Just three years ago Baylor basketball was a cold and sterile courtroom in Waco, Texas. It was also an angry father screaming at a man who had murdered his son.
|Scott Drew has Baylor in the tourney just a few short years after the program was in shambles. (AP)|
Baylor basketball was Dotson, wearing a black-and-white prison uniform, being led away that day in handcuffs, sentenced to 35 years in prison for cold-blooded murder. Standing there was Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, who held a picture of his dead son high above his head.
"Remember him! Remember his face!" Brabazon yelled. "You, Carlton Dotson, are a killer, a sinner of the worst degree, and may you never forget what you did." Scandal, murder and disgrace ... that was Baylor basketball.
The presumption and presentiment was, at that point, Baylor hoops might never recover and could remain mortally wounded and stuck in a sallow state. That was Baylor basketball then.
This is Baylor basketball now.
It's Baylor coach Scott Drew, seen as a savior to many, an angel to a few.
There are scandals and then there is what happened at Baylor. When a teammate murders another, scandal isn't the word, which makes what Drew has accomplished quite possibly the best rebuilding job collegiate sports has seen in many, many years, if not ever.
Drew had the audacity to believe that Baylor could be repaired and the lasting memory of Baylor basketball wouldn't be one of its players stuck in a hole for 35 years.
"The people who knew a lot about Baylor knew that everything that had happened was an isolated incident," Drew told me in a telephone interview, just after landing in Washington, D.C. for Thursday's game against sixth-seeded Purdue. "We wanted people to see the real Baylor, and I think the country is seeing that."
If there is a better story in the NCAA tournament than Baylor, I'm not sure what it is.
Once it was announced that Baylor had made the postseason, Drew began to think back to just how far the program has come. "I think (the announcement) summed up every reason I could have come up with as to why I wanted to come to Baylor," he said. "The emotion and everything kind of culminated (after the announcement). We were kind of rewarded in that one second that our name flashed up on the screen. Right now, it happened so quickly, we are just trying to juggle everything, and that is what we are doing."
Baylor is justifiably giddy and refreshed. It's understandable. Just remember where the Bears were. After the murder, a cover-up of the killing was exposed, a coach and athletic director were fired, there were almost historic NCAA penalties and a feeling the basketball program was done.