Friday, April 03, 2009
Memphis Tigers talk to Baylor coach Scott Drew
Source: Memphis Tigers talk to Baylor coach Scott Drew
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Originally published 02:58 p.m., April 3, 2009
On the day when University of Memphis officials clamped down on the leaks coming from their search for a new men’s basketball coach, one name did emerge as a serious candidate.
Memphis received permission Friday to talk with Baylor coach Scott Drew, according to a source close to the search. It is believed that a representative of Memphis’ search then had an informal discussion with Drew on Friday about the job.
Memphis spent Thursday making exploratory calls about Drew, who was not available to talk until after his team lost in the NIT championship game on Thursday night.
It’s unclear whether that means Drew has emerged as the leading candidate or Memphis is still talking with other coaches. But it does indicate that Memphis is serious about Drew, 39, who resurrected a Baylor program in shambles after the scandal-ridden Dave Bliss era.
Drew has been successful in getting talented players to Waco, including three recruiting classes ranked in the top 20. He has done it following one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history, involving payments to players for tuition and the murder of Patrick Dennehy. The aftermath left Baylor’s program decimated, and few coaches wanted to take over the toxic situation left by Bliss.
Drew was hired after one year at Valparaiso, where his father Homer Drew has coached since 1988.
Drew took Baylor from 8-21 in his first year to 15-16 in his fourth year. In 2008, Baylor made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years. His team last season was ranked in the top 25 but did not play up to expectations until the end of the season when it got to the Big 12 tournament championship game and made the NIT finals. Baylor did beat five NCAA Tournament teams, including Texas and Kansas.
Baylor’s coaching staff has been recruiting in the Memphis area over the last 18 months, targeting top players in the junior class like Joe Jackson (White Station), Mardracus Wade (Mitchell) and Tarik Black (Ridgeway).
Drew’s name comes with some controversy. His recruiting tactics have irritated other coaches in the Big 12, to the point where Texas coach Rick Barnes lashed out at Drew during the league tournament last month.
“There’s a line that he knows that he can’t cross with me,” Barnes said of Drew, according to The New York Times. “He knows that. He definitely knows that.”
Drew’s practices have also come under scrutiny from a variety of media outlets, including hiring Dwon Clifton last year as director of player development. Clifton was the AAU coach for John Wall, the top-ranked point guard in the country, coming out of Raleigh, N.C. Before Calipari left, Memphis and Baylor were considered Wall’s top two schools.
Beyond Drew, it’s unclear how the week ended for Memphis’ search.
On Thursday, Memphis was rebuffed to varying degrees by USC's Tim Floyd and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl. Others who might still be in the mix include former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus, whose name has also been floated for the Arizona job.
Memphis has not made any serious overtures, according to sources, toward Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy or UMass coach and former Memphis assistant Derek Kellogg. UTEP coach Tony Barbee, another former Calipari assistant, would be available to talk Saturday after his team’s season ended Friday night in the College Basketball Invitational.
It’s also possible that an out-of-the-box name is still in play. FedEx vice president Alan Graf, who is working on behalf of the search committee, said Wednesday that Memphis has the capability to make a “wow hire.”