Monday, March 23, 2015

Why Be a Basketball Coach: Look to Mike Brey

I am one of five people on a committee to hire the next head boys basketball coach at the high school where I teach. In the middle of March Madness, I have often wondered "why would anyone want to be a head basketball coach?" 

A basketball coach is under scrutiny like no other. The gym floor is a giant fishbowl. Unlike the other *higher* profile sports (football, baseball and maybe soccer) we see but five athletes in action at one time. It's amazing what one can see when perched 10 feet above athletes who are quite recognizable (from the bleachers that sit at an angle mind you), isn't it?! 
Coach Mike Brey came to Notre Dame from the University of Delaware. He has a great story about going to Rehoboth & getting the call for the job...
Watching the number of high school, collegiate and professional games that I do, I am amazed at just how many people believe they know more than the coach. They know better on any given play what should go down. However, I have yet to see their applications for the job. They are being accepted until the end of the month...

Mike Brey has been the head coach at my alma mater since 2000. He has been heavily criticized for his inability to take teams "to the next level." In seven post-season appearances (including this year), the Fighting Irish have played in the Sweet Sixteen but two times. Perhaps Notre Dame fans are barking a little less this week...and they should. Why? Not only did they defeat Duke and UNC to win the ACC Championship, but reading about Coach Brey in the Chicago Tribune revealed to me the personal sacrifice he has made for this group.

It also shed some insight into why men and women often seek the job he holds:
  • They have been shaped by other great coaches.
  • They have a life coach.
  • They are unselfish—they know that the work is never about them.
  • They don't shy away from the intensity and hard work.
  • They understand something about the psychology of winning.
  • There's a deeper force that guides everything they do.
Mike Brey celebrated his 56th birthday on Sunday, the day after his team, the 3 seed in the Midwest bracket won in an exciting overtime game against Butler (67-64). With my heart full of adrenaline, I shared with the world two words: Survive and Advance. Let's do this Irish. Brey looked calm and relaxed, satisfied and joyful.
My mother's maiden name is Naughton (a derivation of Connaughton). I have joked with other fans that I think we're related.
But as I came to find out from David Haugh, earlier on game day morning, Mike Brey's mother, Betty Brey, died of a heart attack. She was 84 years old. She was his "life coach." She might also be a reason that he applied for the job he did. Mike Brey didn't tell his team about his loss. He wanted the night to be about them and for them. 

St. Thomas Aquinas writes "to love is to will the good of the other." To me, Mike Brey must love his athletes and his job. But we also know he loved his mother. And she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Get the win, Irish. Survive...and Advance.

Photo Credits
Connaughton & Brey

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