SOUTH BEND - Talent dictates.
Some years, Mike Brey is nothing more than the administrator of the Notre Dame men's basketball program. Roll out the balls. Establish the framework. Manage egos. Get out of the way.
Some years, he's a mechanic, certainly not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Others, he's a doting papa, hell-bent on doing whatever he can to get the best for his kids.
It all comes down to what sort of hand he's been dealt.
The challenge Brey faces in his 12th year at the Notre Dame helm - coming up with an encore from an impressive season - isn't necessarily new.
Circumstances are similar from 2003-04.
That year, the Irish were coming off their first - and only, so far - Sweet Sixteen appearance under Brey. Their two leaders - Matt Carroll and Danny Miller - had graduated.
This year, Notre Dame is coming off a season that had an inkling that it could have been better than it actually turned out. The Irish went into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed, but couldn't make it past the third round.
Likewise, two of their leaders - Ben Hansbrough and Carleton Scott - are gone.
The mandate then, and now, was/is about defining roles. That's where Brey comes in. He'll make an adjustment from an administrator a year ago, to a hands-on, grease-under-the-fingernails mechanic this season.
"The biggest thing, this year, is patience - for me," Brey said. "Last year's group, halfway through the first practice, was very bored with the drills we'd do, and said, 'When do we play Georgetown?" They were right. They were ready to go. It was a matter of keeping them right and together for five months. They did that themselves, fabulously.
"I think (this year) we'll get better week to week. I hope it's quick enough to be an NCAA Tournament team; to be thorough enough by January and February to be an NCAA Tournament team. That's where the jury's out."
This year, Brey will have a few key components in place, but needs to find the right combination before he can mold a cohesive unit. It starts with veterans Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin.
Point guard Eric Atkins will be instrumental.
That's where certainty ends and Brey's tinkering begins.
"I don't know if, ever before, I've had so much unknown after two or three guys," Brey said.
"We've never had that much unknown. A little bit of that is anxiety. Most of that excites me because the guys we're going to ask to do more are guys who can do it. They've been in our program - (Tom) Knight, (Mike) Broghammer, (Jerian) Grant, (Alex) Dragicevich, (Joey) Brooks.
They've learned from and played against the guys they respected so much. Our lone freshman (Pat Connaughton) doesn't act like a freshman."
In '03-04, roles were a bit more defined. Tom Timmermans and Torrian Jones were the senior leaders. Chris Thomas ran the show at the point and Jordan Cornette and Torin Francis supplied some of the offensive punch.
"There can be a parallel drawn between those two teams," said Cornette. "Not only were we missing talent, we were missing our voices; our leadership. We lost Matt Carroll and Danny Miller off that great team.