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Dr. Homer Drew has built a championship legacy at Valparaiso and developed a program considered by many to be among the best at the NCAA Division I mid-major level. The seventh-longest tenured coach in Division I basketball and one of a handful of coaches coaching on floors bearing their name, the 2010-2011 season marks Drew’s 22nd season as head coach on the bench at Valpo.
Drew ranks seventh among active Division I head coaches in career victories with 617 wins; a number which places him 32nd all-time among coaches with at least 10 years of Division I coaching experience. Drew surpassed the 600-win milestone for his career during the 2008-2009 campaign with a 71-47 victory over Loyola on Feb. 13, 2009. He also coached his 1,000th game overall as a head coach in Valpo’s Horizon League Championship matchup with Wright State on March 3, 2009.
The 2007-2008 season was a season of firsts for Drew and the Crusader team. The Horizon League awaited Valpo for the first time, and Drew helped the Crusaders make an immediate impact on the league. Valpo swept its opening road trip, including a win at Wright State to snap its 14-game home winning streak.
The Crusaders ultimately advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship under Drew’s guidance last year and earned a berth in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational, where Valpo was matched up in the first round at Washington. The Crusaders went on to beat the Huskies on their home floor to advance to the quarterfinals, in the process becoming the first Valpo team to win a true road game against a BCS opponent in over 35 years.
In 2003-2004, his first season back after taking a year off to serve as Special Assistant to the President for University Advancement, Drew returned the Crusaders to the NCAA Tournament, winning the Mid-Continent Conference title with nine sophomores and freshmen. The title Valpo took home in 2004 was the tenth straight year the Crusaders had won either a regular season or conference tournament title, which marked the second-longest streak of its kind in the nation.
A nine-time Coach of the Year, Drew took over a program in 1988 that had never produced a winning record at the Division I level, a stretch that began in 1976. Drew helped put Valpo basketball on the national scene by guiding the Crusaders to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, including five consecutive from 1996-2000. His teams have won 20 or more games eight times in his tenure and finished above .500 in 12 of his last 15 seasons. During his 21 seasons at the helm, Valpo has captured eight regular season titles and eight conference tournament championships.
A collegiate head coach for 32 seasons, Drew has compiled a career record of 617-415. He previously served as the head coach at Bethel (Ind.) College from 1976-1987 and at IU-South Bend during the 1987-1988 season, establishing solid foundations at both schools.
The “Building a Tradition” philosophy which Drew introduced upon his arrival reached euphoric heights in 1998 as Valpo advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, generating priceless worldwide publicity for the University and community. Drew guided the Crusaders to upsets of Mississippi and Florida State before a tough loss to Rhode Island in the Regional Semi-Finals ended the Cinderella run. The victory over Ole Miss, anchored by “The Shot”, catapulted Valpo onto the world stage.
When the Crusaders captured the 1999 Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament championships they joined the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina State and Massachusetts as the only schools to win both titles in at least five straight seasons. Under Drew’s guidance, Valpo was one of just seven Division I schools to win 20 or more games each year from 1993-1999.
In 1995-1996, the Crusaders made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament when they earned both the Mid-Con regular season and tournament championships. Those titles duplicated the previous season’s achievements, when Valpo won both crowns for the first time in school history. The continuous success of Drew helped him win Mid-Con Coach of the Year honors in three consecutive seasons from 1993-1996.
Now in his 22nd season at Valpo, Drew has enjoyed many other moments as the Crusaders’ leader. In the final regular-season game before the conference tournament in 1992-1993, Valpo traveled to Notre Dame and defeated the Irish, 80-66. The victory was Drew’s second in five years over Notre Dame, joining a 71-68 overtime upset of the Irish in 1988 in front of a packed house at the Athletics-Recreation Center, known as “The Miracle on Union Street.”
Although the Crusaders led the nation in three-point field goal percentage in 1992-1993, it was not the first time a Drew-coached Valpo team made the national spotlight for its shooting beyond the arc. During the 1988-1989 campaign, the Crusaders set a then-NCAA Division I record with 19 successful three-pointers against Butler. Valpo finished second in the nation in three-point field goals made per game that year, making 8.9 per contest.
Not only have Drew’s teams been a success on the court, but also away from the hardwood. Each year the team is involved in multiple community events to give back to the fans who support the team so well. This year’s team has done numerous events during the preseason, including helping the Valparaiso police department with traffic control at the Popcorn Festival, taking part in the JDRF Northwest Indiana Walk to Cure Diabetes, reading to children at Hilltop Neighborhood House, assisting with basketball clinics at the YMCA, appearing at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County Steak & Burger Dinner and serving meals to the hungry at St. Teresa’s weekly ‘Cafe Manna’ meal.
In his early coaching years, Drew had an opportunity to assist the well-respected Dale Brown at Louisiana State from 1972-1976. Prior to his days at LSU, Drew spent the 1971-1972 season as an assistant at Washington State University. A native of Saint Louis, Drew earned a Doctorate in educational administration from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan in 1983. He achieved a Bachelor of Arts in physical education and social studies at William Jewell (Mo.) College in 1966 before completing his Master of Arts in education at Washington (Mo.) University in 1968.
In August of 1995, Drew served as Head Coach of the Athletes in Action European Tour Team which traveled to Germany, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece. The AIA team consisted of two players from Duke University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Miami, along with two Valpo players, Chris Ensminger and Bryce Drew.
Coach Drew has had 32 players, including Ensminger and his son Bryce, go on to play professional basketball or baseball in the last 17 years, and Bryce was drafted 16th in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. The 1998 draft also included Drew’s son-in-law, Casey Shaw out of Toledo University, who was taken 37th by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Drew was recently recognized as one of the 150 most influential people in Valparaiso University’s 150 years, and was inducted into the Valparaiso University Hall of Fame in February of 2009 as part of the 1997-1998 Sweet Sixteen team. Drew was honored in October 2006 with the Amicus Certus Award from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. The award is given to individuals that have made significant contributions to the human community. In October of 2002, Drew received the Mid-Continent Conference’s Commissioner’s Award of Merit, the league’s most prestigious honor. Drew was also honored with the Naismith Good Sportsmanship Award in 1998 by the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.
He received distinguished recognition for his coaching career when he was inducted into the Bethel College Hall of Fame in 1998. He was also inducted into the Halls of Fame at William Jewell College and Webster Groves High School in St. Louis, Mo. for his achievements on the basketball court. Following Valpo’s magical run to the Sweet 16 in 1998, Drew coauthored Find a Way: Valpo’s Sweet Dream with Shawn Malayter and Rob Rains. He has also produced 14 videotapes to help coaches in the profession. In May of 2001, Drew was asked to give the commencement address at Valparaiso University’s graduation ceremonies.
An active civic speaker who has created numerous community activities for his teams, Drew was presented in 1999 with the Lumen Christi Medal, Valparaiso University’s highest honor, in recognition of a lay person’s distinguished service to church and society. By his own admission, one of Drew’s greatest achievements is that he has sent 77 players into either the teaching or coaching professions. Two of his former assistants are now head coaches on the Division I level: son Scott at Baylor and Rex Walters at San Francisco.
Drew and his wife, Janet, have three grown children, Scott, Dana and Bryce, and have six grandchildren.