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Mike Brey coached Notre Dame to the Sweet 16 after learning of the death of his mother Saturday morning. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

Mike Brey leads Notre Dame over Butler after mother’s passing

SHARE Mike Brey leads Notre Dame over Butler after mother’s passing
SHARE Mike Brey leads Notre Dame over Butler after mother’s passing

PITTSBURGH — One of the biggest days of Mike Brey’s career began with sorrow. The Notre Dame coach learned Saturday morning, hours before the Irish beat Butler in overtime to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, that his mother, Betty, had died of a heart attack.

Brey — who turned 56 on Sunday — kept the news from his players until after the game.

“I feel I should address at this time, I lost my mother this morning to a heart attack,” he announced at the start of his postgame press conference. “[Tonight] was kind of a tribute to her. It was really a special night.”

Betty Brey died in Orlando at the age of 84, according to the coach, although an internet search listed her birthdate as Nov. 23, 1931, which, if accurate, means the former U.S. Olympic swimmer was 83. She competed in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and later became a high school educator like Brey’s father, who is still alive.

“An unbelievable woman,” Brey said, “a woman ahead of her time and probably the real driving force behind everything I’ve done. So it was an interesting day, to say the least, and I felt I should at least address that. I think she was definitely with us down the stretch.”

He described his mother as the “ultimate competitor.”

“She used to call — I’d talk to her during the season and very rarely did I get, ‘Hey, Mike, how you doing?’ It’s like, ‘Have you got them ready? Are they ready? I think we can beat Duke, Mike.’ It’s unbelievable. She was intense.”

Brey has a brother and a sister in Orlando and kept in contact with them throughout the day. He planned to travel to Orlando on Sunday before returning to South Bend on Monday.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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