INDIANAPOLIS – The name of John Jakus, Gonzaga basketball’s former director of operations, came up twice when Scott Drew met with members of the media after Baylor’s 86-70 rout of the Bulldogs in the national championship.
With a basketball net hanging from his neck, Baylor’s head coach made sure not to forget anyone when handing out kudos to those who made the Bears’ national championship possible.
So he certainly couldn’t leave out Jakus, a fourth-year Baylor assistant who spent three years inside Gonzaga’s huddles, locker rooms and meeting rooms as Mark Few’s director of ops before leaving for a more basketball-oriented position in Waco. Baylor’s players deserved most of the praise on a night that saw the Bears exert more energy on the glass and more resistance on defense, willing their way to a 20-point lead in the second half.
But a good game plan never hurts, especially against a formidable Gonzaga team that had won 27 consecutive games by double figures before escaping the Final Four semifinals with a 93-90 overtime win against UCLA.
“Gonzaga missed some shots they probably normally make, but credit our guys for making everything difficult,” Drew said. “Coach Jakus was on the staff there and obviously familiar with the program. He had a great scouting report, but credit the players then for executing it.”
Later on during an extended virtual interview, Jakus’ name came out of Drew’s mouth for the second time. The Baylor coach was asked about the program’s shift from a zone defense to a man-to-man look a few years back – something that allowed the Bears to elevate their defensive numbers by pressuring the ball with more intensity.
“My dad’s a Hall of Fame coach for a reason,” Drew said. “He taught me a good coach adjusts your style to the personnel you have and we’ve got some unbelievable defenders this year on the Naismith (awards). … Credit to coach Tang, coach Brooks, coach Jakus and the coaching staff for doing a great job of implementing it.”
It’s the first national championship for Jakus and also for third-year Baylor graduate assistant Rem Bakamus, a walk-on for Few and the Bulldogs during their run to the national championship game in 2017.
Monday’s matchup was the one college basketball fans had been anticipating since a nonconference game between Gonzaga and Baylor in December was wiped out by positive COVID-19 tests within the Bulldogs’ program. In some ways an NCAA Tournament wouldn’t have felt complete without a meeting between the teams that spent the majority of the regular season on top of the various Top 25 polls.
Prior to Monday’s game, Few and Drew, head coaches and longtime friends who’ve had plenty of time to bond the last few weeks in the Indianapolis bubble – all while their teams continued on a collision course to the national championship game – shared words near the middle of the court before tipoff.
“I feel for coach Few and his team because they’re such class acts. Coach Few’s a Hall of Fame coach and an unbelievable guy. Better person than he is coach,” Drew said. “You hate when friends aren’t feeling good. Our plan was on Dec. 5 when the game got canceled, we said if we make it April 5 … if we have to lose, losing to you is who I want to lose to.
“So much respect for them and what they’ve accomplished.”
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