Before receiving the 2021 NCAA men’s college basketball championship trophy Monday night after crushing previously undefeated Gonzaga 86-70, the Baylor University Bears team kneeled in a circle near midcourt and prayed.
A few moments later, Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew shared with a nationally televised audience his team’s game plan for success during the trophy presentation with CBS’ Jim Nantz.
“We play with a culture of J.O.Y.,” he said. “That’s Jesus, Others, Yourself.”
After thanking God for blessing his team, Drew reiterated in the postgame press conference his philosophy for coaching and life.
“A lot of joy in the locker room for sure,” he said. “But our joy is Jesus, others, yourself. It’s so tough to put other people in front of you, and teams that do that are obviously more successful. Our guys, their love for each other [is] because they spend so much time working on their craft together, and they put in the time.”
Baylor junior guard Jared Butler, who was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, echoed his head coach’s sentiments.
“Man, I’m not trying to preach a prosperity gospel, but our Lord and Savior, I say it all the time: He gets us through everything,” Butler said. “Jesus Christ, man, He’s the truth. He was with us tonight. He was with us all season. He’s with us wherever we go. He just sustained us. He brought us together. He brought this team together—transfers, people from overseas. It’s just tremendous how it just comes and it comes all full circle.”
Franklin Graham congratulated the Baylor men’s squad on Facebook for their first-ever national championship and the team’s Christ-centered motto.
“It’s great to see this team of young men give the glory to God after their big win,” Franklin posted on Facebook.
When Drew became the men’s head basketball coach at Baylor in 2003, he inherited a program in ruins. That year, junior forward Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. Also, the team’s previous head coach Dave Bliss had resigned following allegations of violating NCAA rules.
Under Drew’s leadership, Baylor’s basketball practices begin and end with prayer. Players can also attend a team-led Bible study and chapel services.
Baylor has qualified for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament nine times during Drew’s tenure as coach and has advanced to the Elite Eight bracket twice before losing to the eventual national champion (Duke in 2010; Kentucky in 2012). In 2008, Drew’s fifth season at Baylor, he led the Bears to their first men’s NCAA Tournament berth in 20 years.
“Our team has been special,” Drew said after winning the national championship. “Last two years, winningest team in the Power Five. We’ve been really, really good and they’re even better people.”
Photo: Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP