Every coach has some rebuilding to do once they get the job. It doesn’t matter how good the job is when the coach gets there. There’s always some work to do.
Some jobs are bigger than others. At some, the foundation is solid. At others, the foundation could use some work.
And then there was Baylor when Scott Drew arrived in 2003. I mean, let’s face it — Baylor’s favorite alums, Chip and Joanna Gaines, have more to work with on an episode of ‘Fixer Upper’ than Drew had with the Bears.
The program was in tatters. The murder of Baylor player Patrick Dennehy. The trial of his killer and teammate, Carlton Dotson. The massive recruiting violations of coach Dave Bliss and his staff.
If the NCAA had given the Bears the death penalty, it would have been hard to blame them. But they had done that once, to SMU football, and the Mustangs have never been the same. Loathe to do it again, the NCAA, along with Baylor’s self-imposed penalties, DID punish the program within an inch of its life.
Five years of probation. A year with no non-conference games (an NCAA first). A one-year postseason ban. A two-year limit on scholarships. Limited recruiting. Current players could transfer away without penalty.
On Aug. 22, 2003, Drew took the job. Drew took THAT job. The one in 2003. The one that looked like a bridge to nowhere.
The Bears’ first road game that season was on Dec. 9, 2003. The Bears drove up I-35 North to Denton, Texas, to face North Texas at The Super Pit. I admit. I was curious. At the time, I was the assistant sports editor at the Denton Record-Chronicle. So, that Tuesday night, I headed over to The Super Pit to help with coverage of the game.
The Bears lost that game, 73-69. Those Bears weren’t bad. But they were definitely undermanned. But you could tell Drew was doing his best with what he had, and what he knew was coming. I actually came away impressed.
But I also said to myself as I walked out, ‘The first chance he gets, once he’s made this program respectable, he’s on his way to something better.’
There’s no way I could have been more wrong. In his 18th season in Waco, Drew has the Bears in the Final Four.
“I saw on Twitter probably about a month ago, someone tweet along the lines that … Scott Drew has the biggest comeback story, and has built back from nothing basically in the basketball program,” Bears guard MaCio Teague said after the Bears defeated Arkansas in the Elite Eight. “And people need to talk about that.”
So let’s talk about it.
The Bears had three straight losing season to start his career, winning just 21 games total in those three seasons. He’s had 15 winning seasons since then, including 12 seasons with at least 20 wins.
Drew has already won more games (368) and coached more games (585) than any Baylor coach in history. Amazingly, he’s not the program’s leader in games lost yet. Bill Henderson had 233 career losses. Drew has 215.
Drew has taken the Bears to the NCAA Tournament nine times in his career. That’s already triple the number of NCAA Tournaments that Henderson took the Bears to between 1942 and 1961.
Drew has taken the Bears to the NCAA Tournament FIVE more times than the other 17 Baylor head coaches combined.
This year, Drew led the Bears to their first regular-season conference championship since 1950.
And then there’s this one, which never gets old:
Baylor played its 269th game as a ranked team on Monday night. Baylor was ranked in 2 of 2,197 games in the program’s first 97 seasons prior to Drew. Since 2008-09, Baylor has been ranked in 266 of 448 games.
Eighteen years later, whatever Drew’s vision was, it has come to fruition.
“Obviously once we got into the (first) season and you found out that most of your team were walk-ons and most of them weren’t over 6-foot-2, then you realized it might be tougher than you originally thought,” Drew said. “But obviously the goal was always to build a program that could consistently compete and have an opportunity to play in March.”
Or, you know, in April.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard
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