After Notre Dame and Butler played one of the most compelling games of this year’s NCAA Tournament Saturday night, Irish coach Mike Brey announced at his postgame press conference that he lost his mother, Betty, earlier in the day.
Betty Brey died of a heart attack at the age of 84 on Saturday morning, he said.
For Mike Brey, the day obviously takes on huge meaning and significant heartbreak. The loss of his mother is an emotionally draining turn of events. Consider: Before the public knew this, it was under the impression the biggest thing on Brey’s mind was that he hadn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2003, a tag on Brey’s reputation that had grown larger in the past decade.
Then Notre Dame beat Butler 67-64 in a thrilling overtime contest, clearing the Irish to next weekend’s regional semifinals in Cleveland.
“It was kind of a tribute to her, really a special night,” Brey said. “An unbelievable woman, a woman ahead of her time and probably the real driving force behind everything I’ve done. It was an interesting day to say the least, and I felt I should at least address that. And I think she was definitely with us down the stretch.”
Some background on Brey’s mother, who was plenty accomplished and a terrific athlete: When Betty Brey was Betty Mullen, she attended Purdue and at one time held the world record in the butterfly swim event. After qualifying for Olympic trials as a 15-year-old in 1948, Betty went on to compete in the 1956 Olympics in Australia and is a member of the Indiana Swimming Hall of Fame.
She was also an accomplished musician, having earned the distinction of being a majorette of the Purdue marching band. Brey told the media in Pittsburgh Saturday night said he plans to fly to Florida to be with family on Sunday before he heads back to be with his team as it preps for the winner of Kansas-Wichita State. Notre Dame’s game next will be played Thursday night.
Betty Brey died one day before her son’s birthday.
Mike Brey was born on March 22, 1959. He turned 56 on Sunday.