The summer of 1995 was a rough one on the Duke men's basketball team as Eric Meek and Cherokee Parks embarked on their respective professional basketball careers, leaving the Blue Devils with a large question mark in the middle. Things got worse as two coaches who would have been essential in solving that problem moved their careers past the Duke basketball program. Although they left Duke at the same time, the similarities in the stories of Mike Brey and Pete Gaudet end there.
Gaudet, a member of the Duke staff as a restricted earnings coach since 1983, announced his resignation from the staff in early June. Gaudet did not pick up his things and run, however. He has remained at Duke as an instructor in the Duke Physical Education program. Currently, he teaches three classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9:10 a.m. with a basketball skills class, followed by a basketball coaching theory class at 10:55 a.m. and then a tennis skills class at 12:40 p.m.
"Teaching, to me, is enjoyable," Gaudet said. "I've always enjoyed the basketball skills class. We get kids that are a little bit raw in that class and you really get to help them improve. I pulled a kid aside just the other day and told him how much better he had gotten this year."
Besides teaching, Gaudet has relished having free time to pursue many other things. While specializing in the development of Duke's post players, Gaudet seldom had time during the season to participate in other activities he enjoys.
"I have more time-some of that is spent watching more games," Gaudet said. "I have some young kids, so a lot more time has been spent with them, too. I've been doing some projects that I've wanted to doDlike writing."
Don't expect to see Gaudet on the shelves next year chronicling his experience as Duke head coach after Mike Krzyzewski took a year off due to a back injury. Instead Gaudet is focusing his writing on the technical aspect of the game and said that if anything he writes would get published, it would not be in the near future.
While Gaudet has used some of his off-time to talk to other coaches and follow the game of basketball more closely, he said that one thing he doesn't do is replay every game from last season trying to figure out what could have been done differently.
"I don't replay too much of that anymore-it happened," Gaudet said. "One of the things you preach to your players is the ability to go on to the next play. Whether a coach is having a great season or a poor season, people from the outside always have advice for coaches, whether it's Jim Harrick or Mike Krzyzewski. Coaches critique themselves harder and longer than anyone on the outside could possibly imagine."
While Gaudet has taken a step back from the game, Brey, an assistant coach for Duke since 1987, dove in head-first. Brey, long considered one of the great young coaches in the game, was named the head coach at Delaware over the summer.
It is said that success breeds more success and Brey proved that to be true, as he took the Blue Hens to a 15-12 record, 11-7 in the North Atlantic Conference, in his first year at the helm. Delaware had finished 14-13 last year and 12-15 the year before that, so he was happy to see the team improve. In addition, the team surpassed other coaches expectations as it finished fourth in the league after being predicted sixth in the preseason.
"I felt very good about this season," Brey said. "I would have liked to win a few more games, of course, but we got some good momentum for next season."
Brey said that his top two scorers are returning next year and that he has some talented recruits already signed, so once again he expects to compete with Drexel, Boston University and Towson State for the league title.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Many would expect Brey to suffer a letdown after moving from the Atlantic Coast Conference, often consider the best league in the nation, to the NAC, a league stocked mostly with regional talent. But Brey thinks that the fact that his players aren't as highly touted as those that attend an ACC or other talented conference leads them to be harder workers.
"These kids work as hard as the kids in the ACC, if not harder," Brey said. "They have to because they are not as talented as some of those players.
"I can relate to them after having played a mid-level regional conference when I was at George Washington University."
The biggest change for Brey was not in player ability or desire, but simply in the basic differences between a national powerhouse and a regional program. For Brey, recruiting has taken on an entirely new meaning than what it had at Duke.
"My recruiting experience at Duke was to get on a plane and fly somewhere to talk to a player," Brey said. "My recruiting experience now is to get in a car and drive two hours to Cole Field House for the Maryland state championships, to drive an hour to the Palestra in Philadelphia... I can drive two hours in any direction of Newark, Del., and see great basketball. This is a great place to recruit regionally."
Brey, however, has not left all of Duke behind. Along with his family and his personal belongings, Brey took along former Duke manager Jeff LaMere to be an assistant coach at Delaware.
"It was the best decision I ever made," Brey said. "Jeff LaMere is awesome. I thought he would be good, but he's been great. The guys on the team love him."
For Brey, things could not be any better. He loves Delaware for a variety of different reasons. He's most pleased with the commitment made to him by the Delaware athletic community. He has a five-year contract so he knows that this won't simply be a transitional phase for him, and he feels that his players are serious about improving and have really dedicated themselves to the team. Furthermore, he is pleased that recruiting from a regionally based university has allowed him to spend more time with his wife and children, ages six and nine. The only thing lacking is not having Duke itself there. After Delaware came down to face Duke in Cameron earlier this season, Brey said he expects Duke to return the favor with a trip up to Newark.
"Write this in the paper so that Krzyzewski reads it," Brey said jokingly. "We're looking forward for Duke to come play in Carpenter Arena anytime. We'd be glad to make room in our schedule."