Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 25, 2017

Mike Brey

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

THE MODERATOR: Mike Brey has joined us with Notre Dame.

Q. The evolution of Bonzie Colson, just what you can say he's been for you over the years, and how happy you were to hear that he was coming right back again?
COACH BREY: Well, I think he's just a great story in college basketball. You know, he's a throw back, a guy that's gotten better every year. He's added something to his game each year.

Now he's stepping out and stretching the floor and shooting the 3-point shot. But you know what was so great about him is how he handled after the season and whether he was going to put his name in.

It was like a five-minute discussion. He knew he was a four-year guy. His family knew he was a four-year guy. I thought maybe he would at least want to go up to Chicago and test the waters. Coach, not into it.

I think he wanted to come back with his teammates. They have a chance to do some things as a team, and he has a chance to do some things individually that very few have done at Notre Dame.

So he's a joy to be around. It's been neat to watch him grow. He's still a humble, chip-on-the-shoulder guy, even though he's earned a lot of respect in college hoops.

Q. As you alluded, you have used Bonzie in different ways each year, according to where you needed him. Maybe talk about some of the different skills he's developed over the years. And have you ever had a player like him?
COACH BREY: No, he's really unique. I've never had anybody like him. I thought last year as a junior his passing kind of came out of nowhere in the fall. He was finding people and kicking it out to our shooters.

By the end of the season, he was confidently hitting 3-point shots, stepping out and shooting the basketball. He's become a better defender, a more solid defender.

He's not gambling as much. What makes him great, and I go back to the phrase with him: When he's in junkyard dog mode, in that lane, getting loose balls, putting it up over taller guys, that's when he's at his best.

And I try to tell him, you know, now he's not the underdog anymore. He was not a top 100 recruit. He wasn't supposed -- now he's a first-team All-American. He could be Player of the Year. I said you still have to remember to be that junkyard dog and find ways to put that chip on your shoulder.

But he's always been coachable. He's been a pleasure to work with for four years.

Q. Rex Pflueger his expanded role, can you talk about that?
COACH BREY: He's going to need to do more. He's a great defender for us. We still need him to still do that. He can guard 1 through 4 with his energy. But he'll need to score a little bit more for us now.

And he's not going to be that stretch-the-floor, shoot-a-lot-of-3-point-shots guy. He's an adequate 3-point shooter, percentages are good. But he drives it. He drives it. He gets fouled. He drives it and makes plays. He gets out in transition.

But he has even become -- we've got a very good senior class of leaders -- he's become a real voice with this team as a junior and a very key guy for us. He's made a lot of big plays starting with his freshman year tipping one in to get us to the next round in the NCAA Tournament.

Q. We followed Matt Farrell, obviously his emotional connections with his brother in the military and just coming out of almost nowhere to be that lunch pail kid for you. What does he mean now that he is in his senior year?
COACH BREY: He, like Bonz, is another great story, was one of those guys we signed late. Didn't play much as a freshman and sophomore but always had a great toughness about him.

He's gotten to be more vocal. I've always been on him about talking more. Now, as a senior ball handler, he does that. But one thing he's going to have to do more for us is hunt his shot. He's our best outside shooter in our starting lineup.

So after he gives it up, when it comes back around to him, he's got to really look for his shot. But there's a great toughness and edge about him that we kind of all felt, and it kind of became contagious with us early in the season.

He helped us win the Legends Classic with just great plays against Northwestern. And we came out of that and he set a tone for us. But he and Bonz are roommates and rightfully so because they're running this thing this year.

Q. Pat Connaughton was a special player for you. I think you referred to him as stretch 4. You had great center play a couple years ago, needed Bonzie inside some. Do you feel like you've got people developing in the center spot? Or will Bonzie need to be a stretch 5?
COACH BREY: We never want to say we don't use the stretch 5 lineup because it was darned good to us down the stretch last year.

One of the things I'm excited about is the confidence level of Martin Geben our senior guy, up and down a little bit last year. But he was starting center on Lithuania's gold medal World University Games team. They beat Purdue for the gold medal over there. He played great and he came back with great confidence.

I told my staff, when he got back, I said his confidence has never been higher and darn if I'm going to do anything to screw that up right now.

So I think he can score for us. He's always been a physical presence and a good passer and screener, but I think he can score for us and are going to need him to do that.

Q. You talk about Bonzie and Matt being in charge; it's their show. They mentioned this morning that they like your practice style. They like your easy-going nature. How do you know when to get tough, the fatherly, be a coach, and when are you their best friend?
COACH BREY: I think that's something you're always trying to get a feel for. I have an old group. I only have one true freshman on the practice floor. This group is so motivated to do so well and get back to an ACC championship again and get back to an Elite Eight.

I think my biggest job, they're so driven, I'm going to have to keep them loose a little bit. Bonzie Colson, the first four days of practice couldn't make a shot because he was feeling the weight of the world and I'm the guy now and I've got to lead.

And I'm going to have to have to get these guys to enjoy it because both of them want it really bad. And if you look at our schedule, especially our road schedule, we're going to take some punches.

So it's a neat senior class, though, that kind of runs this thing when I'm not around. And I'm never worried about intensity or getting -- they always compete. They work hard. They want it. Sometimes they want it too bad. We've got to get them to smile every now and then.

Q. If you keep them balanced, who keeps you balanced?
COACH BREY: That's a great point. I got a good, young staff to do that for me. I mean, there's a good young staff that keeps me loose. Rod Balanis has been with me, my right-hand man, played for Coach Cremins at Georgia Tech. He's been with me all 18 years. He knows when to come in and tell me to shut up or smile or get over it. And I appreciate that.

Q. Do you have to have a piece of hardware to call it a successful season?
COACH BREY: I would think our guys, yeah, you know it would be something I think this group would really shoot for. We've played in two of the last three championship games, and if Bonzie doesn't twist that ankle maybe we have two trophies in our first four years, which we probably would have been kicked out of the league if we won it twice in our first four years.

They've tasted getting in the championship game and tasted getting deep in the tournament. And they're really driven and I think we would be disappointed if we didn't have something to put in that trophy case.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #188 at 2017-10-25 18:41:00 GMT

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