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How Mike Brey Can Get VJ Beachem Out of His Funk

Pat Rick puts together a detailed list of suggested tactics that Notre Dame coach Mike Brey could try in order to inspire fallen star VJ Beachem to play like his former self

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

VJ Beachem is a very good basketball player.

I want to make that clear up front, because it’s absolutely a fact and thus it makes no logical sense to disregard Beachem’s recent on-court performance by saying he “sucks.”

Players who average 8 points per game and 44% 3-point shooting in their career at a very good ACC basketball program do not suck. Players who score 16.7 points per game in the 2016 ACC and NCAA Tournaments do not suck. Players who began the season averaging 16.8 points per game and who are still averaging 14.1 points per game despite completely vanishing over the past month do not suck.

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic-Notre Dame vs Northwestern Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Something else has to be wrong.

I am not that smart when it comes to basketball. I have no idea what Beachem’s problem is and it would do us no good for me to guess. All I know is that he has devolved from a confident, ice-in-his-veins scorer last season into a lost, timid, completely unconfident player in the past 4 games against teams not named Colgate or St. Peter’s. He reminds me of a turtle who has fearfully retreated into his shell and now has no interest in even sticking his head out to see if there’s anything he can do to help. It was legitimately painful watching him move around the court against Louisville, not even looking like he wanted the ball.

So, because I can’t help identify the problem but have watched my fair share of sports movies and TV shows in my day, I’d like to draw upon techniques used by some of the greatest minds in athletic history to put together a list of actions coach Mike Brey can execute to try to pull Beachem out of this funk (no matter the cause). Hopefully these ideas will light a fire under him and unleash another go-to scorer on a team that has already established 3 other top-flight playmakers (Bonzie, Farrell, Vasturia) in this young season.

So, Mike, I implore you to try out at least some of these proven inspirational practices on VJ, and wish you the best on restoring him to his former glory.


Bring in a Bunch of Experienced Pros and a Hall of Fame Coach to Teach Him the Intangibles

In the mid-1990s, a small town in Ohio staged the most epic pee wee football game in American history, pitting two brothers (one a former Heisman trophy winner) against each other as coaches of teams vying to be the town’s sole pee wee football representative. The older brother and Heisman winner had a team full of classically-trained bullies and superstar athletes, while the younger, dorkier brother had a bunch of ragtag misfits who showed a little promise but really didn’t stand a chance against such a formidable foe.

Then, as everything seemed to be falling apart the day before the big game, a bus hauling NFL legends John Madden, Bruce Smith, Emmitt Smith, and Tim Brown - and also this random guy named Steve Emtman - got lost on their way to some banquet or something, and those NFL stars proceeded to stop for a while and teach the ragtag misfits how to intimidate opponents, believe in themselves, and find strength they didn’t know they had.

The team of lovable losers used everything they learned from these guys in the big game the following day, and those talks and drills the day before were clearly the driving force behind their unlikely victory (along with Becky “The Icebox” O’Shea kicking ass when she finally ditched being a cheerleader, THANK GOD).

So, what I’m getting at here is that Mike Brey could do this same thing - bring in some big-time names that VJ looks up to, and have them teach VJ how to believe in himself and his abilities again.

My recommended special guest coaches to bring in to teach VJ to be forever-confident in himself, no matter what: Kobe Bryant, J.R. Smith, Lance Stephenson, Muggsy Bogues, and Brad Stevens. Nick Young can play the role of Tim Brown, offering no known advice or help to Beachem but still appearing for a couple seconds.

Stage a Town Meeting Wherein Brey Will Be Fired Unless Beachem Agrees to Start Playing Ball Again

First-year coach Norman Dale was the subject of a good old-fashioned high school basketball coach firing vote in the town of Hickory in 1952. His team of 6 players had not shown the ability to beat more talented opponents in the couple games they had played, and so obviously he needed to be replaced immediately (EVEN HICKORY HIGH SCHOOL HAD HIGHER STANDARDS FOR COACHES THAN NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL).

But then, local basketball hero Jimmy Chitwood, a known superstar, entered the town meeting and changed everything:

He agreed to play ball if and only if Dale could stay on as coach, and soon Hickory High School was dominating teams because of Jimmy’s decision to finally start playing basketball like everyone knew he could.

I see Beachem’s recent disappearance as a direct parallel to Chitwood’s brief retirement from the game. VJ has been hooping his whole life, and he wants to get back into it. What he needs is a coach like Brey to have his career on the line, allowing VJ to save said career and return to his sweet-shooting ways all in one fell swoop.

All you gotta do is hire a few actors to stand in as townsfolk, Mike, and this plan will take care of itself. I’m game to play one of the citizens in the crowd. Let’s make it happen!

Don’t Throw Basketballs at Him, but Instead Unleash His Talent via a Canine Teammate

In the late ‘90s, a middle school basketball team in Fernfield, Washington, was struggling to win games. Much the same as VJ Beachem, certain players on the team were struggling to make plays they were definitely capable of making.

The coach of the team gave us all the exact blueprint NOT to follow in this scenario:

So consider this a warning to Mike Brey in case he was planning on tossing basketballs at VJ’s head in order to turn his game around.

It won’t work, coach, and it will get you fired because that’s a really mean and unnecessary thing to do.

That Fernfield team isn’t just a solid cautionary tale, though. The new coach (once the depressingly abusive one gets fired) lets one of the kids bring his dog to games, and eventually the dog gets to play on the team because the kids still weren’t exactly crushing it.

