Baylor Men’s Coach Scott Drew On Leadership, Recruiting And Combating Complacency

In this March Madness edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Baylor Men’s Basketball Coach Scott Drew recounts leadership lessons learned on his road to a national championship.

Scott Drew had just finished his first year as head men’s basketball coach at Valparaiso when he learned that there would be a coaching vacancy at Baylor University for the fall of 2003. To put it simply, Drew wanted that job badly, not only because it represented a step up the college basketball food chain, but also because he wanted to be with a program whose mission and ambition matched his own.

So, Drew did what he does best: he “recruited” Baylor to his side just as surely as he had recruited athletes in living rooms and kitchens around the globe.

When he learned where his interview would be held, he had the room decorated in Baylor’s colors of green and gold and had a fake “USA Today” cover created highlighting Baylor making the Final Four. He printed the “newspaper” with Baylor players photo-shopped on the page. Bottles of Dr. Pepper, a key Baylor corporate supporter, were placed around the table for all to enjoy.

Heck, this wasn’t a job interview…it was more like a party.

“I think everybody wants to be recruited,” explained Drew of his unorthodox interviewing technique. “People often go into interviews unsure about whether they want the job, so they don’t sell themselves as much as they could. This casts the seed of doubt in your interviewer, which is the last thing you want.” In other words, counsels Drew, be careful about turning down a job that hasn’t been offered to you. In fact, he advises, “Always win the job first. Then decide.”

Pulling out all the stops not only showed the officials from Baylor how much Drew appreciated them, it also showed the energy and positivity with which he would recruit future prospects for their basketball program. Drew got the job and went on to build a winning tradition at Baylor that included the school’s first Big 12 regular-season title—and first regular-season conference title of any sort since 1950—a couple of elite eight appearances and, in 2021, the grand prize of them all, the national championship he had promised the Baylor reps at his interview.

Drew grew up ensconced in the passionate and tight culture of Hoosier basketball—his father Homer coached at Valparaiso and his brother, Bryce, played basketball there as well as in the NBA. He learned the game from studying scores of coaches, players, journalists and fans who lived and breathed the sport. So it hardly comes as a surprise that Drew firmly believes it takes a village to be successful, whether you are running a business or basketball team.

In this podcast, Coach Drew shares a treasury of leadership learnings that reflect the rich basketball culture from which he comes. Throughout the podcast, the focus is on building and maintaining strong teams, and includes:

  •  6:00   Habits of a consummate learner.
  • 11:30  How “the smart take from the strong.”
  • 14:00  Why culture trumps talent every day on high-performing teams.
  • 25:00  The phone calls Coach Drew made after winning the National Championship.
  • 26:00  How to combat complacency.

If winning has taught Drew anything, it is that the only formula for success is not having a formula in the first place, save for hard work, shared goals and flexibility. “Every year is different, and you start over again at the bottom of the hill,” said Drew. “And it’s never the same pathway back up: you have different players, different chemistry, different plays and different schedules. You have to fight human nature, which is to be complacent, and appreciate what made you successful before but be ready to change your playbook.”

We hope you’ll add Corporate Competitor Podcast to your March Madness Playbook, starting right here with Coach Scott Drew.

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.