Posted by Eric Angevine
It's not easy following a legend. Homer Drew is a legend. Starting in 1988, Drew spent his entire DI coaching career at Valparaiso University, taking the Crusaders to the NCAA tournament seven times in 22 seasons. In 1998, the team went to the Sweet 16. Things have been a little more difficult for Drew and his program in the new millennium, as the Butler Bulldogs have become an elite team since the formation of the Horizon League, but the Crusaders won 23 games in Homer's last season, and are a good bet to stay in the league's upper echelon in upcoming seasons.
That's because Valparaiso was able to replace Homer the legend with another legend, his son Bryce Drew. Reports out of Indianapolis say that Bryce will succeed his father as Valpo's head coach, with an announcement coming today. Bryce may not have the coaching resume his father compiled, but he has major cachet nonetheless. As a Valpo player, Bryce hit one of the most famous game-winning shots in the history of college hoops. He did it against Ole Miss in 1998; the amazing Sweet 16 season.
1998 might be ancient history to today's recruits, but that video speaks for itself. There's little doubt that an Indiana kid will know the name Bryce Drew, and that name recognition could go a long ways toward keeping Valpo from sliding much - if at all - during this historic passing of the torch. Bryce also has someone he might occasionally turn to for advice, if Dad is busy fishing or something. His older brother Scott Drew coached Valpo for one season in 2002-03 before taking over at Baylor. Apparently the year off did Homer Drew some good, as he came back the following year and kept the Drew lineage intact long enough for Bryce to gain the necessary experience to succeed him.
Keeping the Drew family line going at Valpo is good for the school, and good for the Horizon League. While Butler is clearly the league strongman, the overall profile of the conference is bouyed by a tradition of tough opponents at Cleveland State and Valparaiso. Milwaukee has been an off-and-on powerhouse as well, and won the regular-season title in 2011. Wright State is often a contender, and Detroit is playing a very quick game of catch-up with coach Ray McCallum bringing in his extremely talented son, Ray, Jr. and adding 6-foot-6 Baylor transfer Nolan Dennis (per my soon-to-be colleague Jeff Goodman).
The Horizon League has an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the WCC, where Gonzaga's success helped bring St. Mary's into the national spotlight, and made a move to the league attractive for BYU as well. Not bad for a league very few fans east of the Rocky Mountains had heard of ten years ago. Keeping Valpo strong keeps the Horizon League strong, and hiring Bryce Drew was a great way to keep positive momentum rolling at one school, and therefore in the entire conference.