The End of An Era, Mike Brey’s Top 10 Moments


Sofia Nevala , Reporter

After 23 seasons coaching the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball program, Mike Brey announced this season would be his last with the Irish. Since 2000, Brey has coached the men’s team, mentoring dozens of players, leading squads into postseason play and etching certain moments into the memories of fans’ minds. From mock turtlenecks, to NCAA Tourney Elite Eights and locker room celebrations (most of them fully clothed) his time as the Irish coach has had it all. As Mike Brey’s tenure comes to end, let’s take a look back on the top 10 most memorable moments during his time with the Irish. 


The 2014-15 Season

The 2014-15 season was one of the best under head coach Mike Brey. With notable names like Pat Connaguton and Jerian Grant, the Irish finished with a 32-6 record in their second year in the ACC. That second year also brought their first ACC Championship, where they beat both Duke and North Carolina to claim it. The Irish would later make it all the way to the Elite Eight where they would fall to No. 1 Kentucky 68-66. Despite that loss, the trip to the Elite Eight was the farthest they would go in the NCAA tournament under Mike Brey. 


Back to Back Elite Eights

In the 2015-16 season, the Irish would be the only team to return to the Elite Eight in those back-to-back seasons. In 2015-16 they went 24-12, but found the same magic in the big dance. Both seasons’ teams were stacked with talent including Demetrius Jackson, Matt Farrell, and Bonzie Colson. They would not get farther than those Elite Eight appearances, falling to Kentucky and then North Carolina. However, these years marked the peak of Mike Brey’s career at Notre Dame. 


Quintuple OT Win vs. Louisville

February 9, 2013 holds the record for longest game played by the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team. After five overtimes and 3 hours and 40 minutes, the Irish were finally able to pull out the win 104-101 against Louisville. Most notably, to make the game reach OT, the Irish had to come back from down eight points with only a minute left in the game. Jerian Grant led a 12-4 run with three straight 3-point shots, plus a three-point play with 16 seconds to go.  Grant fouled out during the first overtime period, but his teammate Garrick Sherman’s 17 points in overtime enabled the team to celebrate the win amidst a flood of students on the Purcell Pavilion floor. 


2003 Sweet 16

After a 16 year drought, the Irish finally made it back to the Sweet 16 in 2003. The team finished 24-10 on the year in Mike Brey’s 3rd season. They would beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16. The season ended with a tough loss to No. 1 Arizona 88-71, who would end up falling to eventual runner up Kansas. This Sweet 16 run for the Irish proved that Brey would have a positive impact on the Irish program.  


Undefeated Home Season

2010-11 holds many important moments for Brey and the Irish. Not only did the team earn a No. 2 Seed in the NCAA tournament, the highest that would be earned in the Brey era, they also went undefeated at Purcell Pavilion, 17-0, for the third time in five seasons. Notre Dame proved to be a legitimate threat after wins against Gonzaga, Georgetown, and UCONN. 


Draft Picks

In Mike Brey’s 23 years with Notre Dame he has coached seven NBA Draft picks. The highest selection, Troy Murphy, went 14th overall in 2001 to the Golden States Warriors. All seven draftees have played in the NBA.  Ryan Humphrey (Utah) eventually returned as an assistant coach.  Luke Harangody (Boston) was the first player recognized in the “ring of honor” at Purcell. Jerian Grant (Washington) and Demetrius Jackson (Boston) both spent time in the league.  With a 2021 NBA Championship ring and NBA Dunk Contest appearance, Pat Connaughton (Portland, Milwaukee) is likely the most successful of the bunch. Most recently, Blake Wesley (San Antonio), a South Bend native, made his NBA debut this season. 


2017 Maui Invitational

The 2017-18 season saw the Irish win their first ever Maui Invitational after a comeback win against Wichita State. The Irish, who were down 14 at the half, came back to beat the No. 6 overall Shockers. A last second free throw by Martinas Geben secured the championship for the Irish, and an unforgettable locker room appearance by Mike Brey followed. These early wins led the Irish to a 21-15 season where they earned a No. 1 seed in the NIT. 


Winningest Head Coach

With a win over the NC State Wolfpack in 2018, Mike Brey officially became the all time winningest head coach in school history, eclipsing Digger Phelps previous record. He currently sits at 482 wins (as of 2/20/22) in 23 years with the team. The game against the Wolfpack ended with a blowout score of 88-58, a 30 point victory for the Irish, the largest ever differential against an ACC opponent. 


Win Over #1 Ranked Team

Notre Dame’s 10th ever win over a No. 1 ranked team came January 21, 2012 with a 67-58 win against Syracuse. This big win also marked the sixth straight win at Purcell Pavilion against a top ranked team and also set an NCAA record. The Orange were led by James Southerland who had 15 points and 2 rebounds. While the Irish were led by Jack Cooley who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Scott Martin 13 and 6 respectively.


The “loosest coach in America”, Mike Brey, exits the Irish locker room on his terms this March.  In an era of one and done’s, NIL and recruiting scandals, he kept Notre Dame above the fray, succeeding nonetheless, one year removed from his last NCAA tourney appearance. Thanks for the memories!