AL HAMNIK: Bryce Drew's heart with the VU Crusaders for now

2013-03-21T18:15:00Z 2013-10-16T17:44:07Z AL HAMNIK: Bryce Drew's heart with the VU Crusaders for nowAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 21, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

AUBURN HILLS, MICH.| And now the questioning, the second-guessing, begins.

Will young Bryce Drew, having just completed his second season as Valparaiso's head coach, move on to the big bucks and bright lights of Chicago as Northwestern's new hire?

Or will he perhaps jump to another large Division I school needing direction and leadership?

Speculation heated up hours before Thursday's NCAA Midwest Regional game with Michigan State when several morning news stories mentioned Drew and Duke associate coach Chris Collins as possible choices to replace recently fired Bill Carmody.

The timing couldn't have been worse for Crusader fans or for Drew prior to the program's biggest game ever, but the Internet doesn't care how hard he and his staff had been preparing for the third-seeded Spartans.

It was reported that Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips will interview Collins next week and also is intrigued by what Drew brings to the coaching table.

Drew starred at VU (class of 1998), was drafted by the Houston Rockets and played for the Bulls — a definite recruiting advantage for impressionable, bug-eyed teens.

But the baby-faced skipper is best known for "The Shot" — his last-second, 23-footer that beat Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tournament.

With Bryce Drew, you get high character, plus an impressive coaching bloodline with his father, Homer, who won 640 games at VU, and older brother Scott, who has revived the Baylor program.

With Collins, you get an equally sharp, young candidate whom coach Mike Krzyzewski allows to make in-game guard substitutions.

Collins' father, Doug, was an NBA standout, coached the Bulls and Michael Jordan, and now coaches the Philadelphia 76ers.

So now, the questions, the second-guessing begins. Will Bryce, whose contract was reworked last year after Mississippi State made him an offer, stay in Porter County or bolt?

"I love Valpo. I love this team. I got to coach at Valpo on the same floor named after my dad. I'm really happy here right now," Bryce told me after the 65-54 loss to Michigan State.

It may be a while before the Crusaders return to the NCAA tournament. Drew loses six of his top eight scorers, almost 60 points per game. He's got some nice freshmen coming in, the core group for years, but it'll take time for any of them to make an impact.

"Yeah, we lose a lot," Drew said.

"This is a very well-coached team, I'll tell ya," MSU coach Tom Izzo said.

VU isn't used to postseason success, going 2-8 in the NCAA tournament and 0-2 in the NIT. Is Bryce Drew willing to wait? Patience and youth usually don't mix, but he may be the exception.

Does he stay and make a name for himself, or are the odds for a deep run in the postseason against him?

And what about those family ties? The Drew family strikes me as being painfully loyal to those around them. Do you leave a job where the administration loves you, fans love you, recruits want to play for you?

Do you hop the fence for greener pastures?

This was not the time or place to ask, but I had to.

Will you be coaching Valparaiso in 2013-14?

"I love Valpo right now. I haven't even thought about next year," Bryce said. "Our whole focus was trying to get our guys to win this game."

His very next step is simple. He said he wanted to regain his composure after the loss and then talk individually with those seniors he loves so much.

They had given him so much, that school-record 26 wins a tribute to their overall effort.

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

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