INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Homer Drew soaked in the celebration Monday night. He had every reason.
After coaching more than 1,000 games and watching his two sons, Scott and Bryce, coach almost another 900, the family finally had its first ticket to a Final Four, any Final Four, courtesy of Baylor's victory over Arkansas in the South Region championship game.
“We’re just thrilled one of us got in there," Drew told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s been wonderful and memorable. Scott has been there 18 years and it seems like he just got there."
Make no mistake, the family patriarch had a huge influence on his children.
Both followed him into coaching, both took a page out of his genteel coaching philosophy and both have built programs the way their father did.
But even as Scott took time out after Monday night's breakthrough victory to credit his father for instilling the eternal optimism he shows publicly, the Drews also were hurting. Back at Grand Canyon, where Bryce now coaches, the campus was holding a celebration of life for Oscar Frayer, the four-year starter who was killed with his sister in an automobile accident March 23 — just three days after the Antelopes made their NCAA Tournament appearance..
“I have tears in my eyes just thinking of what the team has gone through. Even worse for the family, Oscar’s mother lost his father to a car accident,” the 76-year-old Drew said. “To have him and her only son and her daughter, who leaves four children, all killed in car accidents., it's just ... .”
An authentically human reaction from the father of a family America started to get to know almost a quarter-century ago during another memorable moment — when Homer Drew led Valparaiso to the Sweet 16 with Scott on his staff and Bryce making one of the NCAA Tournament's most replayed buzzer-beaters.
Since then, the Drews journey has gone many different directions.
Scott replaced his father at Valpo, then left after one year to take over the scandal-tainted Bears before rebuilding it into a national powerhouse. After a pro career, Bryce replaced his father and led his alma mater to tourney appearances in 2013 and 2015, then left for Vanderbilt where he was eventually fired.
In September 2011, Homer and his wife, Janet, were diagnosed with cancer — just three days apart. Both had surgery, recovered and joined their two tourney-coaching sons in Indianapolis, though they could only meet with them through video conferencing. And now, after 1,947 Division I games and 1,191 career wins, the Drews finally have a ticket to the Final Four.
“I was thrilled he surpassed that Sweet 16 and we’ve always been wanting one of us to get to that Final Four," Homer Drew said. “I'm just just so happy for him."
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
The Final Four’s Lone Star State semifinal won’t merely match Houston versus Baylor.
It also pits father against son.
Alvin Brooks is an assistant coach at Houston. Alvin Brooks III holds the same position at Baylor. They face off Saturday in an NCAA Tournament semifinal that has both scrambling to get tickets for relatives.
“I’ve received a lot of texts, a lot of calls, and I’m sure you have, too,” Alvin Brooks III said to his father Tuesday at a joint Zoom session with reporters. “We’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to make it work.”
Those relatives could have divided loyalties. The elder Brooks said a niece is having T-shirts made that are red on one side and green on the other to enable family members to show support for both sides.
This matchup is unexpected because Alvin Brooks III never planned on coaching, even though it was his father’s career. Brooks III changed his mind about coaching while hanging out with former NBA player Rashard Lewis, who served as the best man at his wedding.
“I was in Seattle with him for about two months,” Brooks III said. “At that time, I was working in the finance industry. I was miserable. I was chasing money, to be honest with you. I thought I was going to be a millionaire. I thought I was going to manage athletes’ money and be a millionaire. I found out that wasn’t my calling. I would go watch him practice and go to his games.”
It’s not the first time the father-son duo has been on opposite sides. Brooks III’s Sam Houston State teams lost to Brooks’ Houston squads a couple of times. Brooks also was at Baylor in 2017, when the Bears lost to Houston in a preseason scrimmage for hurricane relief.
Gonzaga kept its perfect record intact with 85-66 victory in the West Region championship game.
And as the Zags (30-0) were wrapping up the school’s second Final Four trip, one fan decided to let everyone inside Lucas Oil Stadium know just how tough NCAA Tournament’s top seed actually is with his attire.
The T-shirt read: Even the Suez Canal can’t stop Gonzaga.
One oddity of playing on two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium is all of the noise is audible from both sites.
It’s the primary reasons games could not be held simultaneously.
But it did create a unique environment during pregame warm-ups for UCLA and Michigan.
As both teams watched the end of the Southern California-Gonzaga contest on a large videoboard, the cheers of the crowd could be heard. And as warmups continued, the Zags started cutting the nets, the celebratory songs blared in background.
More AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness