PAUL OREN: Drew's legacy goes beyond the basketball court

2011-05-16T22:00:00Z 2011-05-17T15:18:04Z PAUL OREN: Drew's legacy goes beyond the basketball courtBy Paul Oren on Valparaiso Hoops nwitimes.com
May 16, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

The year is 2002 and the Valparaiso men's basketball team had just been eliminated from the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.

As the Valparaiso traveling party headed back to Northwest Indiana, the team pulls off to a roadside McDonald's for a late-night dinner.

As the team tried to enjoy their Big Macs and Quarter Pounders amidst a season-ending loss, a desperate man approached the coaching staff and explained that he has been stranded at the Illinois/Missouri border by his friends and that he needed to get to Warsaw.

Without hesitation, head coach Homer Drew arranged for a seat on the team bus for the straggler and pulls money out of his own wallet so the man can eat. As the humbled 20-something went off to order his food; I turned to the longtime Crusaders coach and explained to Drew that there was no way the players would allow the man on the bus.

The man was wearing a Kentucky jersey and it was the Wildcats who had just ended the most successful season in Valparaiso history with an 83-68 knockout of the Crusaders.

"Well, we're just going to have to take care of that now aren't we," Drew remarked.

Within moments the man was wearing a brand-new Valparaiso basketball shirt and the Kentucky jersey was tossed into a garbage can.

Two months later Drew announced his retirement from Valparaiso, giving way to his son, Scott. When I heard the news in May of 2002, that story was the first to go through my head, and again nine years later when word came that Homer was moving over for his other son, Bryce. The vision of a stranger gladly throwing away his basketball jersey passed through my head before any other thought.

Homer Drew has always been more than a basketball coach. Former players talk about the life lessons they learned much more than the games they played. Even when Brandon Wood was walking away from Valparaiso two weeks ago, he made sure to talk about how Drew molded him into a man.

The biggest example of Drew's work in this arena has been in the men who have and will succeed him at the helm of the Valparaiso basketball program. Drew stepped away in 2002 when he knew Scott was ready to take the reins and he is doing the same now that Bryce is ready to be a head coach.

As much as Drew has taught his sons, and players, about the game of basketball, he's taught them even more about selflessness and about being a responsible man; something that is too many times forgotten in the current culture of sports.

On a night when the Crusaders experienced a crushing defeat, Drew taught his team that life is about much more than a scoreboard. That lesson is just a small part of the legacy he will leave behind.

Paul Oren covers Valparaiso sports for The Times. Reach him at pgmado@gmail.com.

 

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