Minutes before Texas went down by 18 points at halftime, at home, to Baylor, Texas blog Burnt Orange Nation tweeted this:
I hope Shaka Smart can Shaka Smart and Scott Drew can Scott Drew so Texas gets back in this contest.
— Burnt Orange Nation (@BON_SBNation) February 20, 2016
It’s true that if anyone can coach their team from 18 points down, it’s Texas coach Shaka Smart. But unfortunately for Smart and the Longhorns, “Scott Drew-ing” a game actually tends to mean winning. Baylor won by 14, after extending their lead to 24 with 10 minutes left in the game.
With that win, the Bears are essentially locked into their sixth NCAA Tournament in nine years, getting close to doubling their total number of NCAA Tournament appearances in their previous 96 years of existence. Since Drew became Baylor’s coach in 2003, the Bears also have an NIT championship, and they have two Elite Eight appearances. It’s by far the most remarkable run of success in Baylor history.
So why does everyone hate Scott Drew? Because he’s dirty, opposing coaches would say. Because he can’t coach, fans would say.
But there’s really no evidence to say he’s anything other than a good basketball coach.
Drew was voted by his (anonymous) peers as the second-dirtiest coach in college basketball, according to a CBS Sports poll. The contempt was vicious:
“I don’t even have to blink when I say the answer,” one coach told CBS. “He’s despised by a lot of people because he comes off holier than God. Meanwhile, everyone knows he’s had to cheat big-time to get the program to where it’s at. If it wasn’t for the God stuff he wouldn’t rub people the wrong way as much.”
Former Texas coach Rick Barnes, now at Tennessee, sounded off on Drew’s hiring of a top prospect’s AAU coach. And he insinuated that Drew was violating NCAA recruiting rules. From The New York Times:
Asked if he had anything else to say about Drew’s recruiting practices, Barnes said, “I wish I could.”
It seems like a lot of coaches wish they could come up with something, but so far they haven’t, as CBS Sports’ anonymous poll found that “almost nobody has a specific story (of wrongdoing) but nearly everybody believes ‘he’s gotta be doing something.’”
The jeering doesn’t just come from fellow coaches. Forbes named him one of the most overpaid coaches in college basketball for really no reason in particular. Fans think he “underachieves.” But considering where Baylor was before he arrived in Waco, that sentiment is fairly incredible.
When Drew took over at Baylor, the Bears’ program was coming out of arguably the worst scandal in NCAA history. In 2003, Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson, and coach Dave Bliss was fired for telling teammates to lie to investigators and tell them Dennehy was a drug dealer in order to cover up NCAA violations.
When Drew inherited the program, it was feeling the heat of major sanctions. The team got a one-year postseason ban and every player was allowed to transfer without penalty. Later, Baylor lost an entire non-conference season, and it had major scholarship losses that made recruiting impossible.
But despite all of that, Drew, who never even played high school varsity basketball and had only been a college head coach for one year, has taken the Bears’ program to new heights. Since he arrived in Waco, he has signed three five-star and 21 four-star recruits to a program with no discernable basketball history.
He’s been developed talent on the court, too. Over the past year, for instance, all but one returning player who plays at least 50 percent of available minutes has improved in offensive rating, a metric to measure overall offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
[table id=ScottDrew /]
Drew has developed his own style, recruiting athletic players to crash the boards. In the past two years, Baylor has ranked second and fourth nationally in offensive rebound percentage. But like any coach, Drew is willing to adapt his style.
Last year, with poor inside play, Drew embraced three-pointers, as the Bears finished 34th nationally in three-point percentage and 243rd in two-point percentage. This year, with players like star sophomore Johnathan Motley ready to contribute, the Bears have attacked the basket and the boards, ranking 94th in two-point percentage. The shot charts, from Shot Analytics, show the improvement.
That’s some strong evidence that Drew does know what he’s doing. But it shouldn’t take advanced stats or fancy shot charts to prove Drew’s coaching acumen by now. The guy who took over a mess of a program and brought it to new heights is, in fact, a good basketball coach. Imagine that.
Until you find something substantive to use against him, it’s time to give him the credit he deserves.