|Friday, August 22
Hiring Drew a solid first step in long-term rebuilding
By Andy Katz
Baylor's men's basketball program has been here before, trying to rebuild in the wake of a scandal. Scott Drew hasn't, but just might be a perfect first step in the Bears reclamation project.
The country will be watching not only when Baylor introduces Drew as the man in charge of lifting a program out of the abyss, but in months to come as Baylor goes about the process of cleaning up the Dave Bliss mess. And if the Bears don't do things right, they may never rise above the ranks of mid- to low-major programs in Division I -- let alone compete against the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and others in the Big 12.
As a result, the following check list must be followed by Baylor before any true rebuilding begins:
Now for the tricky steps ...
Back in 1995, amid an academic scandal under then-coach Darrel Johnson, few cared or were watching as the Bears rebuilt a program. But a scandalous summer of 2003 has put a spotlight on a program usually removed from such national attention. And, long considered one of the toughest Division I jobs in a Bowl Championship Series conference, the Baylor job Drew has taken comes with plenty of obstacles.
Baylor is the only private school in the Big 12. The school's tradition, at least in college basketball, is debatable. The lure to Waco is simply not there. And the national name recognition is nonexistent.
Add to the inherent woes the revelations to come out of the death of Patrick Dennehy:
A former Baylor teammate (Carlton Dotson) is accused of Dennehy's murder ... NCAA violations, including illicit tuition payments to Dennehy and freshman Corey Herring --- a coverup of these violations by former coach Dave Bliss, who was taped trying to coerce assistants and two players to say Dennehy was dealing drugs to pay for his tuition.
Oh, and did we mention a mass departure is in full swing?
Preseason Wooden All-American Lawrence Roberts (Mississippi State), Kenny Taylor (Texas) and incoming freshman Tyrone Nelson (Prairie View A&M) have left the Baylor program. Harvey Thomas, John Lucas III and Tommy Swanson could be the next Bears to leave town. And more players could follow since the NCAA issued a blanket waiver allowing Baylor players to transfer without sitting out the 2003-04 season.
When Drew begins practice in just under two months, he may be left with only two to four scholarship players. That means filling the roster with walk-ons. But who wears a Baylor uniform next season won't matter, and how many games Drew wins isn't important, as long as everything from this day forward is done within the rules. What will matter most, at least right now, is making sure Drew knows his first job is rebuilding the Baylor program -- not the 2003-04 team.
"You need to build a program, not a team," said Maryland's Gary Williams, who did exactly that in College Park, replacing Bob Wade after three tumultuous seasons following Lefty Driesell's ousting and Len Bias' death.
"You have to get on solid foundation and get the right kind of kids who will represent the university on and off the court." The reason we are where we are is that we just tried to build for the future, not win in the first year."
"You're going to have a lot more people watching and the margin error is thin," Williams said. "You need to get players who are going to work hard. Hard work can beat talent."
Williams eventually put the Terps back in the same sentence as the nation's elite teams, leading Maryland to a national title in 2002. It took him 13 years, and it may take whoever replaces Bliss as long to simply get Baylor back to respectability.
Dan Monson is trying to get Minnesota back to the NCAA Tournament four years into his tenure as Clem Haskins' successor. Haskins was in charge during an academic fraud case in which a tutor admitted to doing academic work for the Golden Gophers players.
"You need to be patient to take over a program (like Baylor and Minnesota)," Monson said. "You can't have a timetable. People want to know when it's going to turn around, but it's an ongoing process. You have to do it the right way and not just grab JC guys."
Monson expects Baylor's struggles to start on the recruiting trail. He said there is no way the Bears will get any player who's being recruiting by another team in the Big 12. And that means Baylor shouldn't expect its rebuilding to be judged by wins or loses, rather its players actions off the court.
"They're not going to go out and get ready-made players," Monson said. "They just have to find players who are good citizens and have the potential to play over a five-year period."
The hiring of Drew and Baylor's refusal to shut its program down means the Bears will field a team next season. The school did the right thing by offering up the blanket transfer waiver, and imposing a postseason ban on itself in 2004 may just be the beginning of sanctions against the program. Baylor could have put the basketballs away for good, or at least a few years, which wouldn't have been unique.
