Opinion: Baylor’s Scott Drew is a national champion and gets the last laugh on those who doubted him

INDIANAPOLIS — How many times have you heard the four words that defined Baylor basketball over the last 18 years? 

The arc of the story, the actual details of it, never really mattered when it came to Scott Drew. Maybe it was rooted in the whispers of recruiting impropriety early in his career that never amounted to much, even when the NCAA went to look for them. Maybe it was his relentless positivity that bordered at times on smarm. Maybe it was a few embarrassing NCAA Tournament losses that built the narrative, even though the real miracle was that Baylor basketball had been in those kinds of games to begin with. 

Whatever it was, you heard it for nearly two decades: Scott Drew Can’t Coach. 

Let it be known that on Monday night, in a football stadium in the state where he grew up, with his father and brother — both college basketball coaches — standing and gyrating in the stands for nearly the entire 40 minutes, there’s a new set of words that will forever define Baylor Basketball. 

Baylor coach Scott Drew earned his first national title Monday. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

Scott Drew is a National Champion. And by the time the journey was complete, in the final moments of an 86-70 evisceration of No. 1 Gonzaga, any narrative that had previously knocked Drew for the work he’d done at Baylor looked awfully silly. 

Because what had been a season-long collision course to the national championship game between the two best teams in college basketball turned into one-way traffic. What started as Gonzaga’s quest for perfection became a full-scale submission. What looked like a potential classic instead became a showcase for the relentlessness, the abounding energy and the marvelous skill on which Drew had built this team over the last two years. 

The game was never close, never truly competitive, never really in doubt. The best team in college basketball was hidden in plain sight, right up until a barrage of 3-pointers, defensive deflections and thumping drives to the rim in the opening minutes Monday made it obvious. 

Baylor stands now as a national champion for the first time because in 2003, emerging from one of the worst scandals in college sports history, Drew arrived and made the school believe it could compete with the best programs in the country. 

It stands here as a national champion because Drew, who once chased flashy NBA-bound recruits while earning sideways glances from his competitors in the Big 12, refocused his recruiting efforts on transfers and multi-year players who built the foundation of a great program. 

It stands here as a national champion because Drew, who was lampooned for losing to Georgia State and Yale in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, got rid of his passive zone defense and rebranded the program on an aggressive man-to-man and 40 minutes of in-your-face ball pressure. 

Drew didn’t just coach Baylor to a national championship, he built a team of physical and emotional grown-ups with three guards who could all drive it down your throat, score off the dribble and shoot the lights out at any given moment. 

The night began with talk of potential perfection. But as Baylor showed, it wasn’t about a win-loss record. It was about the parts working together when everything is on the line. By that standard, nobody was more perfect than the team Scott Drew put on the floor Monday night. 

Can he coach? Nobody will ever have to ask that question again. 

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