Baylor coach Scott Drew talks 'JOY' on and off the court: 'God loves us whether we win or lose'
When living in a bubble, sometimes things can get a little messy.
For Baylor University men's basketball coach Scott Drew, that means putting people first — even when it comes to dirty laundry.
In his new book released this month,The Road to J.O.Y.: Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy, Drew talks of how entering the COVID-19 “bubble” in the fall of 2020 brought his team together in unexpected ways as they put Jesus and others before themselves on their road to winning the NCAA Tournament in April 2021
“When you spend that much time with people, you get to know them a lot better, a lot more intimately,” Drew told The Christian Post in an interview. “In fact, the first time we got all our laundry done, I remember they brought it up and the only problem was — [since] we’re all sponsored by Nike — we all got the same Nike socks, so trying to sort that out, that was pretty difficult.”
But during the pandemic, Drew says lifelong connections were made.
“I remember trying on my shorts and they fell right back down, and they were XXL Nike, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, who took my large shorts?’” Drew laughed. “It’s those memories and time spent with our players when they come back in 25 years and celebrate winning a national championship, that’s a tremendous accomplishment."
“It’s kind of like when you go visit relatives. You go to visit people, you don’t go to visit houses or buildings.”
As much as he values people, Drew knows a thing or two about buildings, or more accurately, rebuilding.
As head men’s basketball coach of Baylor University, Drew led what is widely considered the greatest rebuild in college basketball history, guiding his team to its first NCAA championship and the first Big 12 title in the Baptist school's history.
In his 19th season, Drew is tied as the Big 12’s longest-tenured head coach and has notched a school-record 370 victories in his first 18 years, including a 27-9 postseason record since 2009.
Over the past 14 seasons, Drew has led Baylor to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, five Sweet 16 berths, three trips to the Elite Eight and the 2021 National Championship.
He has been named the 2017 Basketball Times National Coach of the Year, 2020 NBC Sports National Coach of the Year and the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year in both 2020 and 2021.
But above all, Drew is a devout follower of Jesus Christ and says he puts God above every title, award or accolade he could ever garner.
As he explains in his book, Drew calls it “J.O.Y.” — an acronym for “Jesus, Others, Yourself.”
It’s not just a clever motto for Drew, but a culture he implements inside and outside the locker room.
“If you put Jesus first and others second, it’s just like it says in the Bible … love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself,” he said. “If you have that order right, then life is a lot more rewarding, fulfilling, and people want to be around you a lot more, that’s for sure.”
Growing up in a Christian home, Drew said his dad, Homer — the former head coach of Valparaiso and himself a National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inductee — always wanted to write a book about his coaching career, a desire that Drew said he never really shared until now.
“I really never was passionate about writing a book, but I knew this was the timing once we won the championship," he said. "To me, it was so obvious when God wanted a book written to share just what He’s done throughout our program and how He’s blessed us.”
The Drews were an athletic family; there was always a brother or sister playing basketball, football, baseball, soccer or any other competition in what Drew half-jokingly described as the “pre-video game era.”
Success in the basketball world runs strong in the Drew family, from Scott and father Homer to brother Bryce (former NBA player and current Grand Canyon University head coach) and sister Dana (Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductee).
But in the Drew household, sports were always a distant second to the Lord.
“That’s really all my parents growing up cared about, they said, ‘We want you to work hard, we want you to get great grades, but we want you in Heaven one day with us, that’s the most important thing, winning the game of life,'” said Drew.
While that foundation of faith paved the way for Drew to receive Christ when he was in the second grade, it wasn’t until after college that he began to grow in his faith when he went on two Athletes in Action tours, the sports ministry of Cru Ministries, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ.
Prayer, it turns out, was pivotal in Drew’s decision to accept the head coaching job at Baylor in 2002, even as the team was navigating a series of scandals, including drugs and even murder.
The shooting death of Baylor forward Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson in June 2003 rocked the program to its core and led Drew to seek the Lord more fervently than ever.
“As a young coach, you can be overwhelmed, but if you go where God’s called you to go, no matter how it turns out, as long as we’re in His will, that’s all we want to be because He knows what’s best for us,” Drew said.
Through those first couple of years at Baylor — which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and is the largest Baptist university in the world — Homer took Drew through the book of Job, which Drew says was key to adjusting to his new role.
“Life is ups and downs, and it’s how you handle success as well as adversity, and business and family and what-not,” said Drew. “Every day’s an adventure, and hopefully, you’re putting on the armor of God and doing the best you can in the short time on Earth we have to make a difference and be a positive influence.
“And hopefully help bring as many people to Christ as possible,” he added.
In those days of struggle and challenge, Drew says he grew the most, both professionally and spiritually.
Even when Baylor began pushing deeper into the NCAA Tournament — reaching the Elite 8 in 2010 and 2012 before ultimately falling short — Drew said those first seasons helped him handle both success and failure.
“Hopefully, when you get that greater platform and people are asking you questions and seeking your wisdom, you’re able to point ‘hem back where it all comes from, and that’s what God’s done in your life for you.”
In The Road to J.O.Y, Drew writes: “When you have what seems like an impossible task, don’t forget to ask Jesus to make the impossible possible.”
When asked what that looks like in a locker room full of fragile egos and performance-driven personalities, Drew quoted 2 Timothy 1:7: “[F]or God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
He said seeking God first allows players to settle down and be fearless on the court.
“If you’re able to play fearless, meaning if you know you’ve won the game, you can relax,” he stated. “When you accept Christ, and you’re in a relationship with Christ, you’ve won the game, and it has nothing to do with you earning it, deserving it, and obviously what Jesus has done for all of us, it’s a free gift. None of us are ever going to be perfect, we’ve all sinned.
“We know eternity — 'retirement' — is set for all of us. It’s the best retirement plan you could possibly ever have," he added. "When you’re so uptight and anxious and worried about outcomes and fearful outcomes, you can’t be at your best.”
Since Drew arrived at Baylor two decades ago, J.O.Y. has turned into a movement for the entire Baylor campus and has even been adopted by other NCAA coaches, business organizations and families.
Drew says through it all, maintaining an attitude of servanthood and leadership will always take priority over win-loss records or even national championships.
“In sports, you know God loves us regardless of whether we win or lose the game,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier to go through the ups and downs of the season and not put too much pressure, because as we know, pressure bursts pipes too."
“I think it all goes hand in hand," he concluded. "When you’re right off the court, you’re right on the court.”