Reaction: Vanderbilt (Malcolm Turner) Fires Bryce Drew

Malcolm Turner
Malcolm Turner

You know what I think of the decision to fire Bryce Drew right now. I wrote about it during the season. Everything about that discussion which has needed to be said, everything which has needed to be explained, has been articulated…

By Matt Zemek

… except one thing.

That is what I will articulate here, now that Malcolm Turner has pushed Drew out the door with great speed and haste.

Very simply: If Turner is going to make this move, he has to have his solution — the real answer — lined up, or at least attainable and in position to be secured with a competitive offer.

If you are going to make a move such as this — pushing out a young coach after he lost his prized recruit to an injury early in the season, causing the roster and season to collapse — you better have an unquestioned upgrade ready to step in. The allowance for mistakes or imperfections is much smaller when an aggressive and harsh move is made.

Let’s realize the message which is sent by firing Drew now: Vanderbilt expects to win big and win quickly. That’s the message, and let’s not pretend it is something else. Sure, 0-18 (19 if we count the SEC Tournament) is really bad, but VU isn’t that bad a program. This is a season which unraveled. VU is — more broadly viewed — a bubble program, if you examine the seven seasons since Kevin Stallings’ last superb team in 2012. That is the prevailing standard the program has set over the past seven years. Vanderbilt generally hovers near the bubble, sometimes a few notches below, sometimes a few notches above, but this is what the past seven seasons have — on average — produced.

Vanderbilt CheerleaderVanderbilt has won 111 games the past seven seasons. That is 16 wins per season, squarely in bubble territory, with a First Four appearance and a No. 9 seed created by a three-game sweep of Florida. Drew made one NCAA Tournament in his three seasons at Vanderbilt (with Stallings’ players in Year 1), took a predictable step back in Year 2, and then had Darius Garland as the player who would create the Drew Imprint in Year 3… only to lose him before the SEC season even began.

How can we evaluate Drew at Vanderbilt? The grade has to be incomplete, not any letter grade.

If Vanderbilt is now in the business of firing coaches with “incomplete” grades, that obviously establishes a standard which insists on winning big, winning quickly, and winning at the level of a program with blue-blood expectations.

Is this bad? Not necessarily… but again, we return to the central thesis: If you are going to make a move like this, hoo boy: You BETTER have the big gun ready to come to Nashville and transform levels of performance.

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos has not yet fired coach Tim Miles, which leads many to speculate that he has not yet secured an agreement with Fred Hoiberg.

I personally think Miles should be given one more season. The man went 13-5 in the Big Ten in 2018, but slid downward this past season and had to deal with a key midseason injury. I think 2020 should represent a final chance to make things right at Nebraska.

HOWEVER: If Nebraska and Moos really and actually do have Fred Hoiberg — a Sweet 16 coach who crushed it at Iowa State — lined up to come to Lincoln, they should do it. Hoiberg would be a home run for a program with Nebraska’s history and track record.

Does Malcolm Turner have his equivalent of Fred Hoiberg lined up? If he does, great… and this move, as cutthroat as it is, would make complete sense. We will all be happy and joyful very soon.

If Turner doesn’t have a plan, or if he greatly overestimates his ability to secure a top-tier coach? Then this will become very depressing.

We shall see.

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