For the first time, Bryce Drew spoke to the media as an employee of Vanderbilt University. The rising star was formally introduced as the Commodores' latest head coach in a press conference on Wednesday.
Over the course of 43 minutes, Drew touched on every aspect on his job both on and off the court. He made it clear Vanderbilt's combination of athletics, academics, and national prestige made the position the right spot for his family. He set a Final Four appearance as his goal as head coach. He promised the Commodores would do everything they could to connect with and give back to the Nashville community.
It was realistic, uplifting, and affirming. Drew took the example 17-year veteran Kevin Stallings set off the court and promised to continue to run a high-character program while lifting on-court expectations for the team. And while it was just a glorified Q&A without many specific answers, it was a strong first step on what will likely be a long coaching journey for the former Valparaiso coach.
Here are the highlights.
Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics David Williams opened the proceedings by discussing the process through which Drew was hired. He singled out the work of consultant Eddie Fogler, deputy athletic director Candice Storey Lee, and Chancellor Nick Zeppos as instrumental in finding the proper fit for the program
There was a lot of interest in this job. An awful lot of interest. There were four of us that spent nine days coming to this decision.
A lot of people suggested we were sitting in Wichita. Strangely enough, we never made it to Wichita.
He finished his brief comments with a glowing review of the university's latest hire.
We picked the person who wanted to be here. We picked the person who is a winner. His pedigree, his coaching tree, is enormous...we picked the person who said, in his interview 'we will play in the national championship game.'
Chancellor Zeppos was next, and he was similarly effusive in his praise.
It's not just his outstanding record as a head coach...but it's 'who's going to be the teacher, the mentor, the coach to these fine young men, who is going to be a leader in the community, who is going to be a leader on the campus, who is going to set standards of integrity and winning and competition at a level we expect at Vanderbilt?' And I became very convinced that Bryce Drew was our choice.
Then, it was Bryce Drew's turn to address the media at Memorial Gym. He began his speech by thanking the Vanderbilt executives who brought him to campus, then recapped his decision to join the Commodores.
There's been a lot of different opportunities in the past to be a head coach, but none of them brought the full package that Vanderbilt brings. I am very interested in developing young men. Obviously we want to be out on this court. We want to win games, we want to win championships. But I'm also very interested in our young men becoming men when they leave here. Not only...having options for pro careers, but also having degrees and learning how to be great husbands, great fathers, and great people in the community.
What drew me to Vanderbilt and why I've always liked this job and this university is the full package you get here. You get to compete at the highest level athletically, but yet you get to learn at the highest level academically.
He furthered endeared himself to Commodore fans by dropping Barry Goheen's name in his speech and drawing applause from the crowd. Then, he laid out his ultimate goal as this team's head coach.
No Vanderbilt team has ever made it to the Final Four. We would like to be the first Vanderbilt team to get to the Final Four.
After a few more comments -- and a quick touch on his sibling rivalry with Baylor coach Scott Drew -- he fielded questions from the media. The Tennesseean's Adam Sparks kicked things off by asking what his bedrock principles will be as a head coach.
It's the player's team. It's not players vs. coaches. We're all in this together. I want feedback.
That's the culture I desire to build. That camaraderie.
Another question asked whether or not Vanderbilt could become a perennial SEC powerhouse like Kentucky.
Definitely. Vanderbilt has a rich basketball tradition...I think the opportunity at a special place Vanderbilt -- we're a nationally known university and we want to be nationally known on a yearly basis on a basketball level.
Chris Lee of VandySports, who absolutely killed it with his coverage of Vanderbilt's coaching turmoil this spring, asked Drew if there was one specific moment that pushed him towards taking this job.
It's been a process...This is a job, a school that is very highly regarded, so you're always noticing how Vanderbilt's doing.
There were so many positive things that all came up around this. And it was something my wife and I really prayed about, really talked about this opportunity.
Drew then deflected a question comparing him to Kevin Stallings, promising that his players would have "freedom," but not touching on any specific differences between him and the former Commodore coach.
One question later, he addressed his recruiting strategy.
One of the unique things about Vanderbilt is we have players from all over the U.S. on this roster right now. It's a national university that has a national name; you can recruit from anywhere, and even internationally...I know there's very good local players, who obviously we'll recruit. It'll be pretty much the same philosophy. We'll start local, then we go out and find the best fits for our university.
Drew wouldn't be specific on any additions to his coaching staff, but news broke earlier today that key assistant (and former Illinois standout) Roger Powell would be joining him in Nashville.
Roger Powell is in attendance at the Vanderbilt press conference. He will join Bryce Drew's staff. No longer at Valparaiso.— Paul Oren (@NWIOren) April 6, 2016
The incoming coach made it clear that his Commodores would be active in Nashville, something that could help increase the team's grip on local fans.
We're very involved in the community. We've done over 100 hours of community service every year I've been head coach. We'll be out in the community. We'll be doing things to help others.
Fox-TV's Dan Phillips followed that up with a question about preventing the roster attrition that can follow the hiring of a new head coach.
Obviously I'd love for everyone to stay who's here. I think that if this team stays in place something special can happen next year.
I'd love to keep them all here, but they need to do what's best for themselves and their family. So those are conversations we'll have together and try to work through. If I can convince them, and I think everyone down here [motions to team in audience] knows from the team meeting we'd love to have them, and love to try to be a very special team on the court right here.
He couldn't discuss the team's two 2016 signees, Peyton Willis and Clevon Brown, suggesting those two recruits would be the next two people he calls after the press conference concluded.
Finally, Drew rounded out the presser with a few words on Memorial Gym and Vanderbilt's basketball facilities.
I think this place is incredible. It's a definite home court advantage. The renovations were beautiful that they did. But it doesn't matter how nice an arena is if the product isn't good and there's nobody in the stands, nobody yelling for you in a good way.