SOUTH BEND, IN — Mike Bray said he was starting to think it was time to step down as coach of Notre Dame on his way home in March after playing in the NCAA Irish Tournament.
By Christmas, these thoughts became serious, and he was sure that last week.
“From 2000 to 2017, we attended 12 NCAA tournaments,” Bray said at a press conference on Friday. “Since 2018, we have been in one. That’s how you’re measured, man. I felt like we lost momentum. It was great to bring us back last year and it was an amazing experience to win two games in the NCAA Tournament, so looking at the big picture of the future, I just think a new voice is needed.”
Notre Dame announced Thursday that the 63-year-old will retire at the end of the season after winning a school-record 481 games and leading the program for a school-record 23 years.
The team is 9-10 overall and 1-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for one of the worst seasons in program history ahead of Saturday’s home game against Boston College. That’s why Bray felt compelled to announce now that this is his final season.
“I think it might be a distraction – speculation, what’s going on, will he come back, they want it?” Bray said. “I want our guys to focus and play and I thought why don’t we give some clarification on this right now and see if that helps our band and frankly helps Notre Dame so they can get into process for obtaining prior notice of a search.
Bray did not rule out becoming a coach again, but said he planned to take at least one year off. He said he would also help athletic director Jack Swarbrick in the search, calling it “a big responsibility for me to help get the next right coach here.”
Bray was a finalist for Notre Dame in 1999, but the Irishman hired Matt Doherty instead. Doherty left for his alma mater, North Carolina, after one season, and Bray was hired outside of Delaware after leading the Blue Hens to two NCAA Tournaments in three seasons.
Notre Dame survived a 10-year NCAA drought in 2001 and played 13 tournaments under Bray. He won 15 tournament games, setting a high school record, and Notre Dame was named back-to-back to the Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016.
Bray has been named Big East Coach of the Year three times and has won 146 conference games, still ranking fifth in league history. Notre Dame moved to the ACC in 2013, and two years later Bray won the conference tournament title by defeating Miami, Duke and North Carolina during the 32-6 campaign. The Irishman returned to the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament in 2016 and to the ACC Championship game in 2017.
Bray said it may have made sense to leave after last season, when the Irish went 24-11 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after finishing in the top four. But he said he wanted to complete six graduate students on his list.
He also noted the new problems with the name, likeness and the transfer portal, stating that the manager has to be “really energetic to deal with it and attack it”.
SPOKAN, Washington — Cam Shelton fired the go-ahead with 13 seconds left, and Loyola Marymount snapped Gonzaga’s No. 6 75-game home winning streak, 68-67.
The home streak for the Bulldogs (16–4, 5–1, West Coast Conference) was tied with Long Beach State (since 1968–74) and was the eighth longest in Division I history.
Shelton scored 27 points to lead the Lions (14–7, 4–3), who had not won in Spokane since 1991 and lost 25 straight points to the Zags.
“For us, this is another sign that our program is moving in the right direction, and this is the most important thing,” said Loyola Marymount coach Stan Johnson. “Not many people will come in here and win, so I think it’s just worth it and validating our guys in the dressing room and all the things we were trying to achieve.”
Gonzaga has won 93 consecutive games against unranked opponents, 69 of which were at home, and has won his previous 116 WCC games against teams other than Saint Mary’s and BYU.
“The home series is over,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “It had to end sometime, and it ended in a tough, hard-fought battle. Our guys bounced back and managed to hold on. … I don’t think anyone will be touching this (band) for quite some time.”
Gonzaga’s streak of 36 consecutive victories in January also ended. The Bulldogs won 11 straight games, the fourth-best streak in the country after losing 64–63 to Baylor on December 2.
Jalyn Anderson added 15 points and Keli Leupepe added 11 for the Lions. Loyola Marymount led the second half by a full nine and held off Gonzaga’s late streak.
