Saturday, June 10, 2006

Back to the midwest | by Pat

It's been awhile since the last post so apologies. First things first, Notre Dame's basketball coaching staff is complete. Gene Cross was hired by Notre Dame and will fill the empty spot on the bench left by Lewis Preston's departure to Florida.

My initial reaction to his coaching bio is that he is a very solid hire. Nice mix of experience and familiarity with the midwest. And getting him to leave Coach Leitao at Virginia to come to ND is a good sign to others that ND is still a desirable place to be. What was especially interesting to me though were some of the quotes from Brey and Cross in the articles that covered the hiring.

The first was that Brey hasn't exactly nailed down the exact responsbilities for Cross yet. Lewis Preston coached the big men at ND, but it sounds like, at least initially, Cross is going to help out all over the place.
"That's something we'll work out in the future," said Cross, who hopes to start full-time in the second week of June. "All I want to do is get out there and get the job done."

Preston worked with Irish post players during his six seasons in South Bend. Brey said that Cross likely will work with both the perimeter and post players to begin, a flexibility that separated him from other candidates.
Maybe Brey is reassigning responsibilities throughout the entire staff or maybe he just wants to see if Cross works out better with the outside or inside guys. He has coached both during his 10 year career so neither assignment would be new to him.

The second thing that I noticed was that Brey is really being open about looking to Cross for his input on the ND program. It really does sound like Brey is trying to shake things up within the Irish basketball program.
He also plans on soliciting advice from Cross on how the Irish do things, as new blood breeds new ideas in a program.“How are we going to get used to his strengths is something we are going to learn over the summer,” Brey said. “When you bring guys in with experience, you want to hear their thoughts, how they do it. I’m always open to Gene, here is what we do, what do you think.
Finally, one of the things Brey said about Cross really seemed to reinforce the recent push to land kids from the midwest.
“I’m looking forward to using his experience in Chicago,” Brey said. “With the way the Big East has changed, and at times you look at our roster, we’ve been strong in the Midwest. We really need a good base in this area.”

Obviously the program will still go after the best players regardless of location, but I do like the push to establish a bit more of a foothold in the midwest. The program isn't all that strong right now, so battling other Big East and ACC powers on the east coast isn't always going to be successful. But with a roster full of local kids like Zeller, Harangody, Jackson, Falls, Hillesland, and Peoples, I think building up a solid core of midwest players is a good strategy.