Only one person has been with Mike Brey since he was named the University of Notre Dame’s head basketball coach in July 2000, and that is Notre Dame Associate Head Coach Rod Balanis. Beginning his 18th season as a member of the Fighting Irish coaching staff, no individual has been more loyal and understands better the model of consistency that Brey has built on the hardwood at Notre Dame than Balanis.
Balanis became the coordinator of basketball operations in July 2000 and was one of Brey’s first hires when he became the Irish head coach. Following three seasons in that position, Balanis was promoted to assistant coach in May 2003 and has moved to associate head coach for the 2016-17 season.
Balanis’ expertise and flexibility has allowed him to work with both the Irish frontline players and guards during his 17 full seasons at Notre Dame. Similar to Brey, Balanis has ties to the Atlantic Coast Conference, having played at Georgia Tech under legendary coach Bobby Cremins in the early 1990s.
Balanis has played an integral role in Notre Dame’s success, both on the court and on the recruiting trail. Since the 2000-01 campaign, Irish teams have earned NCAA Championship berths in 12 seasons, including the 2014-15 squad that finished the season with a 32-6 record (second-most wins in school history) after advancing to the program’s first NCAA Elite Eight appearance since 1979.
The Irish followed up the 2014-15 season with another memorable trip to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2015-16, knocking off Michigan, Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin while advancing to the NCAA East Regional Final. Along the way, the 2016-17 team earned the program’s first victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, knocked off top-ranked and eventual national runner-up North Carolina in Purcell Pavilion and advanced to the ACC Championship semifinals.
Over the past two seasons, the Fighting Irish have posted a program-best 82 overall wins and seven wins in the NCAA tournament.
Since Balanis’ arrival, Notre Dame teams have compiled a 382-187 (.671) mark overall. While a member of the BIG EAST Conference, Irish teams compiled a 136-84 (.618) record in regular-season play, finished in the top five of the conference regular-season standings on eight occasions and earned with 10 or more wins during the regular season nine times. From 2006-13, Notre Dame recorded a school-record seven consecutive 20-win seasons and made the NCAA Championship six times.
Balanis helped bring the first conference tournament title to the program in 2015 by way of victories over Miami (Fla.), Duke and North Carolina. He also played a part in a regular-season championship in Brey’s inaugural season as the Irish won the 2001 BIG EAST West Division title.
Balanis helped mentor former Irish guards Kyle McAlarney (’09) and Tory Jackson (’10). McAlarney finished his Notre Dame career as one of the program’s top three-point shooters and set the school’s single-season mark with 124 three-pointers in 2008-09. Jackson finished as the BIG EAST assist leader in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, and was named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team in 2007.
Balanis has been instrumental in the development of Notre Dame’s post play as well. He worked extensively with former All-American and 2008 BIG EAST Player of the Year Luke Harangody and played a big part during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns in the maturation of forward Jack Cooley. As a junior, Cooley was a second-team all-BIG EAST selection and was honored as the league’s most improved player as he led the Irish in both scoring (12.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.9). In his senior season, Cooley was a first team all-BIG EAST selection and was the only player in the league to average double figures in both scoring (12.4) and rebounding (10.1) during the conference regular season.
Balanis has played a key role in Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts as well. He served as the primary contact in the recruitment of former Irish stand outs Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Grant earned first team consensus All-America honors, a unanimous first team all-ACC honoree and copped MVP honors at the ACC Championship, while Connaughton was a third team all-league selection and garnered NCAA Midwest Region All-Tournament team honors.
Both Grant and Connaughton were drafted 19th and 41st overall in the 2015 National Basketball Association Draft. The occasion marked the first time since 1992 that Notre Dame had two players selected in the same draft. Grant is a current member of the New York Knicks, while Connaughton is on the Portland Trailblazers roster.
Prior to coming to Notre Dame at the start of the 2000-01 campaign, he spent four years as an assistant coach at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
In his first season at Colgate, Balanis had the opportunity to coach and work with Adonal Foyle, a seven-year member of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Foyle, the eighth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, finished his career as the NCAA’s career shot-blocking leader.
Balanis played at Georgia Tech for Bobby Cremins from 1990-94, enrolling at the Atlanta, Georgia, school in the fall of 1989. He was part of teams that made four trips to the NCAA Championship and appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) once. The Ramblin’ Wreck reached the Sweet 16 twice in that five-year span and earned a berth in the 1990 Final Four held that year in Denver, Colo.
A native of Williamsburg, Virginia, Balanis excelled in the classroom while at Georgia Tech, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll recognition. The Boy Scouts of America also honored him for his outstanding character and citizenship when he was named “Peach of an Athlete” in 1993.
Following his graduation, Balanis went to Greece, where he played professionally for Aris Thessoliniki of the Greek First Division during the 1994-95 season.
He graduated from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., in 1988 after an outstanding prep career playing for legendary coach Morgan Wootten. Brey served as an assistant at DeMatha at the time Balanis was attending the school. Balanis helped the Stags to an 84-16 record and nine tournament titles during the course of his four seasons. He also set the school’s single-game assist mark when he had 14 in one game.
Balanis hails from a family with coaching roots at the collegiate level as his father, George, served as the head basketball coach at William & Mary from 1974-77.
Balanis graduated with honors from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in management. He and his wife, the former Liz Barker, were married in August 2002. She was a former standout tennis player at Wake Forest and served as the assistant women’s tennis coach at Notre Dame for six seasons. The couple has three sons, Andrew, Lukas and Theodore.