LMU led 66–59 with 2:55 left behind Shelton’s three-pointer, but the Zags scored the next eight points to take a 67–66 lead on Drew Timm’s free throw with 41 seconds left. With the shot clock running out, Shelton converted an out-of-track runner to give the Lions the lead, with Timm’s last attempt to win being partially blocked by Leupep.
Shelton’s smart play was critical for the Lions in the final minutes.
“Cam had a really amazing year and I thought he was putting pressure on them to get into the paint,” Johnson said. “I thought he made some good decisions finding his guys and I thought he had great composure, which is what you want from a veteran point guard.”
Timme led the Zags with 17 points. Nolan Hickman had 12 points and six assists for the Zags, who beat Portland 115-75 last Saturday.
Gonzaga struggled from the field, shooting 44.4% overall and hitting 4 of 14 (28.6%) from three-pointers and 15 of 23 (65.2%) from the free throw line.
Although Timme returned from assisting Gonzaga in the national title match two years ago and playing in the Sweet 16 last year, there were indications that this season could be more challenging for Fuu’s team after starting 5-3, with losing 19 points to Texas and 18 to Purdue.
However, the Zags added a quality out-of-conference victory over then No. 4 in Alabama and scored close road wins against WCC rivals San Francisco, Santa Clara and BYU en route to a 5-0 start in a league they have dominated for over two decades, returning to their familiar position in the top 10 in AP poll. .
The Lions improved to 2-2 away in the WCC game. … Gonzaga has won 29 of his last 30 victories over Loyola Marymount.
Loyola Marymount: Hosting Portland next Thursday night.
Gonzaga: To the Pacific on Saturday night.
It took Mike Bray just one season to turn Notre Dame from a forgotten program into an NCAA tournament team.
He spent the next 22 seasons chasing the school’s second Final Four run, and this season will be his last chance.
On Thursday, school officials announced that Bray would retire at the end of this season after winning a school-record 481 games and leading the program for a school-record 23 years. But athletic director Jack Swarbrick released a statement indicating that Bray would remain on the staff in an as-yet-undetermined position.
“It’s been a great run for me and our program over the past two decades, but it’s time for a new voice to lead this group into the future,” Bray said in a statement released by the sports department. “I want to thank our student athletes, assistant coaches and support staff who have played such a key role in the culture we have created.”
Notre Dame has scheduled a press conference for Friday.
Bray left Delaware in July 2000 after taking the Blue Hens to two NCAA Tournaments in three seasons. the chip program was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament and received only three NIT entries.
But the man who worked as an assistant to America’s most famous prep coach Morgan Wootten at Maryland’s DeMata High School, as well as to top Division I coach Mike Krzyzewski, helped Notre Dame return to its more glorious days.
Notre Dame endured a 10-year tournament drought in 2001 and played 13 tournaments under the 63-year-old Bray. He won 15 tournament games, setting a school record, and Notre Dame became the only national program to have consecutive Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016.
“Having Mike as the winning coach in Notre Dame’s 119-year history of men’s basketball speaks volumes about his skill as a teacher of the game,” Swarbrick said. “However, his even greater legacy lies in his accomplishments as an educator and mentor to the young people who played for him. In that sense, he represents this university as much as any coach I worked with during my time at Notre Dame.”
Bray was more than a basketball coach.
He became a widely respected member of the community where his children went to school and became a popular figure on campus despite being overshadowed by the school’s better-known football program and sometimes strong women’s basketball and baseball teams.
But Bray excelled on the court, turning the Irishman into a title contender in two different conferences.
He was named Big East Coach of the Year three times and won 146 conference games, still ranking fifth in league history. In 2011, Bray was named Associated Press Coach of the Year after leading the Irish to a 27-7 mark and a perfect 17-0 home record.
Notre Dame moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, and two years later Bray won the conference tournament title by defeating Miami, Duke and North Carolina during a 32-6 campaign. The Irishman returned to the ACC Tournament semi-finals in 2016 and the ACC Championship game in 2017, and seven of Bray’s players were selected in the NBA draft.
But lately it has become more difficult for Bray and the Irish. After going 24-11 and ending a five-year tournament drought last season…