The dog’s presence immediately impacts the players, for probably two reasons:

  1. Having a dog on the team is super fun and when you’re having fun, you’ll probably play better!
  2. They were afraid of losing their spot on the team to a dog, and this horrifyingly embarrassing potential scenario drove them to improve their games enough where their roles on the team were secure

Just check out how the team plays when the dog (wearing shoes, might I add) enters the game. They make all the right moves and manage to win the championship over the bully’s team!!!*

I trust Mike will definitely try this one, because all it takes is finding a dog who can play basketball and 4 tiny dog shoes to go on his dog paws. Piece of cake.

* I would like to note that the dog in the above clip should absolutely have been called for a flagrant personal intentional foul for that Draymond Green-esque crotch shot on the bully on the red team, and Coach Brey should not tolerate behavior like that from whatever dog he adds to the team in the coming days

Challenge VJ to a Classic Air Hockey Bet. If Brey Wins, Beachem Has to Play (Well) for the Team

As is, Beachem is really not contributing a whole lot to the squad, at least on the court during games. Thus, Brey needs to find a way to bring out his competitive fire and goad him into playing well again.

A little league baseball coach back in the day once had his daughter/pitcher challenge a talented young ballplayer to an air hockey game, and if she beat him, he would play for the team.

Now, Mike needs to be careful, because in that scenario above, the boy beat the daughter/pitcher and won the bet, meaning the girl had to go on a concert date with him.

I doubt VJ will make a date with Coach Brey part of his terms for the bet, but Brey needs to be aware that he could indeed somehow lose in air hockey, no matter how good he thinks he is, and thus he might have to do something with Beachem in order to earn his trust and get him on the team at a later time.

Pull the Double-Digit Siblings Card on Him

In 1971, a head football coach in Alexandria, Virginia saw his quarterback go down with a broken wrist on account of a racist tight end with the last name of Butts ignoring an audible.

This forced the coach to call upon his backup, a transplant from California who had spent more time kissing a teammate, doing tai chi at school, and getting his friends turned away from racist restaurants than he had on actually learning how to pitch a football three yards.

Here’s what the coach said to him:

I don’t know about you, but I would run through a wall for a guy who gave me that spiel, and the backup QB did just that in 1971 (not literally), proceeding to injure the other team’s best player and then dominating the rest of the game and season.

Mike Brey needs to bench VJ for the next game, allowing him to wallow on the bench and doubt himself.

Then, Brey will have one of his players fake an injury and he call Beachem over to him, regaling him with talk of how many brothers and sisters he had (at least 12) and how Brey had to lead them even though he wasn’t ready.

Beachem will respond by injuring a player on the other team, and then dropping 50 on those fools. This one is basically guaranteed to work.

Give Him Some Hockey-Style Tough Love

Mike, save this one for halftime, and basically just say the exact same thing, word-for-word.

Beachem will probably be a bit confused, but more insulted than anything, that you don’t think he’s a hockey player.

He’ll get fired up, and certainly be a hockey player for you. I am sure of it.

Just Do A Coach Eric Taylor Impression

The dude was the kingmaker of Texas high school football. Best coach I’ve ever seen.

He’s in Philadelphia now, but I’m sure he’s still got it. Act like VJ wouldn’t become a first team All-American after hearing things like this:

Clear eyes, full hearts, Beachem for three.

Make VJ Do a Bunch of Chores Only to Have Him Unwittingly Learn New Basketball Skills in the Process

Get creative with it and make sure he helps you get all your winter chores done around your house, coach.

He’ll end up complaining at the end of it, and then you can show him all the new, cool tricks you taught him that will make him a force to be reckoned with once again on the basketball court.

Ideas for this:

  • Paint the fence = a good follow-through on a jump shot
  • Wax on/Wax off = wave to a teammate to tell him you’re open
  • Sand the floor = steal the ball from an opponent, or give a teammate a low-five
  • Taking out the garbage = dunking with two hands and ensuring the trash/ball goes into the trash can/hoop
  • Killing a spider on the floor = learning how to properly slap the floor before playing defense

Those are just a few I came up with off the top of my head after thinking about it for just a few hours! The possibilities are endless, Mr. Breyagi!

Kick Him Off the Team, Make Him Do Thousands of Pushups and Suicide Sprints to Get Back on the Team, and then Watch Him Flourish in the State Playoffs NCAA Tournament Against St. Francis High School Kentucky

I think I explained it all in the title, but here’s a neat video for reference. Worked out pretty great for Samuel L., I reckon.

Just make sure VJ knows that his deepest fear isn’t being inadequate, but rather being powerful beyond measure. That will be key.

Be Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez

Have VJ go stand somewhere on the court with his arm in the air and his eyes closed, and ricochet the ball off of his hand and into the hoop without him actually doing anything, instantly teaching him how to shoot again and allowing him to instantaneously become a fully-functional player in the sport despite being completely useless just the day before.

Also, call him “Smalls” because that’s a fun name to call someone.


Okay, well, those are all of the ideas I have. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t. But something needs to be done to get VJ Beachem back to his old self, because despite the team’s wins over Pitt and Louisville, ND is absolutely a better team with the version of Beachem we knew and loved last season.

You’re welcome, Coach Brey.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for ya (besides convincing Red Panda to perform at halftime of every single one of your games - I’m already working on that).