Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears' climb to become a national power is far from over
The climb to the top is often long and difficult – just ask Scott Drew.
When Drew took over as head coach of the Baylor University men's basketball program in 2003, he was stepping in to lead a program in need of a resurrection.
He replaced Dave Bliss, who left the program steeped in chaos and on NCAA probation. In Drew's first year leading that leftover mess, the Bears went 8-21.
It was four years later – during the 2007-08 season – that Drew and Baylor finally earned their first winning season, going 21-11 and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Now, 18 years after he was hired, Drew and the Bears are in position to reach the first Final Four in program history.
At this point, however, merely reaching the end of the Big Dance might be considered a disappointment.
Baylor entered the 2021 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed with a 22-2 record. The Bears broke new ground along the way, winning their first Big 12 title and first conference title of any kind since taking the Southwest Conference crown in 1950.
Their No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament was also a first.
In an interview with CBS Sports, Drew spoke about what earning a top seed meant for him and the program, especially after coming up short of that goal when the previous tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
"After last year, you don't take anything for granted. We worked so hard to have the opportunity to earn the first 1-seed in the school's history. And to not be able to have that opportunity and for those who returned and the new players, [it's been great] to be able to see their faces and excitement and joy and pride for what they accomplished this year in earning the first 1-seed in the school's history."
Baylor has now made nine NCAA Tournament appearances under Drew, including two trips to the Elite Eight. Drew owns the five winningest seasons in program history and an overall record of 367-215.
A more subtle sign of Drew's success is the fact that he has developed a coaching tree that has found success across college basketball.
North Texas head coach Grant McCasland and Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills were both Drew assistants at Baylor, and both led their programs to massive upsets in Friday's NCAA Tournament games. McCasland's North Texas squad took out 4-seed Purdue, and Mills' Oral Roberts team toppled No. 2 Ohio State.
As for Baylor, its journey to the first Final Four in school history is underway.
If history is any indicator for Drew and Baylor, nothing will come easy.
But the Bears are used to making history, with more potentially on the horizon.