Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Gastelum: Brey ditches turtleneck, Irish lose swagger (Jan. 29)

It’s got to be the white-hot question on the minds of Notre Dame basketball fans. No, not “How many more days until Jerian Grant comes back?” or “Is it too late to refund my student tickets?”

No, it’s a question that demands so much more attention and concern for the blue and gold.

Where the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is the Mike Brey mock turtleneck?

Laugh while you can, but it’s more than just pleasantly cozy hipster neckwear. It’s an identity. It’s low-scoring games. It’s shooting efficiency. It’s a methodical catch-and-shoot ideology. It’s the burn offense. It’s draining the life out of the other team that was favored by 10 points on the road. It’s boring, and it works.

But this, this is a dramatically different Notre Dame team in mostly one sense: the win column. And, the turtleneck, obviously. It’s a Notre Dame team that has been trying too hard to burn at the wrong times and then trying to hit the switch in order to run-and-gun.

It’s a Notre Dame team that prefers to make flashy passes and not take care of the ball on a fast-break. It’s a Notre Dame team that enjoys running the shot clock down to 10 before starting their offensive set and settling for an NBA 3-pointer — who do they think they are, Luke Harangody?

It’s got to be the doggone neatly pressed, top-button open, light blue collared dress shirt. It’s just too much flash. Pizazz never worked at Purcell. It inspires too much of a laid-back, “we’ll get to it when we can” gameplan. It’s 1-on-1, individual basketball, and Notre Dame will never win at 1-on-1 basketball.

Just look at the 13 first-half turnovers on Tuesday night (an astonishing eight in the first nine minutes of the game). Or maybe the nine total points with nine minutes left in the first half. Or the 60 percent Virginia shot for almost the entire game. Despite the blue collar, it’s been anything but a blue-collar effort from the Irish other than a close loss to Ohio State and a home win against Duke.

After all, Notre Dame is not an ACC team. Those pleated Van Heusens may be the norm in the ACC, but not here — no sir. If they try to play collared-shirt basketball with the rest of them, they will continue to be out-done by those classier shirt-and-tie behemoths of the conference that once produced the coach who brought mock turtlenecks to South Bend.

Meanwhile, that was on full display Tuesday. They finally let students in for free, but the arena was often quieter than pickup ball at Rolfs. Outside of a 9-0 Irish run at the end of the first half, there wasn’t any reason to cheer. Not even for free t-shirts. But Tuesday’s performance was nothing new for the new ACC Irish, all while the mock turtleneck collects mothballs in a closet somewhere.

No, the mock turtleneck doesn’t belong at a swanky jazz club or slam poetry night. It belongs on the basketball court in a crouch on the end of the bench soothing the vocal chords as they work their magic yelling “burn, baby, burn.” Moreover, it’s a mentality that has been lost, an identity that has been stolen.

Sooner or later, that mock turtleneck will assume green-jersey status and then fade away into urban legend. One would've thought that the turtleneck would have made it's winter debut with the outside temperatures at 0 degrees and a potential ACC swing game in the wings. But alas.

Until it works its way back into Mike Brey’s wardrobe and game plan, Notre Dame will continue to make, dare I say it, a mockery of itself.