Notre Dame coach Mike Brey still has one more mountain to climb in the Irish record books.
While we wait in nervous anticipation for Section Sunday, hoping to hear Notre Dame announced as one of the 68 teams who will compete in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it’s important to acknowledge what can only be described as the all-around greatness of Mike Brey as a head coach.
Most people would be hard-pressed to argue that Brey isn’t the greatest men’s basketball coach in Notre Dame history. The only other name in the conversation with any merit is the great Digger Phelps. Even then, Brey has bested Phelps in nearly every statistical coaching category — and in less time at the helm of the program.
In the midst of his 18th season as Notre Dame head coach, Brey has 402 wins to Phelps’ 393. Brey also has Digger beat in overall winning percentage — even if only by a hair — at .667 to .666. Additionally, Mike Brey has both a regular season conference title and a conference tournament title to his name — both achievements that eluded Digger Phelps during his 20-year career.
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The one mountain, however, where Digger Phelps still stands alone in Irish lore is NCAA Tournament appearances. Phelps took his Notre Dame teams to March Madness 14 times during his tenure. Right now, Mike Brey has 12 NCAA tournament appearances to his name.
It’s very likely that a win over Duke on Thursday night would have been enough to punch a ticket to Brey’s 13th NCAA tournament. Such is life, however, and now we wait.
On Sunday, as we huddle around our TVs and computers, waiting to hear the Notre Dame’s name called, remember too what’s at stake for Brey, his legacy, and Notre Dame basketball history. Get in, and Brey is just one tourney appearance behind Digger.
Fortunately, thanks to a new format, we shouldn’t be waiting long to find out the fate of Brey and the Irish. The hosts of the annual selection show will first name all 68 tournament teams before slotting them into their respective brackets later on in the show.