VALPARAISO -- Valparaiso University president Mark Heckler summed it up perfectly on Tuesday, May 17th, when he proclaimed a day “both bittersweet and celebratory” on the northwest Indiana campus.
In front of a room packed with past and present student-athletes, family, alumni, administrators, faculty and fans, Heckler announced that long-time men’s basketball coach Homer Drew -- who finally made the “V” stand for victories as well as Valpo -- was ending his 22-year career on the sidelines.
Then, minutes later, Athletic Director Mark LaBarbara introduced Homer’s son, former Valpo star and current associate head basketball coach, Bryce Drew, as the next Crusaders coach.
“The next chapter begins,” said LaBarbara.
“Valpo’s success always been No. 1 in my heart,” said Bryce, 36. “My dream is to take Valpo to the next level. I want to win the Horizon League championship, get into the NCAA tournament and advance, and to leave our own legacy.”
That’s exactly what Bryce should aspire to. Sure, he shares the old man’s last name, starred for him at Valpo -- including hitting the historic game-winning shot in the 1998 NCAA tournament against Mississippi that propelled the Crusaders to the Sweet Sixteen -- and, following an NBA career, spent the last six seasons next to Homer on the Valpo bench.
But he has to be -- and will be -- his own man with his own style.
“Playing for my father was tremendous and working with him was even more special,” said Bryce. “It’s been a pure joy to sit next to him. But I’m not trying to be like my dad or my brother (Scott, coach at Baylor). I’m striving for a new mark of excellence here at Valpo.”
Homer Drew, who will continue to serve Valpo as an associate athletic director and work in fund-raising and on special project, amassed 371 wins in his 22 years at Valpo and 640 at all time. First in the Summit League and now in the HL, he made basketball matter where it hadn’t before.
But he did it with class.
“He represented Valpo and the values we hold most dearly,” said Heckler. “He proved a person with character and integrity can run a successful Division I program. He stressed ethical and moral values and the importance of faith.”
Recognizing the latter, Home related something imparted to him by the legendary John Wooden: “Always remember our Master Coach.”
Homer said he felt “it was just time” to move on but garnered a laugh from the crowd when he reminded everyone, “I will be there to critique the new coach.”
Consider the torch passed. As well as the hot seat.