Coaches and Longtime Friends to Reunite at BB&T Classic

GW head coach Mike Lonergan and Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey ('82) have been close friends for nearly 30 years.

Oct. 7, 2011

Watch the Press Conference on GW All-Access | BB&T Classic Media Day Photos

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George Washington men's basketball head coach Mike Lonergan has made some important decisions during his 24 years of coaching basketball.

In 2005, he left Gary Williams and the University of Maryland for a head coaching job at the University of Vermont, where he won an America East Championship and reached the postseason four times, among other accolades, in his six seasons.

And in 2011, Lonergan returned to the District to become head coach of GW men's basketball, a program he followed during his days as a student and later head basketball coach at Catholic University.

For both of these career-defining decisions, Lonergan turned to his longtime friend Mike Brey ('82), head coach for men's basketball at the University of Notre Dame. Friends for more than 30 years, the coaches will be reunited Dec. 4 at the 17th annual BB&T Classic in the Verizon Center, where their teams will face VCU and Maryland, respectively.

"I'm proud to call [Brey] a friend," said Lonergan. "My mentor [Catholic University and Colgate head coach] Jack Bruen is gone, so I've really had to rely on people like Mike Brey to help me navigate my career."

GW has participated in the BB&T Classic - which benefits the Children's Charities Foundation - since its inception in 1995. The Colonials won the event in 1997, 1999 and 2004 when it was still in a tournament format, and have a 13-13 overall record in 16 seasons.

Both games on Dec. 4 will be televised regionally on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

At the BB&T Media Day on Thursday, Lonergan and Brey had a chance to catch up and talk about their friendship, which began at the local Metropolitan Area Basketball School in 1980. Other participants at the media day included Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon and sportswriter John Feinstein.

A former DeMatha Catholic High School basketball star, Brey used to watch Lonergan and his Archbishop Carroll High School teammates when they faced DeMatha. Describing Lonergan as "a little brother," Brey said he is thrilled Lonergan is at GW, an institution that has "a special spot in his heart."

"It's a great hire, that's a grand slam," said Brey. "I think it's going to be exciting to watch George Washington University basketball come back. I know the presence GW had in this town, and they'll get that back sooner rather than later. I think he's got a unique ability as an educator to connect with young people, and I think GW will see that very quickly."

Brey said one of his fondest memories of his undergraduate days at George Washington was meeting his wife, former GW volleyball player Tish Schlapo ('82). Brey's parents also had GW connections: His mother Betty was a swim coach for the Colonials, and his father Paul earned a master's degree at GW.

Brey transferred to George Washington from Northwestern State in 1980 and played basketball for head coaches Bob Tallent and Gerry Gimblestob. Their differing coaching philosophies forced Brey to adapt, and he said that ultimately aided him in his own coaching career.

"I was able to finish my basketball career playing for two coaches who were very much instrumental in teaching me more about the game," he said. "I learned a lot from them that's helped me to this day."

Although Notre Dame and George Washington won't be playing against each other in the BB&T Classic, Brey said participating alongside Lonergan will be special enough.

"I'm very proud of what's [Lonergan's] done with his career," he said, "and I'm excited he's back at my alma mater coaching."

Lonergan said he's learned a lot from Brey, who has coached at DeMatha, Duke University, University of Delaware and Notre Dame, where he's served as head coach since 2000.

"[Brey] has always given me good advice in coaching," said Lonergan. "He encouraged me to go to Vermont when everyone else discouraged me, and he really encouraged me to go after the GW job as it was his alma mater, but I didn't need any encouraging. It's great that I'll be able to see him in town and spend some time with him."

Lonergan is no stranger to the BB&T Classic; he's attended as a local fan and during his assistant coaching days at Maryland. He said it was a privilege to participate this year against "nationally known" VCU, which made it to the Final Four in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

"Our guys are big college basketball fans, so seeing [VCU] reach the Final Four last year I think just shows everybody that hopefully someday we can do it," said Lonergan. "There's a lot of luck involved but if we get the right players and chemistry it can happen."

"GW has had a lot of success at the BB&T Classic in the past," he added, "so hopefully we'll do well."



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