ACC opener could be historic for Notre Dame's Mike Brey
There is one specific goal on Saturday for Notre Dame men's basketball: to beat Georgia Tech.
If the Irish accomplish that goal, they will have won their third consecutive game and protected home court to begin the ACC schedule.
However, there is some extra motivation on Saturday, as Mike Brey could join Digger Phelps in Irish history.
Brey, with 392 career wins at Notre Dame, stands one victory behind Phelps for the school's all-time mark. The conference opener would mark the tying victory, while the NC State game on January 3 could be the record-breaker if the team has its way.
"We want to do it for him," said star forward Bonzie Colson. "He deserves it. He's built a great culture and a great program, and that forever will be known. We're kind of anxious, but we've got to take it game by game, stick to what we do, and get that record for him."
While Brey will be the focus for those outside the program, he kept the spotlight on the opponent at hand.
"Georgia Tech has had a hard time," he said. "They've had guys suspended, guys injured, and they're trying to find themselves still. I think playing away from their building in the first ACC game, they're going to play great. That's what I would expect and what happens a lot of time. A team like this that's searching ... expect a dogfight."
An attention to detail has been a priority of Brey's following a roller-coaster non-conference season.
The Irish won the Maui Invitational and earned a top-five ranking. Then, three losses in five games brought them back down to Earth, and Brey felt that could foreshadow the coming months.
"We've had unbelievable swings of ups and downs already," he said. "I have every reason to believe it'll be the same way in league play. Our road schedule is may be the most challenging since we've been in the ACC and maybe the most challenging we've ever had since we've been in a league."
While most coaches attempt to convince their team to approach each game the same, Brey says his squad has a little more juice heading into arguably the toughest conference in the country.
"I love it," he said of his team's extra motivation. "I think it's the natural thing for every ACC team. All the kids are jacked up for league play, there's no question about it. There's no speech that I need to give, especially with this senior class that I have. They are very excited to start the challenge of league play.
"We've got two at home [against Georgia Tech and NC State], and it would be great to get those before we go out to Syracuse."
It just so happens that those two could make him Notre Dame's all-time leader in coaching wins.