Playing the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national final, Baylor was looking to capture their first title in program history. For Drew himself, it was his first opportunity to join the record books with some of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time.
While not every NCAA basketball coach has won the dance, the winners’ list is filled with giants of the game. A win for Baylor meant a national title, on top of washing away all the stress and second doubts of a coaching career.
Baylor commits to new and exciting prospects every season, but one thing they don’t do is change coaches very often. The Bears look for the best talent across the nation to fill their roster, but one pillar has been Drew as their head coach.
Next season will mark the 19th season as head coach for Drew. With the opening tipoff next season, he will surpass Bill Henderson as the longest-tenured coach in program history.
With that being said, it hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies for Drew. After transitioning from Valparaiso to Baylor in 2003, the Bears struggled to pick up victories. Like every new coach trying to implement a new system, the Ws were hard to come by.
The Bears would not own a record above .500 until 2007, four seasons into his career with the Bears. Longtime Bears’ fans will tell you that Drew was on the hot seat on several occasions during their losing seasons.
But the commitment to Drew finally paid off the following season. After consecutive losing seasons, the Bears finally competed with some of the best programs in the nation. Baylor cracked the AP Polls for the first time under Drew, reaching number 25.
Since the 2008 season, the Bears’ reign as a top basketball program finally began. Baylor would bring in several exciting high-school talents that would eventually reach the NBA.
Baylor was no longer a team beat on by other programs. Instead, the Bears were turning into a threat in the college basketball scene.
But now that the Bears were not only a winning team, but a highly ranked team, the next question came: When would Baylor finally win it all?
There were seasons where the Bears looked destined for a national championship. As the Number 3 seed in 2012, they would lose in the Elite Eight to Kentucky. A couple of seasons later, the Bears would be upset by Georgia State in the first round.
2017 saw another instance in which the Bears were projected to do great things but ultimately floundered the opportunity. The #3 ranked Bears would lose to #7 South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen.
After missing an invite to March Madness in 2018, the Bears would reach the tournament again in 2019. Like many Bears’ seasons before, it ended in disappointment.
So, what did Baylor and Drew need to overcome the hump; to finally win it all?
During a time in which the unexpected was happening, Baylor finally got their chance atop college basketball.
After losing seasons and losses that will haunt Drew forever, the Baylor Bears’ basketball program finally won a national championship. Sometimes, as fate would have it, the better team on paper doesn’t always win.
Facing an undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs squad, the Baylor Bears came into the national championship as the underdog and finally won it all. The 2021 atmosphere was quite different than normal times, but that seemingly fit Baylor.
It’s hard to reach the top of the mountain, but it’s certainly tougher to stay on top. Projections will place Baylor as betting favorites to win in 2022 once again on sites like Betway, but as we learned this season, pre-season rankings mean nothing.
The Bears came into town as the underdog and left as national champions. After they beheaded the giant, they now become the giant.
Baylor can now call themselves national champions, a nickname that has a nice ring to it. For Drew and the Bears’ basketball program, the commitment to one another finally paid off.
With temptations from other schools and other candidates, the commitment between coach and program is never cemented.
But for Drew and Baylor, the commitment to one another finally resulted in the ultimate prize.