JOSH WEINFUSS: Bryce Drew latest in college hoops' youth movement

2011-06-09T22:00:00Z JOSH WEINFUSS: Bryce Drew latest in college hoops' youth movementBy Josh Weinfuss On college basketball nwitimes.com
June 09, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Bryce Drew might be old by today's college basketball standards.

The recently appointed Valparaiso University head coach is 36. Young by many other standards -- yet older when he has 34-year-old Butler coach Brad Stevens and his back-to-back Final Four appearances to compete with in the Horizon League.

And considering the Bulldogs' national semifinal opponent, Virginia Commonwealth, and its 34-year-old head coach Shaka Smart, Drew might have just aged before our eyes.

Whether he likes it or not -- and Drew doesn't -- he won't be able to avoid the comparisons to Stevens and Smart, and he certainly can't escape the expectations heaped on today's class of young coaches.

"I don't try to look and put big expectations," Drew said. "Obviously my ultimate goal is to get there and have a chance. I don't want to measure my success if we go as far as VCU or Butler."

Drew can blame Stevens and Smart. They ruined it for the whole batch, but he can also blame the schools.

The trend is going on everywhere. Young coaches are in demand. Maybe they're cheaper. Maybe they're better recruiters. Or maybe presidents and athletic directors are leaning back in their leather chairs with their wing tips propped up on their mahogany desks, daydreaming.

Of the three possibilities, the latter may win out here. Of the 68 schools in last year's NCAA tournament, nine were led by coaches under 40. Obviously, something's working.

When Drew was hired May 17, he became the fifth Horizon League coach in his 30s, joining Stevens, 34; Wright State's Billy Donlon, 34; Green Bay's Brian Wardle, 31; and UIC's Howard Moore, 38.

Drew, Donlon and Wardle were all hired since April 2010 --- when Stevens led Butler to its first Final Four.

Drew's case was different. There was almost no question he was going to succeed his father, Homer, 66, who had coached the Crusaders for 22 years, although Homer said discussions for Bryce to take over only took place the last couple months.

VU president Mark Heckler and athletic director Mark LaBarbera took a risk with Bryce, he's unproven and he's, yes, young. But father and son agreed on one thing: today's college basketball is built for younger coaches.

"There's no down period," Homer Drew said. "It has become truly year-round with no time off for the coaches today.

"I think you've got the older coaches who have the experience, that knowledge, that wisdom, which only time allows to happen. You have the enthusiasm, the eagerness of the young coaches that have come up."

While both Homer and Bryce admit some players are looking for that father figure in an older coach -- and Homer always did well recruiting parents -- most younger coaches relate better to this generation of high school stars. They text. They tweet. They fist pound. Some might even chest bump.

And to a kid who's been embedded in this me-first, technology-driven society, that's important.

"I think now it's definitely a different time with the kind of kid growing up," Bryce said. "They want success immediately. They want results immediately. It's just a totally different kind of culture of basketball. "

That sounds familiar. Young coaches want success immediately. They want results immediately.

This generation of player and coaches are perfect for each other.  

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at josh.weinfuss@nwi.com.

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