The 2011 Associated Press Coach of the Year at Notre Dame, Mike Brey was one of the most successful coaches in University of Delaware history. In his final three seasons in Newark, the Blue Hens compiled a 70-23 record, and made appearances in the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999, followed by a berth in the NIT In 2000. Inducted into the U.D. Hall of Fame in 2007, Coach Brey caught up with TownSquareDelaware.com by phone from South Bend, Indiana.
Q: Coach, you were quite active on Twitter back in 2009 before it got really popular, frequently tweeting interesting commentary about your program but then suddenly stopped. I can’t help but notice that Coach Kelly down the hall from you is hooked on Twitter! It seems like a good tool to promote your program…any reason in particular you stopped?
I’m a recovering Twitteraholic! (Laughing) . I kind of rotated away from it; during the season I asked players to stay away from it…it was also a time issue – I would sit down and spend too much time trying to come up with something clever too say…. privacy was also a factor, I didn’t want to be walking down the street have and people Tweeting about me on the Internet. So I moved towards Facebook and have a website that I use instead – CoachBrey.com.
Q: You’ve worked with a lot of great players in your career at Duke, UD, and Notre Dame. Who are some of the ones that stick out the most?
I’ve been so fortunate to have had the chance to work with so many great players and people in my career. Two guys that stuck out at Duke were Grant Hill and Christian Laettner… At Delaware, guys like Keith Davis, Ty Perry and Mike Pegues were all “winners” in the sense that they were just so dedicated to doing what it took, the work ethic, the preparation etc. At Notre Dame – Troy Murphy, although I only got a chance to coach him one year. Chris Thomas and Chris Quinn, Luke Harangody, Ben Hansbrough, just to name a few.
Q: The University of Delaware now plays basketball in the Colonial Athletic Conference. The America East had some great teams – Drexel with Malik Rose, Hofstra with Speedy Claxton, and Delaware during the Mike Pegues era, but I think you would agree that UD is now playing a much higher level of competition in the CAA which has sent two teams to the Final Four over the last five years. How would your best teams at UD have fared in the CAA?
I think if you asked Ty [Perry] and Mike [Pegues] they would say we would have figured out a way to win in the CAA.
I loved the America East! I didn’t want to leave. I loved the Bob Carpenter Center! But it wasn’t my decision. When they told me we were going to the Colonial, that’s when I said I’m going to go take the Notre Dame job! … But the move was about more than just basketball. It was about the athletic program in general. And David Roselle and Edgar Johnson were great for the basketball program.
The talent gap between the America East and the CAA is huge. However, the good thing about a conference like the CAA is that you have a chance to have more than one team get in [unlike the one-bid America East] – if you can make it to the top 3 or 4 places in the league, you have a chance to get a berth in the NCAA tournament. They’ve had to adjust but I think they’ve found a way to close the gap and the future is bright for UD basketball.
Q: Do you still make it back to Delaware?
Absolutely. I’ve had a house at the beach for 11 years now. I’m down there every summer and I like to use it as a base for recruiting on the East Coast during the summer months.
Q: How about your Delaware players — do you stay in touch?
All the time. Whenever we’re in NY we have dinner with Keith Davis and Tyrone Perry. … I love to have my guys come visit me at the Beach – I hang out below the Canal in Delaware. John Gordon, Kestitus Marciolonis, Mike Pegues come down and we have a beer at Grotto’s…. I am so happy that Mike Pegues has returned to Delaware I think he’s going to be a wonderful asset for them.. I still stay in touch with my Senagalese guys….Greg Miller came back from playing basketball in Europe and wanted to get into coaching – we mentored him on that and he is now as assistant at Susquehanna University.
Q: You had a great run at the University of Delaware, taking the Blue Hens to the NCAA tournament in 1998 and 1999 and then almost beating Villanova in the 2000 NIT. Which of those teams was your best?
Our second championship team – the 1998/1999 season. Many times this year at Notre Dame I had flashbacks to that team. Both teams were made up of veteran players that had been together for a long time. They were “men.” In terms of maturity and skill level, the 98-99 team was very comparable to my team this year at Notre Dame… They were good enough to win a first round game in the NCAA tournament… I still have visions of that John Gordon shot rimming out late in the first round game against Tennessee, if that went in, I think we might have pulled it off.