Skip to main content

How Baylor Coach Scott Drew Led Most Dramatic Turnaround in College Basketball

Share This article

It's part of college basketball. A title-holder upset that busts the brackets of March Madness, sending the defending national champions home – 46 times over the last 48 years. In 2022, it was Baylor University's turn. This year, defending champion Baylor University didn't make it past the second round.

"It's so hard to repeat because the next year you have so many obstacles. We've had to deal with a lot of injuries. Not only are you taking everybody's best shot. You don't sneak up on anybody," said Baylor head coach Scott Drew.                                

Drew inherited a program under scrutiny and scandal in 2003. Since then, Baylor has frequently been described as the most dramatic turnaround in college basketball history. He says God has made all the difference in making that happen.

"Everything we do around the program is Christ-centered," Drew said. "The great thing is we can prepare champions for life. And that's a spiritual, academic, character formation in athletics. So for us to be able to incorporate the spiritual part has been so key and paramount to all our success and He's blessed us."

The program Drew inherited was downtrodden and scandalized. 

"We only had between five and seven scholarship players because we worked things out academically," Drew recalled. "It was a walk-on stream because not only could you be on the team, you could actually play and when you're a 35 or 40 point underdog every game you know that chances aren't great you're walking out with wins. And that first class helped form the foundation for what we're doing now and everyone that's come after. " 

Drew talks about his journey in a new book, Road to JOY. He says his "road to JOY" is Jesus, Others, and Yourself. "And if you're living with those priorities, life is so much better for all of us," he said.

Winning titles, though, makes the joy sweeter. 

"It was an unbelievable feeling," he said. "You got to celebrate it. Why I coach, why so many people coach, is to help people reach their goals and dreams, see them satisfied."

Coaching through the years has transformed Drew as well. 

"Well, I think anything you do takes time to develop your craft. Hopefully I'm a better coach today," he said. "Hopefully I'm a better mentor today than I was back then. It takes everyone involved to be successful. A lot of our coaches have been here 10, 12, 15 years. It starts with a lot of love. Players don't care what you know, until they know how much you care. We love them and try to get the best for them." 

It's been a long process of building and waiting. Coach Drew told us what kept him unwavering through the years.

"I'm blessed to have great assistant coaches. And then my dad's a Hall of Fame coach and when we were going through the first couple of years, he got me in the Book of Job and I was like, 'Does Job ever end, is it the whole Bible?' You know? But it's who you surround yourself with. Which lion are you listening to?"

"Coaches like to control everything," he added. "And you know when you're walking by faith – God's the one at the wheel. We try to do everything we can and we give our players our best, try to go 1 and 0 each and every day, and see what God has in store for us for that day." 

Drew has a reputation as a remarkable recruiter. We asked him what the soul of a student athlete craves most today.

"Twenty-seven years ago when I got into coaching it was the coach's way or the highway. Nowadays, players, they don't want to be told, they want to know why. And if they believe in the 'why' then they'll do whatever is asked or required. It's a 'Siri Generation.' They want to be informed. So the heart's so important, and if they're bought in with the heart they perform at their fullest," he said.

As to how national championships can affect a person, Drew was philosophical. 

"Does it change you? Absolutely not," he said. "The day that I die and I go before God, He's not going to say 'What's your record? How many championships did you win?' We're going to do everything we can. Thank goodness, God sent Jesus for us and hopefully we win the game of life, which is more important than the trophy, a tournament, the championship. It's God's platform and I just wanted to honor Him." 

And in everything, Drew cautions against letting pride take over. 

"Well, pride comes before the fall, so the great thing is, in the Bible, the people God uses – the weakest clan, the smallest. So it's easier to stay humble when you're not Sampson or Goliath, you know. I know in our journey that bodes good for me because I know it's not what I've done, but what God's done."

"In a race, run in such a way to win the prize," he added. "God doesn't call us to not try to use all the talents. We want to maximize what He's given us in a way that pleases Him."

Coach Drew has a winning strategy to keep his players active and authentic in their faith while also keeping himself and his team consistent on a daily basis.

"It's like eating. You've got to do it every day. We start staff meetings in prayer; we start practice in prayer; we end practice in prayer. Players have players-only Bible study. So it's constantly being fed. And at the same time the great thing about college basketball, there's a lot of pressure. You're only as good as your last game. You're closest to God when you need Him most."

Share This article

About The Author

Tom Buehring

Tom currently travels as a National Sports Correspondent for The 700 Club and CBN News. He engages household sports names to consider the faith they’ve discovered within their own unique journey. He has over 30 years of experience as a TV sports anchor, show host, reporter and producer, working commercially at stations in Seattle, Tampa, Nashville and Fayetteville where he developed, launched and hosted numerous nightly and weekly shows and prime-time specials. Prior to his TV market hopping, Tom proposed and built an academic/intern television broadcast program at the University of North