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Mike Brey: Players tie themselves up in knots. It's my job to untie the knots.

Notre Dame will forever be a football school but, while the rest of us were watching Brian Kelly and company, the Irish have become one of the best basketball schools in the nation's toughest basketball conference.

Two years ago, Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament -- racing past Duke in the semifinals and North Carolina in the finals -- before falling one missed 3-pointer shy of knocking off then-undefeated Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Last season, Notre Dame again knocked off Duke in the ACC Tournament before becoming the only school in the country to reach the Elite Eight in 2015 and '16. This season, Notre Dame enters the ACC Tourney with a No. 3 seed, winners of six of its last seven and a lock to reach its 12th Big Dance in 17 seasons under head coach Mike Brey.

But it didn't always look that way.

In early February, Notre Dame had lost four in a row and five out of six. Their game at North Carolina was pushed back a day due to weather issues in Chapel Hill, meaning the Irish one day in between a crucial home game against Wake Forest instead of two. That happened to be the moment Men's Journal trailed Brey for two days, and found him to be the looser than most coaches in the dead of the offseason.

Take this passage, for example:

Through the team’s early afternoon film session the next day, into practice, before mass, and at team dinner, Brey ponders how he’ll shut down one of the conference’s most potent offenses. It causes Brey’s stream of consciousness to take sharp turns. He’ll begin discussing one way of defending Wake Forest — there are about six methods he considers — then appears dissatisfied and brings up an entirely new topic to recalibrate his thoughts. Like the need to vary team dinners by February. Or he’ll head to the buffet for seconds. On this particular Monday night, it’s almond-crusted chicken, an assortment of vegetables, pasta, and salad bar.

Such conundrums can easily plague a coach into the late hours of the night. Brey is asleep by 9:30.

Riding a four-game losing streak, in the heat of preparation for the biggest game of the season to date, Brey is asleep before the nightly news even comes on.

Notre Dame would go on to beat Wake Forest, 88-81, kicking off the run they're on now.

I'll direct you to the article for the rest of the details, but here's the money quote from Brey on why he flashes smiles when the rest of his colleagues grit their teeth and flex their temples each game day:

“They tie themself up in knots,” Brey said of his players. “It’s my job to untie the knots.”