Baylor coachScott Drew is a 35-year-old bundle of encouragement, a glass-half-full guy whocould set a record for long-distance smiling. But when asked what positives canbe taken from this season, Drew hesitates. "I'm an optimistic person,"he says, "but I don't know if even I can come up with positives fromthis."
Drew (above) canbe forgiven if he can't look past the Bears' record, which fell to 2-8 whenthey lost to Oklahoma 80-52 last Saturday, and the fact that Baylor will playonly 16 games this season because NCAA sanctions banned it from facing teamsfrom outside the Big 12. But there are signs that the program, which nearlycollapsed after the 2003 murder of Patrick Dennehy and the subsequentuncovering of NCAA violations by former coach Dave Bliss, is moving on.
Drew, who hadbeen coaching at Valparaiso, replaced Bliss six weeks after Dennehy was killedby teammate Carlton Dotson, who is now serving a 35-year prison sentence. Thecoach immediately began to disinfect the scandal-ridden program. (The NCAA alsoplaced it on a five-year probation.) He instituted a no-swearing rule forplayers and banned them from wearing jewelry. He starts and ends practices withprayer and had Biblical verse painted on a locker-room wall. "Coach Drewdoesn't do this because he thinks people are watching us," says sophomoreguard Aaron Bruce. "He actually says the prayers and puts the things on ...walls because that's how he lives his life.."
Drew also isn'tafraid to employ unusual coaching methods. Last year, just before a game atOklahoma State, Drew made his players run the bleachers at OSU's footballstadium because he thought they lacked energy. In December, Drew got hisplayers accustomed to playing on the road by organizing a practice trip toDallas--complete with hotel stay, game-plan meetings and cellphoneconfiscations--followed by an intrasquad scrimmage at the American AirlinesCenter.
The results havenot yet shown up in the standings--the Bears are 19-48 overall and 6-36 in theBig 12 in Drew's three seasons--but Drew is selling the rebuilt program to highschool seniors. His last two recruiting classes each ranked in the top 25. Thisyear's team is young: Bruce, a freshman All-America last season, is the leader,and the Bears are getting more than half of their scoring, rebounding andassists from four freshmen. With potential like that, there's reason for Drewto be his usual upbeat self. "I can see him turning this programaround," Bruce says. "If not by the time I leave, then very, verysoon."
JEFFREY HADERTHAUER/ICON SMI (BRUCE)
BEARING FRUIT Drew's recruiting has turned up gems like sophomore Bruce (left).
ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (DREW)