Sports, Thrill of Victory

The Bryce Drew era set to begin for Vanderbilt basketball

Bryce Drew is set to be named the new head coach at Vanderbilt. PHOTO COURTESY USA TODAY SPORTS

It took a week, but the Vanderbilt Commodores finally got their man.

After an intense search to find a replacement for Kevin Stallings, Vandy will name Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew as its new head coach.

The hire comes after what was undoubtedly an intriguing search from the very beginning. No one really knew for certain where the Commodores would go for their new coach, but once they met with Drew, they were clearly sold on his ability to be the face of the program going forward.

Bryce has a chance to completely transform the Vanderbilt basketball program. PHOTO BY BRAD PENNER/USA TODAY SPORTS

Bryce has a chance to completely transform the Vanderbilt basketball program. PHOTO BY BRAD PENNER/USA TODAY SPORTS

And it’s not like he hasn’t earned such a prestigious job. Drew went 124-49 during his time as coach of the Crusaders, which included four Horizon League regular season titles, two conference tournament titles, and two Coach of the Year awards.

That’s not bad for a guy that’s only been a head coach for five years.

But this hire is based on more than just winning. For Vandy, it was about finding the new face of the program that could bring the type of energy and personality needed to sell a program with such great tradition.

Vandy has it all. It’s a great academic school. It’s in a great city. It has so many things that make it one of the most unique universities in the country. You need someone that can sell that to people.

Drew is the guy to do that. He’s the type of coach that will go around campus and convince students that Memorial Gym is the place to be on game nights. He’s the type of coach that will go out and market everything that the Vandy basketball program has to offer, which is much more than a lot of people are willing to give it credit for.

And guess what? That’s exactly what this program needs at this point.

Of course, he’s also known as a players’ coach. Relationships matter to Drew. Everyone in college basketball circles speaks highly of his ability to relate to his players on more than just a basketball level. That will be a huge asset for him as he takes over a team with a lot of talent already on the roster.

Although point guard Wade Baldwin officially declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday, the Commodores still return players like Luke Kornet, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Jeff Roberson, and Riley LaChance, who have all seen tremendous amounts of success during their Vandy careers.

Now they’re about to get even better. Drew’s system and style of play will greatly benefit most of the current roster, with players like Kornet and Roberson possibly set to take a massive step forward under their new coach.

If Damian Jones decides to stay at Vandy, Bryce Drew will inherit a Top 25 team. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

If Damian Jones decides to stay at Vandy, Bryce Drew will inherit a Top 25 team. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

And on the slight chance that Damian Jones decides to skip the draft and return to school? Even better. Much, much better. Then you’re talking about a Top 25 team in Drew’s first year on the job.

However, this won’t simply be about winning right away for Drew. It’s about building a program. And if the reported six-year contract is true, then he’ll have plenty of time to do just that.

Despite all of the criticism of him, Stallings left this program in much better shape than he found it. He left an impressive roster in place, and Drew will be able to build the foundation with the group of players that he has now.

And perhaps that’s the biggest question some will have regarding Drew’s hire. Can he recruit in the highly-competitive SEC landscape? It’s an understandable question.

The SEC isn’t the Horizon League. It’s a completely different animal, and it’s one that can be tough to navigate when you’re the coach at Vandy. There are challenges in place that aren’t in place at other SEC schools. That’s not an excuse. That’s simply a fact.

But what will help Drew in that aspect is his personality and experience. If you can find a way to relate to players, you’re already a step ahead. That’s where Drew excels. He puts relationships first, and basketball second. That’s a formula for success.

And then there’s the fact that Drew does have NBA playing experience, which can go a long way towards convincing an athlete to attend your school.

Sure, Drew might not be a huge name like Gregg Marshall or Tom Crean. But it’s not about finding a coach with the best name. It’s more important to find the coach that’s the best fit.

On paper, Drew is that coach.

And while games aren’t won on paper, it feels like Vandy’s future is extremely bright with the dawn of the Drew era in Nashville.