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Next Drew takes over at Valparaiso

Valparaiso is keeping its basketball coaches all in the family.

Longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew announced Tuesday that he was retiring for a second time and again turning over the reins to one of his sons. This time, it's former Valparaiso star Bryce Drew taking over for dad less than eight years after his brother was the head coach here, too.

"My vision is very simple," Bryce Drew said. "To my dad, I'm extremely proud of what you accomplished here. To my brother, I'm very proud of what you've accomplished here. But my dream is to take Valpo to the next level."

Homer Drew certainly did his part in 22 seasons with the Crusaders.

In 1988, he took over a program that had never been to the NCAA tournament, never won a conference title or posted a winning record in its Division I era.

Drew, with the help of his sons, turned the Crusaders from an also-ran into one of the nation's elite mid-major programs. It took less than 10 years.

Homer Drew finishes his career with nine 20-win seasons — 25 in his last season before retiring the first time and 23 this time. He took the Crusaders to five straight NCAA tourneys from 1996 to 2000, including the school's only regional semifinal appearance in 1998, and he made seven NCAA trips overall.

But after winning 640 games in 32 seasons, No. 7 among active coaches, and coaching more than 1,000, Homer Drew decided it was time to step aside for his 36-year-old son. Homer Drew will stay on as associate athletic director.

"It would have been a joy going out that way," Drew said when asked about nearly making an eighth NCAA tourney last season. "But if you stay tuned, hopefully, that next person will accomplish that for us."

This is the second time this has happened at Valpo.

In 2002, Drew's other son, Scott, took over the program. But after one season, Scott Drew accepted the job at Baylor and Homer Drew returned to the Crusaders. The Baylor coach did attend Tuesday's news conference.

In 2005, Homer Drew hired his other son, Bryce, as an assistant, and almost from that moment it seemed Bryce Drew — Valparaiso's most famous player — was destined to be his father's successor.

Bryce Drew was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1994. He was the Mid-Continent Conference newcomer of the year and tournament MVP his freshman season. He played in three NCAA tournaments, four conference title games and finished his college career as the school's career leader in scoring (2,142), assists (626) and 3-pointers (364).

But it was his catch, off of a tip pass, and his incredible buzzer-beating toss that upset Mississippi in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament that will be most remembered.

"He has all the attributes we look for," athletic director Mark LaBarbera said. "He knows what winning looks like from the inside, he has a keen understanding of the game of basketball and most important he understands the values that Valparaiso holds dear."

The announcement was a bit unusual. Actually, it was two announcements, separated by an intermission so Homer Drew could leave the front of the room and Bryce Drew could step up to the podium.

The reason: Valpo wanted Homer Drew to have his own moment to say goodbye.

"This is my second time at retiring, so I should be much better at it," he joked.

Bryce Drew was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Rockets in 1998, played six seasons in the NBA and seven professionally before returning to his alma mater as his father's assistant.

Now he has the tall order of succeeding his father and coaching in front of him.

"What has kept me here these 22 years is you," Homer Drew said. "What makes Valparaiso successful is you, from the president to the players to the staff and alumni, and that's going to be hard to miss. But I'm going to come to some basketball games and make sure he's doing OK out there."

And the younger Drew would expect nothing less.

"At age 14, I'm 36 now, Valpo's success was No. 1 in my heart," Bryce Drew said. "So thank you dad for leaving me at least one more thing that can be accomplished. We want to win the Horizon League championship, we want to leave our own legacy on this campus."