Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly talks Irish roots, pride, adversity


O"DOWD: Anything surprise you so far?

KELLY: I think anytime you take over a new business or a new organization
you go in there and you try to find out where the air’s coming out of
the tires, so to speak. We’ve got a good idea of where it was and
we’ve been able to address that. I was pretty well-schooled on the
fact that there was going to be a lot outside of the game itself –
whether it be the media or alumni or development, whether it be
Thursday night shows, Friday luncheons, Saturday walk to the basilica,
there’s so many things. I was prepared for that.

I think the surprising thing, more than anything else, was the players
and some of the things that they were missing just in the game itself,
and so that was a bit of a surprise. But nothing surprises me too
much. That’s the Irish in me. I’ve always been this way.

O"DOWD: What did your wife say when you came home and said ‘I’m going to Notre Dame?’

KELLY: She did give me a blank look, like, ‘are you sure?’ My daughter, Grace
Kelly, said, “Dad, I know it’s your dream job, but I’m crying now
because I’m sad for me, because I’m going to miss my friends. I’m
happy for you, I’m just sad because I’m moving again for the fourth
time in six years.”

I think that’s how the whole family felt. Now that they’re here and
they’re settled and they’re around Notre Dame and I can share the
things that Notre Dame has with them, it makes it all worthwhile.

O'DOWD: How do you cope with the stress?

KELLY: There’s a lot of stress. I’ve worked hard to take care of myself and
getting fit and getting check-ups and all those things because I
worked 20 years to get here, I don’t want to have a heart attack while
I’m here, you know? I think that’s absolutely a concern and I’m taking
it seriously.

O'DOWD: Do you get time off at all?

KELLY: No. This is my time off [doing the interview with Irish America]. You
guys get to spend it with me. How lucky are you? No, you get a couple
hours here and there. I’ll have dinner with the family tonight – you
just pick your spots and when you get a couple of hours, make it
quality time.

O'DOWD:The painting hanging on your wall with the faceless workers is very striking.

KELLY: You can see they’re Irish…I look at that [and I see] the Irish
immigrants who came over and lost their lives and dug the canals. When
I first saw it I said, “I’ve got to have that picture.” It also is
about where we want to bring our football team – back to its Fighting
Irish roots. Back to faceless and nameless. It’s not about superstars
but about a team, about trust and commitment and all the things I was
taught growing up from my family, from my Irish Catholic roots, and
we’re trying to bring Notre Dame back to that, and that’s kind of the
full circle here.

That’s the job and the process. When you’ve been in it and it’s
ingrained in you and you know where you want to
go with it, you don’t get derailed too easily.

O'DOWD: You seem very strong in yourself; you’re not worried what people think.

KELLY: There’s going to be plenty of opinions. There’s never a shortage of
opinions in this business. That’s the great thing about Notre Dame. As
long as you understand that, and this is where my background helps me,
when I was at University of Cincinnati, nobody cared enough. Here
people care too much. It allows me to keep perspective on it, as well,
and I know what we want to do. I know what our plan is, and they’ll
all be on the bandwagon sooner or later, so I just always reserve room
for them.

O'DOWD: Anything else surprise you here?

KELLY: There are some things at Notre Dame you have to get used to and one of
them is TV time-outs. We have to pay the bills, so to speak. It’s hard
to keep flow and momentum. It is choppy and I’m working through that
right now. I think I’d like to get our players to see their head coach
is involved in the game and he’s not just walking up and down the
sidelines but he’s invested in it. The coaches that I played for were
like that and I enjoyed that.

Now, there’s this line that you can’t cross, but I’ve always felt that
that’s the way I’ve played the game and that’s the way I’m going to
coach the game.

O'DOWD:How do you feel about the game in Ireland – Notre Dame against Navy in 2012?

KELLY:  I can’t wait. I’m so excited. Just can’t tell you how, for me, to go
to Ireland to take an American football team to Ireland, how special
that’s going to be.