VALPARAISO | Great players don't always make great coaches.
For Bryce Drew, the star of the 'The Shot,' one of the most famous NCAA tournament moments of all time, and a veteran of six NBA seasons, the transition has been a process.
"It took some understanding, some adjusting to the fact that the players on the court were not as good as he was," Todd Ickow said. "Plus, he was a perfectionist. He was always staying after (practice) shooting, getting the most out of his ability. When he first got into coaching, he demanded so much because that's how he was as a player. Not every single player is capable of that. He needed a little time learning how to relate to players."
Few people not named Drew are familiar with Drew's career as much as Ickow. His is the voice you hear on the audio of the unforgettable March 19, 1998 game-winner against fourth-seeded Mississippi. Fourteen years later, Ickow remains on the call of Crusaders games, having followed Bryce's collegiate career, his return to the VU bench as an assistant and his ascent to the No. 1 chair this season.
"When he played, he was always the proverbial assistant coach on the floor," Ickow said. "Obviously, anybody who's been around a long time isn't surprised he's become a coach or become a successful coach. Obviously, it's in his genes. But I think the thing that sticks out is how he's matured overall, even since his return to Valpo, in his ability to communicate. I don't think, even when he became an assistant, he's as good a communicator as he is now."
Ickow said Drew relates to players 'as well as any head coach,' an absolute must in a profession where Xs and Os are only part of the job description.
Drew's no slouch when it comes to the dry erase board. Those who follow VU closely will tell you he sees the game from the bench where he saw it from the court. Like the back screen that's going to open up a player for a layup, he can anticipate what's going to happen before it happens. Just as important, he's able to convey that insight to his players.
"He's become an outstanding coach at the right time," Ickow said. "There's a great synergy."
Pitted against Detroit's Ray McCallum in Tuesday's Horizon League Championship, Drew was giving up a lot of years to a coach who'd spent a decade on the bench as an assistant at Wisconsin before head stints at his alma mater Ball State and Houston. It was evident in their disparate hairlines, and wisdom won out over youth on this night, with the help of McCallum's own talented namesake.
Oh, the irony.
Though the outcome denied Drew a chance to return to the big stage where he first made his name, you get the sense he'll someday be recalled for more than just 'The Shot.'
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org