Brey relishing the ride in the 'family business'

2013-06-03T23:45:00Z 2013-06-04T10:50:15Z Brey relishing the ride in the 'family business'By BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

No arm pulling necessary. He jumped in himself.

Even when everyone was assuming they knew Kyle Brey’s career path, his father had been the one making it clear: “You know, Kyle, you can do other things.”

His dad meant it, too. And in theory, yes, that was correct. Kyle could do other things. He could … OK, hold up … who are we kidding?

When you’re a Brey, you join the family business.

“If you asked me when I was 5, I was going to be a coach,” Kyle says.

Grandpa was a high school athletic director. Grandma coached and swam in the Olympics. Mom coached. Sister coaches, too.

Then there’s Dad. You’ve heard of him -- Mike Brey, head basketball coach at Notre Dame.

So, of course, the assumption became reality and we find Kyle here, one of four Husker football graduate assistants sharing an office, and a bond, putting those feet on the first steps of the ladder to a coaching career.

These are times of uncertainty in a coach’s life, to be sure. They also might be some of the best times — those adventures of starting off and not knowing exactly what comes next.

All the better, there’s three other guys in that office -- Joe Ganz, T.J. Hollowell, and Jake Mandelko — riding on that same journey with him.

“It’s amazing the bond that you connect with these guys when you're kind of going through the we-haven't-quite-made-it-yet times," Kyle says. "Sometimes you talk about, ‘When I get a room.’ Or ‘Someday, when I'm a position coach ...’ And it's amazing because it's right around the corner but you're not there yet.”

He knows how much the road can wind. He was in the front seat for his father’s journey from an assistant at Duke during those greatest of Duke years, to the head coach at Delaware, to the top man at Notre Dame.

He was the kid hearing all the questions at school after a tough loss, everyone asking the coach’s son: What happened?

Kyle didn’t mind so much. It came with the territory. And besides, “I wanted to know the same things after games. What happened?”

Win or lose, his dad always had some extra insight for him. Still does.

“He’s my best friend in that we talk after games and we certainly talk a lot after either one of us loses,” Mike says. “When going through a tough stretch, he’s been as uplifting to me than I maybe have even been to him.”

Be certain Kyle is getting just as much out of those talks, especially during those past two years as a graduate assistant at Kansas. The first year was Turner Gill’s last year there. Kyle saw the roughest part of the coaching business up close, a 2-10 season and the howling wolves that come with it.

Mike remembers his son calling and joking that they should start a bar. Maybe call it Fired Twice.

“Because when I’m fired the second time, I’m just going to run the bar,” Kyle joked.

But lessons come with the losses. And Kyle, who played for Gill as a tight end/fullback at the University of Buffalo, learned plenty from the former Husker quarterback and assistant even in a difficult season.

“He was somebody that I always wanted to be able to peel back the curtain and see behind the scenes that happened every day while I was a player,” Kyle says.

Among the things Kyle respected most about Gill was that he didn't just try to put a Band-Aid over something and walk away.

“Doing things the right way takes time,” Mike says. “A lot of times in today’s athletics, you don’t get time.”

After the firings, Kyle came back to Lawrence for another year, serving as the quality control coach for offense under Charlie Weis.

Weis worked him hard and was a far different personality from Gill, but that wasn’t a bad thing, either. The chance to be around two different minds with different ideas was an opportunity to embrace.

Through it all, Kyle was just a phone call away from his favorite coach.

“Having him was the best thing and it still is the best thing,” he says. “To be able to call him at night and bounce ideas or experiences off of him and get instant feedback.”

Because of his dad’s experiences, the 26-year-old takes on a coaching career with a better understanding of the business than most his age could have.

Even when he was 11 or 12, Mike says his son was mature beyond his years, low maintenance, always dialed in to whatever the task.

When his playing career was over, Kyle just showed up as a volunteer at Bowling Green. What did they need him to do? Pick up a recruit at the airport? Done. Go make a coffee run? Done.

“He’s really made his own way,” Mike says. “I don’t have any contacts or connections through college football. I can’t help him get jobs. He’s kind of done it all on his own. I think he goes into the profession with his eyes wide open. He certainly knows what he’s getting into after living it in our house."

The elder Brey began his climb up the ranks as the junior varsity basketball coach at for the well-known DeMatha Catholic program in Maryland.

While coaching, Mike was teaching seven periods of history, working on lunch room duty, driving the team bus, calling off bingo numbers on the weekend.

He also was catching people’s attention. He ran many of the varsity practices for legendary DeMatha head coach Morgan Wootten. A guy named Mike Krzyzewski noticed.

He hired Mike as an assistant in 1987, about the same time Kyle was born.

So began a magical ride at Duke. Laettner. Hurley. Hill. The upset over UNLV. The shot against Kentucky. The two national championships.

When beginning life around that, how could Kyle not join the coaching circle?

“He saw the unbelievable highs and amazing lows of the business,” Mike says.

Kyle loved hoops. But his better sport was football. His dad gently told him as much.

He studied the game like a coach even as a player. During his senior year at Buffalo, with his shoulder in bad shape, Kyle could be found watching film as much as many of the assistants.

Off and running. Another Brey was in the business.

It was a month before this year's spring ball when Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck texted Kyle to ask whether he was interested in a G.A. spot.

There was little hesitation. As someone who grew up the son of a coach, Kyle particularly liked that Husker coach Bo Pelini stressed family.

An interview, a job offer, packed bags. He and his wife, Shea, were off to another adventure.

He was fired up that Pelini and Beck gave him a specific position to focus on — tight ends. A chance to get his hands dirty, as he puts it.

“Something Coach Bo told me coming in the door, ‘You're not here to just be a G.A.; you're a coach,’” Kyle says.

A coach-in-training for, oh, about 26 years now.

On Sept. 14, when Nebraska plays UCLA , the coach he learned the most from plans to be in Lincoln.

After the game, you can be sure there will be a detailed Brey breakdown of what transpired, as always. Win or lose, there will also be something else -- a proud papa.

“I know I sound like a dad," Mike says, "but I think he really has it."

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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