INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Homer Drew soaked in the celebration Monday night. He had every reason.
After coaching more than 1,000 games and watching his two sons, Scott and Bryce, coach almost another 900, the family finally had its first ticket to a Final Four, any Final Four, courtesy of Baylor’s victory over Arkansas in the South Region championship game. “We’re just thrilled one of us got in there,” Drew told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s been wonderful and memorable. Scott has been there 18 years, and it seems like he just got there.”
Make no mistake, the family patriarch had a significant influence on his children.
Both followed him into coaching, both took a page out of his genteel coaching philosophy, and both have built programs the way their father did. But even as Scott took time out after Monday night’s breakthrough victory to credit his father for instilling the eternal optimism he shows publicly, the Drews also were hurting. Back at Grand Canyon, where Bryce now coaches, the campus held a celebration of life for Oscar Frayer, the four-year starter killed with his sister in an automobile accident on March 23 – just three days after the Antelopes made their NCAA Tournament appearance. “I have tears in my eyes just thinking of what the team has gone through. Even worse for the family, Oscar’s mother lost his father to a car accident,” the 76-year-old Drew said. “To have him and her only son and her daughter, who leaves four children, all killed in car accidents., it’s just … .”
An authentically human reaction from the father of a family America started to get to know almost a quarter-century ago during another memorable moment – when Homer Drew led Valparaiso to the Sweet 16 with Scott on his staff and Bryce making one of the NCAA Tournament’s most replayed buzzer-beaters.
Since then, the Drews journey has gone in many different directions.
Scott replaced his father at Valpo, then left after one year to take over the scandal-tainted Bears before rebuilding it into a national powerhouse. After a pro career, Bryce replaced his father and led his alma mater to tourney appearances in 2013 and 2015, then left for Vanderbilt, where he was eventually fired.
In September 2011, Homer and his wife, Janet, were diagnosed with cancer – just three days apart. Both had surgery, recovered, and joined their two tourney-coaching sons in Indianapolis, though they could only meet through video conferencing. And now, after 1,947 Division I games and 1,191 career wins, the Drews finally have a ticket to the Final Four. “I was thrilled he surpassed that Sweet 16, and we’ve always been wanting one of us to get to that Final Four,” Homer Drew said. “I’m just so happy for him.”