Drew coaching family knows NCAA tournament highs and lows
Few things amplify the highs and lows of sports quite as loudly as the NCAA basketball tournament.
Nobody need tell that to Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew, who shot Valparaiso onto the national map 19 years ago and who four days ago took the lead role in comforting one of his players who erred in a way that puts him at risk of seeing it replayed every time he turns on the television.
Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis thought his team was down a point when it was up a point and fouled Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh with 17 seconds remaining. The Commodores didn’t recover and just like that, former Valparaiso coach Homer Drew went from having two sons coaching in the NCAA tournament to having one.
Baylor’s Scott Drew is coaching in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in eight seasons. Drew stopped in the Kansas locker room Sunday at BOK Center in Tulsa to offer congratulations on his way to taking the court for the Bears’ game against USC.
Homer Drew was in attendance for Vandy’s loss to Northwestern in Salt Lake City and flew to Tulsa in the middle of the night to watch the Bears represent the Big 12 well with victories against New Mexico State and USC.
For the first time since interviewing him for a column I wrote in 1994 suggesting that the NCAA should investigate Valpo for going to such unethical lengths to land a commitment from that year’s Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana. Namely, Homer was sleeping with the recruit’s mother, Homer’s wife. Bryce Drew could have played anywhere and chose to play for his dad and that decision was rewarded with one of the more memorable moments in NCAA tournament history.
The hug father and son shared after that one still gets air time. So too, will Thursday’s blunder.
“Bryce handled it beautifully in the press conference,” Homer said of his son. “He talked about it takes a team to win and a team to lose and one play does not dictate an outcome. He was really gracious and stood by Matt because without Matt we, don’t get there. He hit some big 3’s and he hit three free throws in a row when he was fouled on a 3-point shot when it got us within one. So at the end he just thought that we were one down, instead of one up, so your heart goes out to him.”
Homer refers to the players by their first names and uses “us” and “we” and “our” when talking about Vanderbilt and Baylor.
“Time heals,” Homer said. “Matt feels really bad, but the teammates came up to him. Basketball’s special in that you have friends you live and die with on campus, going to classes, on the basketball court, traveling. So their compassion back to Matt makes life go on.”
Technically, Bryce coaches his team, Scott his, but in a way Bryce, Homer and Scott join minds to coach two teams.
“Some of the most exciting times have been at about 11, 12 at night and the three of us are talking basketball. I feel very blessed to have kids who ended up not by design but ended up coaching.”
They talk by three-way conference call.
“I have eight grandkids so they helped me learn how to press the buttons and get on one,” Homer said.
Scott and Bryce have not faced each other, but Homer said he hopes to witness that in March or early April one year.
“That would be the first time brothers have ever coached against each other in an NCAA tournament. That would be something special if that would happen,” Homer said. He retired from coaching after the 2011 season and is associate athletic director at Valparaiso, which he coached into the NCAA tournament seven times.
“Bryce and Drew talk a great deal and they’re so close,” Homer said. “It makes mom and dad very proud.”
The next challenge for the Bryce, Homer, Scott brain trust is to try to figure out a way to stop Frank Martin’s South Carolina team, which not only plays tough defense, but has averaged 59.5 second-half points two games into the tournament.