VALPARAISO, IND. (AP) - When Bryce Drew makes the short stroll from his office to the solitude of his no-frills gym, he thinks back to his favorite moments at Valparaiso.
No, not “The Shot” that’s still being replayed on the highlight reels each March.
The Crusaders coach reflects on the family basketball games and Nerf football games that broke out on Sunday afternoons in the Athletics-Recreation Center. He talks about the days he’d show up at the gym with nothing but a boom box, a tape full of music and a basketball, shooting until the final notes played. His father, Homer, still remembers Bryce’s late-night sessions when his shot just didn’t feel quite right.
For most of the past 3 1/2 decades, this has been Drew’s life in northwestern Indiana, where faith, family and Valpo basketball are intertwined.
“You know when I first took the (head coaching) job, my dad said to be yourself, be who you are and I’ve gravitated back to those words because the chances are I won’t win 600 games or go to as many NCAA tournaments,” Bryce Drew said after winning his first Horizon League tourney last week. “But it was such a high moment to have the game on our home court, with my dad’s name on it, and our home fans there and our seniors trying to make it. It doesn’t happen very often like that.”
Certainly not in the world of big-time sports where father-son coaching successions often don’t work out.
The Drews learned long ago that success doesn’t just happen, it’s built on the kinds of values Homer Drew instilled in his kids long before coaching became the family business. The eldest Drew followed a simple philosophy: Accentuate the positive and make sure his players knew there was more to life than basketball.
He didn’t have much of a choice. When the former Dale Brown assistant took the Valpo job in 1988, he inherited a program that had never been to the NCAA tournament, never won a conference title, never even had a winning record as a Division I school.
Back then, most people considered Valparaiso a dead-end job. Affable Homer Drew saw it as something else, a chance to build a program in his own image and with the help of both of his sons _ Bryce and Scott _ the Drews got things turned around remarkably fast
Scott, now the Baylor coach, was hired by his father as an assistant in 1993. The next fall, a smallish, polite homegrown kid who spurned the chance to play at bigger schools after collecting the state’s most prestigious prep award — 1994 Indiana Mr. Basketball — made the short trip across town.
It didn’t take long for that kid to help his dad and brother turn Valpo basketball into a national mid-major powerhouse.
Bryce Drew, now 38, helped Valpo win its first league title in 1995 and make its first NCAA trip in 1996. That started a run of three five consecutive NCAA bids for a school that today has a student enrollment of fewer than 4,500.
Since then, Homer Drew has taken the Crusaders to two more NCAA tourneys, retired twice, turned the program over first to his oldest son, Scott, and then to his youngest son, Bryce, after Scott took the Baylor job and Homer returned to the bench.
Each has their own coaching style, and each has now won a league title at Valpo and earned a trip to the NCAA tourney. Scott Drew reached the regional finals twice in the last three years with Baylor. Bryce Drew will make his NCAA tourney coaching debut Thursday when the 14th-seeded Crusaders (26-7) play third-seeded Michigan State (25-8) at Auburn Hills, Mich.
“I’m so happy for him,” Scott Drew said of his younger brother. “The most stressful days of coaching at any level would be a conference tournament at a place where only one team is going to get a bid because no matter what you do in the regular year, it all comes down to those one or two games and as a coach you know that so the pressure is unbelievable.”