Bulldogs introduce DeVries as new coach

AP PHOTO • New Drake University men’s college basketball coach Darian DeVries speaks at an introductory press conference Friday at the Knapp Center in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — For decades, Drake University has watched as Creighton — a fellow small, private school in a mid-sized, Midwestern city — built up its basketball program to the point where NCAA Tournament appearances are an annual expectation.

It looks like the Bulldogs are trying to emulate the Bluejays.

Drake on Friday introduced longtime Creighton assistant and native Iowan Darian DeVries as its new coach, the program’s fourth since December 2016. Terms of DeVries’ contract were not disclosed.

“It will take some time. At Creighton … we’re up to 17,000 (fans) a night. It wasn’t always like that. There were four or five thousand fans a night. It got built slowly, but people hung with us. They were in it with us,” DeVries said. “If we can do that here, we have the possibility of doing those exact same things.”

DeVries, 42, spent the past 20 years at Creighton after a playing career with Northern Iowa, where he scored more than 1,000 points. The Bluejays went to 12 NCAA Tournaments with DeVries on their staff, building a national reputation strong enough to elicit an invitation to leave the Missouri Valley Conference and join the more prestigious Big East.

DeVries, who had been turned down by Drake for past openings, will take over the program from Niko Medved. Medved went 17-17 in his only season with the Bulldogs before unexpectedly bolting for Colorado State.

His departure left the Bulldogs scrambling. But new athletic Brian Hardin settled on DeVries, the first candidate with whom he spoke.

“We must subscribe to the notion that we would fall in love with criteria and not fall in love with coaches,” Hardin said. “As long as I’m employed at Drake, we will start all searches … with the mindset of finding someone that has energy, passion and vision. That needs to be the base line for all future hires.

Friday’s introductory news conference was more like a pep rally, with dozens of DeVries’ family members and fans in attendance.

But the reality of the job will soon become apparent.

DeVries inherits a roster with just seven players — five sophomores and two seniors — after forward Casey Schlatter and center Kory Kuenstling announced on Twitter this week that they’ll be leaving the program.

DeVries didn’t make any promises on Friday beyond reiterating that he’s committed to Drake and to turning around a program that’s been to just one NCAA Tournament in 47 years.

For a program with as much turnover as Drake has seen since 2016, that’s crucial.

“This is what I wanted, and I didn’t give up on that because I see something here,” DeVries said. “I know what this job is. I know what this is about. I know what can work here.”