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Basketball Coaching Search Update: Georgia Tech Targeting Valparaiso HC Bryce Drew

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The Jackets' leading candidate may not be Jeff Capel, as previously thought.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

A "New" Leading Candidate (Although He May Have Always Been)

Earlier this week, we told you that early reports indicated Georgia Tech was targeting Duke assistant Jeff Capel and Boston Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga in its coaching search to replace Brian Gregory. Those reports haven't been strongly supported by folks close to the program, such as Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com, who offered his thoughts on the process thus far earlier this week. Instead, he suggested that Valparaiso HC Bryce Drew was the primary target for the Jackets, an idea that was backed up by Gary Parrish of CBS on Friday, although Georgia Tech doesn't appear to be the only suitor:

The logic behind Georgia Tech's supposed interest in Drew makes sense -- he's an up-and-coming coach who has done well running a mid-major program for several years now, with some postseason success thrown in as well. His college playing career at Valparaiso resulted in him being a first-round pick by the Houston Rockets in 1998. He played in the NBA until 2004 before playing further in Europe, ending his playing career in 2005. He returned to Valparaiso in 2005, where he was an assistant to his father Homer Drew. He served as associate head coach for the Crusaders until his father stepped down after the 2010-2011 season, and took over at the helms afterward.

After the team was a combined 38-29 (22-14) in his father's final two seasons, with only a second-round CIT finish in the postseason, the younger Drew's team went 48-20 (27-7) in his first two seasons, including an NIT berth in his first season and an NCAA Tournament first-round victory the following year. In five years as head coach of the Crusaders, his teams are a combined 124-48 (65-19) with four regular-season conference championships, a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (which saw them win their first-round games against a 3-seed and a 4-seed), and most recently being named runners-up in the 2016 NIT.

The biggest downside to hiring Drew would most likely be the lack of diversity in his experience, given that he has never coached anywhere other than Valparaiso. In addition, it's hard to say how successful he would be in recruiting after moving to a totally different region of the country from his current situation in Indiana. That said, his track record is undeniably strong thus far, and at the very least he has ties to Atlanta (his wife used to be a cheerleader for the Atlanta Hawks). If Drew were to end up being the selection as Georgia Tech's next head coach, it would hardly be a disappointment.

Then, there's also the issue of the involvement of Vanderbilt. It's not that Georgia Tech's ability to hire its top choice should really be threatened by the Commodores being in the discussion -- Vanderbilt is an inferior job in an inferior conference with inferior facilities in an inferior town. (No offense to Nashville -- that's a pretty great town. It's just not Atlanta, especially in terms of basketball jobs.) The only thing that could theoretically throw a wrench in the Yellow Jackets' sales pitch to Drew, in this case, would be if one of the schools' financial situations is pretty wildly misunderstood. It would take Drew getting a significantly larger offer from Vanderbilt to make the job noticeably more attractive in any facet, and that just doesn't seem like a very real possibility.

By all counts, it appears that Bryce Drew is squarely in Mike Bobinski's sights. We'll see what happens as a result, but we'll likely know the outcome by the middle of next week.

Out of Consideration

This isn't any sort of breaking news, but it's important to note that a few fan-favorite-type candidates are out-of-the-running. Fan-favorite, former Yellow Jacket and current Charlotte 49ers head coach Mark Price said last weekend that he was planning to stick with his current program and was removing his name from consideration for the job. (Maybe another time, though...) One of the hottest names on the coaching search market was actually Brian Gregory's successor at Dayton, Archie Miller. He'll be staying put as well, though, having received a large contract extension last week that runs through 2022-2023. On that note, VCU head coach Will Wade received a contract extension of his own this week, lasting through 2023-2024. Finally, Chris Mack has not been connected to any coaching search rumors anywhere, and seems determined to retain his current role at Xavier.

What's Next?

The primary candidates on the board for Georgia Tech would appear to be Bryce Drew and Jeff Capel (whose status as a legitimate candidate remains in question for several reasons) in that order, and there's not a clear "Plan C" afterwards. With Drew's team having completed the NIT on Thursday night, chances are we'll find out something about his future this weekend or early next week. Either way, Georgia Tech's coaching search is likely to be completed by the end of next week. Stay tuned to FTRS as developments continue!