Unlike his predecessor, Matt Doherty, who had ridden into South
Bend a year earlier wearing designer attire and talking a blue
streak, Mike Brey settled gingerly into the coach's chair at
Notre Dame this summer. During his first meeting with the
players, Brey wore a T-shirt and shorts, and sat while he spoke.
Instead of immediately hitting the hustings in search of the next
great recruit, he stayed at school and hung out with the guys
already in the program. Even now, whenever Brey wants to speak
privately with a player, he tries to do it informally, away from
his office. "We've all had an immediate connection with him. You
can tell he's very humble," says David Graves, a 6'6" junior
swingman. "If he gets on us, it's for a reason. A lot of times in
the past, that wasn't the case."
There was good reason for Brey to want to keep the holdovers
happy. With four starters, including national player of the year
candidate Troy Murphy, returning from a squad that advanced to
the final of the NIT, and with 6'8" junior Ryan Humphrey (a
transfer from Oklahoma) joining the mix, the Irish are older,
wiser and more talented than a year ago.
It helps a coach, too, when his best player is his hardest
worker. Murphy, the reigning Big East player of the year, was
among the nation's top 10 scorers (22.7 points a game) and
rebounders (10.3) last season, yet this fall he attacked his
workouts so intensely that Brey ordered him to remain idle for
five straight days. Says Brey, "We need to keep him fresh."
Humphrey, meanwhile, polished his skills considerably while
sitting out last season, and he adds some much-needed inside
strength to a lineup already potent with outside firepower.
Brey emphasized defensive footwork during the preseason, but he
recognizes that a balanced offense could be the Irish's best
strategy. To that end, he asked Murphy if he'd be willing to
sacrifice his own stats to help Notre Dame secure its first NCAA
bid in 11 years. Murphy readily agreed. "I'm tired of being here
in March and watching everybody else play," he says. "It's time
for us to make our own noise."
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
SF [**]David Graves 6'6" Jr. 13.2 ppg
PF Ryan Humphrey 6'8" Jr. 7.5 rpg*
C [**]Troy Murphy 6'11" Jr. 22.7 ppg
SG [**]Matt Carroll 6'6" So. 9.8 ppg
PG Martin Inglesby 6'0" Sr. 1.6 apg
1999-2000 record: 22-15 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked
[**]Returning starter *As a sophomore at Oklahoma in 1998-99