Mike Brey and Marcus Freman had met casually, but the two Notre Dame head coaches had yet to have a long chat.
That changed last week when Brey and Freeman shared a two-hour plane ride from South Bend, Indiana, to New York. Brey was traveling to Brooklyn to support his first one-and-done, Blake Wesley, in the NBA Draft, while Freeman attended an event for Notre Dame Law School.
“Finally had some quality time with our new football coach,” laughed Brey on Tuesday afternoon. “We had two hours to talk. He got the job a year ago as defensive coordinator and he’s gone and run. We’re here running.
“He gets the head coaching job and I went to this press conference. I never met the man and I felt bad. We spoke for 10 minutes at reception before Don Bishop retired , and then we had two hours the other night in the air, which was great.”
Freeman had also wanted to sit with Brey and the plane ride turned out to be worth the wait.
“It was the first time I could interact with him for a long time,” Freeman told ISD on Monday afternoon. “It was really cool to get the chance to hang out with him. He’s had stories for days. He’s been through so many football managers here – hearing his stories was quite an opportunity.”
Brey, who has been at Notre Dame since 2000, has seen many changes in college athletics, including athletics moving its department-wide offices out of the Joyce Center, allowing coaches to get to know each other.
Notre Dame saw six head football coaches appointed during Brey’s time and that’s where his stories began.
“I’m the old guard, man,” Brey said, laughing again at the memories. “I told him about the George O’Leary press conference and my son still has a ‘By George It’s O’Leary shirt.’
“We were doing Charlie Weis stories because my son worked for him in Kansas. We had great Charlie Weis stories. We were going through it all.”
Perhaps the story that stands out the most was due to the mix of coaches at the Joyce Center.
Urban Meyer knocked on Brey’s office door and asked for a few minutes.
I told him to come in and he was like, ‘How do you like Bowling Green for me?’” Brey recalled. give you advice on the world of football, but I’ll say, would going to Bowling Green be like when I left Duke to go to Delaware?
“It was a great experience because I left a major program and went to a mid-major to learn how to coach and make mistakes in front of 2,000 people instead of 15,000 people.
“I met him at the Dick Vitale event about four years ago and he said, ‘Bowling Green, man. You told me to do it. “”
Freeman’s path to becoming head coach of Notre Dame skipped the Bowling Green stop, but he enjoyed the humor.
“It worked out pretty well, so Marcus was laughing about it,” Brey said. “Our schedules and our backgrounds are different, so it was really nice spending time with him. I’m delighted for him.”
For Freeman, the time spent getting to know Brey was invaluable because it wasn’t so much about learning as it was getting the perspective of someone who’s seen it all at Notre Dame.
“It was more about getting to know each other,” Freeman said. “I didn’t realize he’s been here for so long. He’s seen so much and has so much insight into this place. The perspective he brings – it’s a big picture.
“You think about a man who’s been here for about 20 years and the different things he’s been through, it makes you keep pulling back and seeing things from a different perspective.”
Brey saw a young coach who not only embraces Notre Dame, but will work for her.
“He really knows our place and our mission,” Brey explained. “He understands and embraces it. I think it’s really smart because the coaches who have had success here in football or in any sport – our mission is a bit different and you better kiss, or you’ll bang your head against the wall and be angry.
“For a guy who’s only really been here a short time, Marcus really understands and sees that as a positive, as I always have.”
Brey also pointed out that he noticed Freeman’s desire to recruit for Notre Dame.
“The recruiting there has been fabulous so far,” said Brey, Notre Dame’s winningest men’s basketball coach. “He’s young and he loves recruiting. If you don’t like recruiting, I don’t care if you’re 38 or 63 like me, if you can’t get into this mode, you better get out. I’m I always said that. When I can’t get ready to be on the road and everything, then you gotta get out. He’s just really hard-wired on that front.
“It’s really about acquiring talent now at our level. You have to have guys. The X’s and the O’s, your staff can handle a lot of things. You can hire really good people, but you better having guys. He understands.”
As for the next time the two can meet, it could be a while, but the two are looking forward to it.
“It was really nice,” Brey said. “We left him well, maybe we can go to dinner if we have a break. When I have a break, he’s at fall camp and when he has a break, I play in March, but I will be there on the sidelines in September to support our head coach.”
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