Two things are true. Scott Drew is the best coach in Baylor’s history. Drew is also the best coach for Baylor going forward.
This shouldn’t be a debate. I wrote an article trying to end this two years ago. But Dex has been incessant in his take that Scott Drew is overrated/not a good coach/not the right guy going forward. Given that, I let him write as much as he wanted to make his case and hopefully end this forever.
Let’s respond to Dex’s arguments in turn.
His past is incredible:
Dex tries to do two things. First, he argues that “Drew hasn’t won anything.” Then he tries to discount anyone saying he had impressive results by arguing that the 2018 and 2019 teams aren’t as good as those past squads. Basically, he’s saying the past wasn’t that great and the future will be even worse.
Drew has won plenty in the past. The 2010 team made the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion Duke. If not for a bad block/charge call against Quincy Acy, they might have won a title. That squad was picked 10th in the preseason. The 2012 team lost in the Elite Eight to Kentucky. That Kentucky team might be the best team of the century.
Dex argues “We’ve never won the Big 12, we’ve never won the Big 12 tournament, we’ve never made the Final Four, and we’ve never won a national championship.” Those are true statements, but they’re bad metrics for assessing the two questions Dex presents: Has Scott Drew won in the past, and is he the right guy going forward?
The goal in college basketball is to be consistently good and hope to break through. Baylor earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017. They were a No. 5 seed in 2016 and a No. 6 seed in 2014. Only Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina have more appearances seeded that highly.
The reason why college basketball is about being consistently good is that the NCAA Tournament has a ton of variance. In a single elimination format, the best teams often don’t win. Bill Self probably would have much rather had his 2017 or 2011 teams in the Final Four than his 2012 team. But a bad shooting day, an opponent’s ridiculous shooting day or anything else can wreck a team in the tournament. Kansas lost in the Round of 32 with Andrew Wiggins and failed to beat No. 11 seeded VCU to make the Final Four. Those are not arguments that Self is a bad coach; they’re arguments that the best programs make the most Final Fours because they have good teams every season. When they have a shot every year, eventually luck turns their way.
FWIW, Baylor ranks No. 35 in MBB spending. Since 2012, Baylor has averaged 21.7 in average KenPom finish, and been higher than 35 every year.— Shehan Jeyarajah (@ShehanJeyarajah) January 23, 2019
That’s return on investment. https://t.co/EBrFu20Zo0
Kansas wins the Big 12 every season. They have a ridiculous home court advantage. I can make more enemies today and parse out why, but nobody wins at home like them. Self has more Big 12 titles than home losses. The Ferrell Center is not even in the same realm. When Dex wants to make Big 12 titles a relevant metric, then he has to live with things like home court advantage as a relevant consideration.
Baylor also has the Big 12’s second best NCAA Tournament results this decade. Nobody but Kansas has more Elite Eight appearances. Nobody but Kansas has more Sweet 16 appearances. Nobody but Kansas has been seeded No. 6 or higher more times.
The Final Four question is also bad. Baylor basketball didn’t play non-conference games in 2006 because of the worst scandal in college basketball history. It’s not real easy to recruit or get any start until a team can play non-conference games every season. Two years after not playing non-conference games they made the NCAA Tournament. Two years after that they were that bad block/charge call against Duke from the Final Four.
Teams break through in college basketball when they’re consistently good. Mark Few made his only Final Four in his 18th season at Gonzaga. Jim Boeheim made his first Final Four in his 27th season at Syracuse. He won a title that season. John Beilien made his first in his 12th season after starting at West Virginia. Frank Martin broke through in his 12th season as a high major coach, and his fifth season at South Carolina. The Gamecocks hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament in his first four years in Columbia. Drew could certainly break through one of these seasons. I think he will.
Drew’s still the right guy:
Dex also argues that Drew might have a good past, but he’s not going to break through. Maybe Drew was the right guy to overcome the most challenging rebuild in college sports history, but he’s not the guy to take Baylor to the next level.
That’s not compelling. First, Drew achieving those results shows he can do that again. Building a team out of nothing is a good sign someone can embrace and take on a big challenge. Drew had to recruit on nothing but hope and build an offense and defense without a full scholarship roster. If Drew could win when he had nothing, why can’t he win when he has a program that’s been ranked in the top 25 every year this decade?
Second, Drew has shown an incredible ability to adapt and develop players. He built the 2008 squad by playing small. After a rough 2009 season, he reloaded, went big and Baylor finished with the nation’s fifth best offense and ranked No. 8 on KenPom. He landed some of the country’s best recruits, including Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Isaiah Austin. After not landing as many 5-star guys, he started landing top junior college and transfer talent. Royce O’Neale was a 2-star guy at Denver. He defended James Harden in the Western Conference Playoffs. Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, Kenny Chery, Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil were all junior college or transfers. They each started on Sweet 16 teams. Johnathan Motley was a 3-star guy and won the award as America’s best power forward. 2-star LIU-Brookly commit Taurean Prince became a lottery pick.
Drew also has shown he can overcome way tougher circumstances than, “We don’t land 5 star guys.” The 2014 team started 2-8 in the Big 12. If Twitter were half as big as it is now, we’d all have burned from the hot takes that season. That team went on to win 7-of-8 to finish the regular season. They made the Big 12 Championship Game and the Sweet 16, before losing to Final Four participant Wisconsin.
This season is also unbelievably impressive. Baylor couldn’t shoot to start the season, and then the team lost Tristan Clark—undoubtedly Baylor’s best player. But as Associate Head Coach Jerome Tang told David Smoak today, “He told us as a staff we weren’t going to sulk, we are going to figure this out, we are going to be a better team and do what we have to do to win games.” The staff shifted to a three guard starting lineup and the offense has risen immensely. That’s not surprising, given that Baylor’s had a top 25 KenPom offense 7-of-9 seasons this decade. Only Duke and Kentucky have more top 25 KenPom offenses this decade.
Drew keeps building winning staffs that aren’t afraid to adapt. He’s lost assistants—only Tang remains from the 2012 Elite Eight staff (my pick as head coach if Drew decided Dex’s terrible take moved him to just retire and tweet at Dex all day). But if you spend much time talking to guys in the program, they’ll mention how an assistant coach or manager helped them develop. They’ll tell you how Drew embraced analytics early. They’ll tell you how he always has a plan to overcome any challenge they face. And they’ll tell you how they remain convinced the future is bright.
Dex is just so wrong:
Baylor basketball is my favorite sports team. I am a Chiefs fan, but if you offered me disbanding the Chiefs for Baylor winning an NCAA title, I’d take that deal.
It’s ironic that Dex wrote his article after Baylor won three games in a row, including over top 10 Texas Tech. But there’s never a good time to be wrong.
If I thought someone was better than Drew, I’d advocate for them to be head coach. Nobody is better. Dex throws out guys that haven’t been head coaches or 65-year-old Kelvin Sampson. Maybe those guys would be fine. But we know Baylor is doing better than fine.
Eventually the best break through. Drew’s been one of the best. Dex’s bad take doesn’t change that. My favorite team is lucky each day Drew leads them. May that continue for a long time.