Valpo Basketball: A Family Affair

(Author Note: This article was originally written on 3/16/15)

The last time that someone whose last name was not “Drew” coached the Valparaiso Crusaders Men’s basketball team was the 1987-88 season. Since then, three Drew’s have roamed the sidelines and led the team to much success. Not only are all three great coaches, but they are class acts who lead their teams the right way with strong values, work ethics, and a love and appreciation of the game. Homer Drew, for whom Valpo’s home court is now named after, went 371-304 in 22 seasons as the school’s coach. Valpo had a span where they made seven NCAA Tournaments in nine years.

One of those seasons when they did not make the Big Dance was the 2001-02 campaign, when Homer’s eldest son Scott became head coach. Scott did not even play basketball in high school. But after nine seasons as an assistant under his father, he took over the throne. But a bigger school and larger paycheck was too appealing as Scott abdicated it after just one season. Homer came out of a brief retirement and remained head coach for eight more seasons. Scott is still the head coach at Baylor and has lead the Bears to two Elite Eight appearances.

In 2005, the youngest son, Bryce, became an assistant coach at Valpo. He was promoted to associate coach the next year, leaving no doubt as to who would get the job once Homer stepped down for good. Bryce played for four years at Valpo from 1994 to 1998, despite offers from much larger schools after being named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1994. Bryce is also responsible for one of the most famous buzzer beaters in NCAA Tourney history, simply known as “The Shot.” He went on to play in the NBA for six years. Not only did he play for his dad at Valpo, but for his older brother too as Scott was an assistant during that span when Bryce was on the team.

In the four seasons Bryce has been head coach, he has resurrected Valpo to past heights with three regular season Horizon League titles and two NCAA Tourney births. There are always big-time coaching vacancies in the off-season. So the question becomes if Bryce Drew will every leave Valparaiso for a larger school and much larger payday…and vacate the family throne. Some mid-majors have essentially become power basketball schools, such as Gonzaga and Virginia Commonwealth. Schools like Butler and Creighton were able to ascend to power conferences when they had sustained stellar play as mid-majors. But those schools have much larger fan bases and facilities than Valpo. The Crusaders can continue to be in the upper echelon of a solid Horizon League and make a lot of Big Dances. But they will remain mid-major for the foreseeable future.

Bryce will likely be at Valpo for several years to come, as he is only 40 years old. But the temptation to move on will eventually get the best of him. It will be time for a non-Drew to lead the program. But don’t forget that Scott has two sons and Bryce has one. So we could see a third generation of Drew’s on the bench in northwestern Indiana one day. After all, coaching basketball at Valpo has become the family business and legacy.

Note: You can watch Bryce Drew and his Valparaiso team play Maryland in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Friday at 4:40 pm on TNT.

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