Baylor coach Scott Drew says a culture of faith, selflessness and humility helped propel his team to the school’s first-ever national championship.
The Bears dominated No. 1 and previously unbeaten Gonzaga in the NCAA men’s championship game Monday night, 86-70, never trailing thanks to a stifling defense and a hot-shooting offense that tallied 10 3-pointers.
Gonzaga (31-1) entered the game as a slight favorite.
During a post-game nationally televised interview on CBS, Drew mentioned his faith – and the faith of his team – as a key to the team’s success. Baylor is a Christian university with a mission to “educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community,” according to its website.
“Our guys have been motivated all year,” he said. “It's a player-led team. We're so blessed to have unbelievable upperclassmen in leadership. But we play with a culture of joy. And it's Jesus, others, yourself. They came out and they fed off of each other. We got off to a great start. And then defensively, we're pretty good.”
It was Baylor’s first national championship in basketball and its first Final Four appearance since 1950. Drew took over the program in 2003 following a scandal under the previous coach and guided the Bears through multiple years of probation. Baylor made the NCAA Tournament in Drew’s fifth season as coach and the Elite Eight twice (2010 and 2012) before this year’s breakout season.
Baylor has made the NCAA Tournament nine times under Drew. In its previous 90-plus years of basketball, it had made the tournament only four times.
“I felt led” to take the job, Drew told CBS Monday night. “God has blessed us with unbelievable players. … Our fans that have been with us for the lean years, the good years and our administration, [Baylor] President [Linda] Livingstone [and Athletic Director] Mack Rhoades -- they all deserve this.”
Like Gonzaga did in the regular season, Baylor may have gone undefeated, too, if not for Covid-19, Drew said. The Bears were 18-0 when they had to pause the season due to cases. They lost the first game after the shutdown (to Kansas) and then lost once more (to Oklahoma State).
“Prior to Covid … us and Gonzaga were on track to be undefeated,” Drew said. “I’ve got so much respect for [Gonzaga Coach Mark] Few. He's such a humble servant coach and a Hall of Fame coach and what they've done this year,” Drew said before pointing to his players and adding, “But if you're going to war and I'm coaching, I'm taking these guys.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tim Nwachukwu/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.