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Sources – Scott Drew turns down Kentucky, to remain Baylor coach – ESPN

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  • Pete Thamel

  • Jeff Borzello


    Jeff Borzello

    ESPN Staff Writer

    • Basketball recruiting insider.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Apr 11, 2024, 10:59 AM ET

Scott Drew has decided to stay at Baylor, turning down interest from Kentucky after emerging as that school’s top target to replace John Calipari, sources told ESPN.

Drew, who won a national title at Baylor in 2021, has a close relationship with Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart but ultimately decided to stay at Baylor, where he has coached for 21 years and gone 446-244.

The Drew family has established deep roots in central Texas, which loomed large in the decision to stay. Drew also listened to Louisville in its search last month before ultimately passing on that opportunity.

The courtship with Kentucky got serious enough that KWTX, a television station in central Texas, filmed members of Drew’s family getting off a private plane with ties to a Kentucky donor that flew back from Lexington, Kentucky, on Wednesday night.

Drew deliberated for about a day, as he had long considered Kentucky one of the few jobs he would consider leaving Baylor for.

Drew’s decision to stay in Waco leaves Kentucky’s administrators looking at a different tier of candidates. Before the job even opened, national title-winning coaches Jay Wright, formerly of Villanova, and Dan Hurley of UConn declined interest. Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who won two national titles at Florida, said publicly that he is committed to Chicago, which plays in the NBA play-in tournament on April 17.

Alabama‘s Nate Oats also released a statement saying that he is not interested. Names such as Auburn‘s Bruce Pearl, Illinois‘ Brad Underwood, Xavier‘s Sean Miller, Florida’s Todd Golden, Iowa State‘s T.J. Otzelberger and BYU‘s Mark Pope would appear to emerge as the next tier.

Drew is not believed to have met with Kentucky in person, sources said. But the depth of the relationship with Barnhart didn’t make that a necessity. During the 2021 NCAA tournament, which was held in a bubble because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnhart was the tournament committee chair and saw virtually every Baylor game and practice. Essentially, Drew gave him a monthlong in-person interview three years ago.

The winningest coach in Baylor history, Drew is one of just seven active men’s college basketball head coaches to have won a national championship. He also guided the Bears to their first-ever Big 12 regular-season title, finishing atop the conference standings in 2021 and 2022.

Drew, 53, led one of the greatest rebuilding efforts in college sports history since taking over at Baylor in 2003, when he inherited a program mired in scandal. Baylor forward Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson during an argument, and ensuing investigations revealed that then-coach Dave Bliss attempted to avoid NCAA violations by claiming Dennehy was dealing drugs in order to pay his tuition.

Further NCAA investigations uncovered a number of major violations committed by Bliss, who resigned and received a 10-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA. Baylor was hit with probation, significant scholarship reductions and a ban on nonconference games during the 2005-06 season.

Just two years after the punishment, Drew had Baylor in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years — and the Bears have now gone to 12 of the past 16 NCAA tournaments. They have won at least one game in five consecutive tournaments, getting knocked out in the second round in each of the past three seasons since the title win.

Prior to taking over at Baylor, Drew spent one season as the head coach at Valparaiso, where he served nine seasons as an assistant coach under his father, Homer. During his one season at the helm, Drew led the Crusaders to 20 wins and the Mid-Continent Conference regular-season title.