchell 2-4 2-2 8, Filipowski 9-16 4-4 22, Lively 3-5 0-0 6, Proctor 2-6 2-2 6, Roach 3-12 3-4 9, Whitehead 3-7 0-0 9, Grandison 0-2 2-2 2, Young 3-4 0-1 6, Blakes 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 13-15 68. 

Halftime: Duke 31-23. 3-Point Goals: Notre Dame 6-21 (Goodwin 2-3, Ryan 2-6, Laszewski 1-2, Starling 1-3, Lubin 0-1, Hammond 0-3, Wertz 0-3), Duke 5-20 (Whitehead 3-4, Mitchell 2-3, Blakes 0-1, Lively 0-1, Proctor 0-1, Grandison 0-2, Filipowski 0-3, Roach 0-5). Fouled Out: Laszewski. Rebounds: Notre Dame 32 (Laszewski 8), Duke 33 (Young 8). Assists: Notre Dame 6 (Ryan, Wertz 2), Duke 16 (Proctor, Grandison 4). Total Fouls: Notre Dame 12, Duke 10. A: 9,314 (9,314).