Here to stay: Scott Drew passes on Kentucky opening, returns to Baylor

Baylor men's basketball head coach Scott Drew and the Bears are the only team in the country to be a No. 3 seed or higher in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments. Lariat file photo

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor, Braden Murray | LTVN Sports Director

Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew will officially stay with the Bears and not take the Kentucky job.

LTVN’s Braden Murray details the dramatic set of events

Drew became the Wildcats’ top target on Tuesday after former head coach John Calipari’s departure, and there were notions that Drew was seriously considering taking his leadership to Lexington, K.Y.

But the 53-year-old head coach confirmed on social media that he’s sticking around. KWTX was first to confirm the news.

The announcement came roughly two weeks after Drew turned down the Louisville opening and signed an extension with Baylor. Details on that extension are not made public, as Baylor is a private university.

When asked about the Louisville job last month, Drew told reporters he was blessed to have an agent who can take care of negotiations.

“I think, first and foremost, I went to Baylor because I prayed about it and felt led to go,” Drew said. “At the end of the day, when God says go, retire, whatever he says, that’s all I want to do is be in his will, number one.

“Number two, Baylor University has always given us a chance to compete at the highest level. As a coach, if you love the people you’re with and you have a chance to compete at the highest level, that’s all any competitor wants.”

Baylor vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics Mack Rhoades made an appearance on the Bears’ weekly Coaches Show on Thursday evening, and he said his “wonderful relationship” with Drew played a huge role throughout this process.

“We have a transparent relationship,” Rhoades said. “We had great conversation throughout all of this, and we had some really difficult conversation, but the one thing that both him and I know is we love each other.

“We’re blessed that Scott Drew is leading our program.”

Rhoades added that he “was never surprised through any of this,” as he and Drew were in constant communication the entire time. Rhoades said they spoke multiple times a day and that Drew called him around approximately 9 a.m. on Thursday to let him know that “he wanted to remain a Baylor Bear.”

Drew just wrapped up his 21st season with the Bears, and he led the program to its first and only national championship in 2021.

The three-time Big 12 Coach of the Year took over a scandal-ridden Baylor program in 2003, and he has led the Bears to 12 NCAA Tournament appearances over the last 17 seasons, including five Sweet 16 berth and three trips to the Elite Eight.

Drew owns a 446-244 record with Baylor — the most wins by a head coach in program history — and he’s tied with Kansas’ Bill Self as the longest-tenured head coach in the Big 12. The Bears and Jayhawks are the only Power Six conference programs to have 18 or more wins in every season since 2008.

Baylor is coming off its third straight NCAA Tournament second-round exit, most recently falling at the hands of Clemson on March 24 in Memphis, Tenn. The Bears went 24-11 on the year and ended the season ranked No. 16 in the AP poll.

Jalen Bridges told members of the media after the Bears’ loss to the Tigers that Drew has a special impact on his athletes.

“One of the main reasons I came to Baylor was to reconnect my faith,” said Bridges, a West Virginia transfer. “And Coach [Drew] always says, at the end of the day it’s basketball.

“He knows his job is complete if he sees us all in Heaven one day, so I’m just happy that I was able to reconnect my faith. That’s probably my favorite part about Baylor.”

Drew will likely return six of 13 members from his 2023-24 roster, and he has a top-five recruiting class — highlighted by five-star combo guard VJ Edgecombe — ready to make its way to campus. Drew still has to fill one assistant coaching spot, as John Jakus left for FAU on March 27.

With Drew no longer an option, ESPN reported on Thursday night that Kentucky is finalizing a five-year deal with BYU head coach Mark Pope, a 1996 UK graduate who played two seasons with the Wildcats and won a national title there.