NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL COACH
After leading Cincinnati to a No. 3 BCS ranking, the 48-year-old suburban Boston native was hired to replace Charlie Weis in December
Dan Patrick:When did you realize that when you say something at Notre Dame it's different than when you said something at Cincinnati?
Brian Kelly: When there's 55 media people at my spring practice on a Tuesday. I don't think I saw 55 at Cincinnati in three years.
DP:How different is your offense from the one that Charlie Weis ran?
BK: I don't know that it's very different other than terminology.
DP:If I'm a Notre Dame fan, I think I want to hear the new coach say, "It's going to be a lot different; we're going to score a lot more points."
BK: I don't know that the offense was a problem. My job coming in is to get our defense to play better football, and I think we have.
DP:Does it take longer to build a great offense or a great defense?
BK: Defense. Because you're building it inside-out. You start with the ability to stop the run. The NFL draft [showed] the value of a defensive tackle, so those are the guys that everyone is fighting for in the recruiting process.
DP:Given Notre Dame's history and tradition, are you facing unrealistic expectations?
BK: I wouldn't have taken this job if I thought it was a setup for failure. I would have stayed at Cincinnati, and we would have kept winning football games. The expectations are real—Notre Dame has the opportunity to recruit nationally, we've got a great brand, a great tradition.
DP:Why do I keep hearing Notre Dame needs to join a conference?
BK: Our Olympic sports. If something happens to the Big East, where do those other sports play? Notre Dame football can stand on its own as an independent, but I think that [decision] is obviously above my pay grade. For me, if you just want to talk about football, I want to be independent. I want to play USC, I want to play Army in Yankee Stadium, I want to go to Dublin in two years.
DP:Do you think that kids want to play in a conference?
BK: Ask Texas if they'd like to go to Iowa State every other year. Look, I could take our football team anywhere in the country, and that is attractive to a young man if he knows he can play in different destinations. I think the destinations of a conference affiliate can get worn and old, and in the recruiting process I can pitch national, and that helps us.
DP:Who are you playing in Dublin?
BK: We're going to play Navy in Dublin. You're invited. I'll buy you a Guinness.
DP:I might not come back [laughs].
BK: I think I've got to come back. We've got to play again the next week.
DP:And Yankee Stadium is a big deal for you too?
BK: Yeah, it's just that I'm a Red Sox fan, and I've got to wear pinstripes on the sideline. I'm going to have to get over that.
DP:Will you have some Red Sox gear on?
BK: That's a great question, because it's already been asked by my brother in Boston. I might have to pull something out, I don't know. It won't be a Big Papi shirt, the way he's hitting right now.
I talked to Duke forward Kyle Singler on the phone last week as he was sitting in his girlfriend's car shortly before his Wolof class began. (It's a language spoken in western Africa.) Singler explained why he is returning to the national champs for his senior season. He told me that one thing he feels he needs to work on is becoming a better leader, and he'll take on that responsibility as a senior. But the main reason he's going back to school is simple: "I just really like it here," he said.
The Hit List
At least one NFC North rival is hoping that the Vikings won't have a new quarterback next season. I asked defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was picked second overall in the draft last Thursday by the Lions, which QB he most wanted to sack. "I definitely want to hit Brett Favre," Suh said. "Hopefully he comes back. He's great. To say you tackled Brett Favre, that's definitely an accomplishment."
Line of the week
Landon Donovan talked about his Los Angeles Galaxy teammate David Beckham, whose left foot is currently in a cast because of a ruptured Achilles tendon, which he suffered in March: "It's probably an Armani cast."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Former QB Ryan Leaf on his addiction to prescription drugs.
2. Bills draft pick C.J. Spiller talks about his NFL role model.
THE FINE PRINT: Ex--MLB manager Kevin Kennedy subdued a deranged airline passenger. And a grateful TSA overlooked that he boarded with more than four ounces of mustache wax.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
JOHN BIEVER (SINGLER)
PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS (DONOVAN)
MATT CASHORE/US PRESSWIRE (KELLY)