Bryce Drew is Valparaiso basketball. In fact, the Drew family has been associated with the Crusaders for decades, as Bryce’s father Homer and brother Scott manned the team’s coaching helm before he took over in 2011 while learning that sometimes, people matter more than results.
And the man has proven to be as good a coach as his father and brother in five years at Valpo, going 123-48 (65-19 Horizon League) and making two NCAA Tournaments. Drew’s success as a coach ultimately drew the attention of sponsors, namely Dove Men + Care, who included the Crusaders’ coach in an ad campaign simply titled “#RealStrength.”
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Coach Drew, who explained that very philosophy that he experienced growing up, as a student-athlete at Valparaiso and, today, as a coach, and his take on it was just like his basketball program: genuinely passionate.
“You know, I was very blessed as a young boy to be around my dad’s program,” Drew said. “But it wasn’t until l was older that I realized all the love and care that he put into his players. After I was done playing with him and when I came back to coach, I really understood how he cared for his players and he treated them just like sons. For me, as I started to become a coach, caring for our players, loving our players, being there for our players is just something that’s very natural to me. I’ve seen it since I can remember.”
And adopting that style has Drew as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in college basketball. Keep in mind that when he took over the program following his father’s second retirement in 2011, Valparaiso had not won a conference championship of any kind since 2004, when the Crusaders were part of what is now called the Summit League.
Fast forward to today, when Bryce Drew has been manning the sidelines for five years, and Valparaiso has won four Horizon League regular season titles and two conference championships. Tonight, Drew and the Crusaders will face the WCC’s BYU Cougars with a spot in the NIT Championship Game on the line, and Drew’s distinct people-before-results approach could very well be the reason.
“For myself, the person is more important than the result,” Drew said. “We’re going to recruit families. We’re going to recruit players that want to be part of our family here. That’s how we live our daily life and that’s how we treat our team. I think when people sign on to come here, they know they’re coming to be more than basketball players. They’re coming to be cared for and develop into men.”
Given how Valparaiso basketball has experienced such a revival under the watch of one of its former heroes, that system clearly works.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Dove Men + Care