Tulane beat the NCAA to the punch in 1985, shutting itself down until 1989 as a result of lack of institutional control. San Francisco dropped its program for three seasons from 1983-86 after there were reports of NCAA violations and a sexual assault, allegedly committed by a player. USF's school president didn't want to have a negative image on campus, so he took down the program before the NCAA could even react.
Former USF coach Jim Brovelli, now the athletic director at the College of Marin (Calif.), said players forget the tradition of a school when it's not playing.
"So you've got to reestablish support and confidence with the alumni," Brovelli said. "You've got to hire a competent staff that has integrity. You've got to bring the program back the right way and have patience. Have short-term goals. Don't expect to win the Big 12 and be in the top 20 (at Baylor). You've got to establish pride."
But, don't think for a minute that Baylor is taking an easy route. Brovelli said rebuilding under duress and turmoil can be as difficult as starting from scratch.
Enter Drew, who will try to stay competitive, but more importantly must ensure his coaching staff has credibility and make sure every player's integrity is beyond repute.
We'll be watching Drew's progress ... as will the rest of the country.
What else we're hearing
At Oklahoma ... The Sooners can begin practice Monday for their trip to Costa Rica (Aug. 29-Sept. 1). Sampson wanted to take the trip over Labor Day weekend so he could take his incoming players. Oklahoma won't miss any classes, just like Duke last season in October when the Blue Devils went to London. Oklahoma will play two games Saturday and two on Sunday before flying back Monday from San Jose. The Sooners depart Friday. They'll play teams from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Brazil. "The games are secondary to me," Sampson said. "It's the 10 practices that matter." Oklahoma will get a good early look at 5-foot-7 point guard Andrew Lavender, who is expected to come in and be a major contributor.
At Nebraska ... Coach Barry Collier is investigating Elgrace Wilborn thoroughly before deciding to take him on with the Cornhuskers after Wilborn broke a bone in the face of former Tennessee teammate Brandon Crump. Wilborn, who is facing charges in the matter that could be reduced to a misdemeanor, was dismissed from Tennessee's team in the spring following the incident. Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said Wilborn wouldn't go to anger management classes. Collier has to be careful with Wilborn. The Huskers recruited him out of high school but can't take chances, even though Nebraska has struggled to get out of the bottom of the Big 12. Wilborn is a big man who could help the Huskers, but not at the expense of becoming too much baggage. Collier is talking to Wilborn and Tennessee officials to get a full understanding of the situation before committing to taking him.
At Tennessee ... Meanwhile, the Vols are looking to replace Wilborn's scholarship with UCLA's Andre Patterson, who was booted out of the Bruins' program for academic problems. Patterson is a talent who was never fully developed in Westwood under Steve Lavin. But, like Collier, Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson has to be careful that he's not taking on unnecessary baggage in rebuilding the Vols.
At Utah ... Coach Rick Majerus received some good news when Australian Andrew Bogut arrived instead of signing a foreign professional contract. Bogut was the MVP of the World Junior Championships in Greece last month. He could be an instant star in the Mountain West and a 20-point scorer if he's as good as advertised. Meanwhile, Majerus has two assistant coaching hires to make before the season starts.
At Auburn ... The Sweet 16 Tigers are banking on Marco Killingsworth (13.6 ppg) stepping in for Marquis Daniels as their go-to scorer. But Auburn's staff is even more impressed with the improvement of 6-5 junior point Lewis Monroe (3.1 apg). The underrated point guard has been the hit of the summer and continues to be the tough, driven point guard they so desperately need to stay near the top of the SEC West.
At Memphis ... Coach John Calipari is raving about incoming freshman Sean Banks. He said Banks dropped 12 pounds and might have grown an inch since his listed height of 6-8. He's psyched that Banks will come in and potentially be a star. But it's not going to be that simple. The Bergen Catholic High (N.J.) stud still has trouble. He was arrested over the summer for burning a gang signal into the leg of a girl. He was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon (cigarette) and endangering the welfare of a child.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His Weekly Word on college basketball is updated Fridays throughout the year.