Going ‘AALL’ In
New Women’s Basketball Coach Talks Rebuilding
After 38 years of coaching basketball, Kip Drown, 59, is starting from scratch. Again.
He certainly didn’t need a fresh start. He has amassed a stellar career that any coach would envy. Overall, his college women’s basketball teams are 463-327 — a record Drown built by taking struggling programs and turning them around.
He did it most remarkably at Grand Canyon University, where the struggling ‘Lopes had won only four games by the time he arrived in 2001. In just four seasons, Drown built a team that went 16-12 and earned a bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament, a feat that won him the California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2004.
Most recently, Drown rebuilt the program at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where he led the struggling ThunderWolves to a 195-100 record, won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship four times and earned a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament seven times — the last appearance in March of 2015. He’s the winningest women’s basketball coach in the university’s history.
And so, while other coaches in his shoes might be thinking about settling down and looking at life after basketball, Drown has chosen to start from scratch again at Georgia Southern, a Division I team that went 5-24 last year — last place in the Sun Belt — and is picked to finish last again this year.
A mathematician might call it a gamble. Drown, however, calls it an opportunity.
“When I got off the phone the first time with Tom Kleinlein [Georgia Southern director of athletics] I was energized,” he said. “The idea of taking over a Division I program that was coming off some down years was a challenge that really fired me up. I have always embraced the opportunity to take over programs that were struggling and turn them around, but the fact that this opportunity was at a D-I University was just too great an opportunity to turn down.”
At Georgia Southern, Drown says he will call upon the core principles that have brought him success at every level so far. Winning, he said, requires going “AALL” in. “AALL” stands for ability, attitude, labor and love, and for Drown, it’s the strategy for success on the court, in the classroom and in life.
“I tell kids if you do those four things: if you will maximize your ability; if you will have a great attitude — starting with a team attitude; if you will have a great work ethic — be what I call an ‘extra-miler,’ don’t just do what’s expected of you, but go beyond what is expected; and then if you will have a love and a passion for what you do, you’re going to be successful in this life.”
In practice, AALL means being relentless, a word that Drown loves so much he posted it in the locker room. It means pushing through good times and bad times and pounding away everyday on the little things: those fundamentals which add up to big things in the end.
“There really is no magic formula,” he said. “We’re just constantly trying to teach them to do the fundamental things correctly. You do that with good people with good character. I’m a big believer that good kids and good people will find ways to get good things to happen.”
But for Drown, AALL is about so much more than just winning basketball games. He’s building a family, a reality he’s coined in the team’s motto, “family always, team first.”
“Teams are kind of year-to-year, but you have to have that team-first attitude,” he said. “But family — they’re going to be Eagles all their lives. Twenty years from now I want them to look back and say, ‘That was the best time of my life playing basketball at Georgia Southern.’
“If we win a Sun Belt title or we win a national title and they look back and say, ‘Man, I was miserable,’ then we’ve done something wrong.”
Early season results have been encouraging with junior guard Angel McGowan being named the women’s basketball Student-Athlete of the Week by the Sun Belt Conference as well as College Sports Madness. There’s still a long season ahead, with talented Sun Belt Conference opponents to face. Drown, however, says he’s confident.
“We’re going to keep getting better every day, and we’re going to turn this thing around,” he said. “I have no doubt about it. It’s too good a place. There’s too much tradition here and too many good things about it — and we’re going to get it turned around.” — Doy Cave
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