By Kellan King
Grand Canyon has the potential to be one of the premier mid majors in the country. They have a huge budget (they are a private for profit school with over 100k students online and in person), and one of the best student sections in the country. Despite these 2 advantages over other smaller schools, they have struggled to become a force even within their own conference, the WAC.
For their first 7 years in Division 1, the Lopes head coach was former NBA all star Dan Marjele. Marjele was a solid coach, leading GCU to a 136-89 record over his tenure, and regularly in the top 3 in the WAC. But he was not able to lead the team to the tournament, and never was able to win big games in the regular season (the Lopes were in many tournaments with big name schools and played Louisville and Duke in the non conference). Marjele was fired after a disappointing 13-17 record last year.
The Lopes needed a culture shift after 7 years of not being able to get over the hump, and the coach they decided to go with was Bryce Drew. Drew has coached at Valparaiso and Vanderbilt, but is still relatively young at 45. Drew took over a strong Valparaiso program from his father, Homer, and took the team to new heights. The Crusaders has 4 regular season titles in his 5 years, and made it to the 2nd round in March Madness twice. He was able to vastly improve a mid major with a strong base, which is what he’ll have to do at Grand Canyon. In addition, Drew also has experience coaching at a higher level in the SEC, and he should bring some of that big game pedigree to the Lopes, and hopefully can help them perform against some of these Power 5 opponents.
In conclusion, I think that Bryce Drew was a great hire for the Lopes, and he could just be the man to lead them to their first tournament appearance ever.