Drake hires McCollum from Northwest Missouri

In this Oct. 26, 2019, file photo, Northwest Missouri State coach Ben McCollum shouts to his team during a game against Duke in Durham, N.C. (Associated Press)
In this Oct. 26, 2019, file photo, Northwest Missouri State coach Ben McCollum shouts to his team during a game against Duke in Durham, N.C. (Associated Press)

Drake hired Ben McCollum as its basketball coach Monday, entrusting the longtime and ultra-successful coach from Division II Northwest Missouri State with continuing the momentum the Bulldogs had under Darian DeVries.

DeVries was hired by West Virginia after leading Drake to three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four years.

“We have seen the transition Drake basketball has made over the past few seasons to become one of the most successful mid-majors in that span. My family and I are very excited to continue that tradition,” McCollum said in a statement.

The 42-year-old McCollum grew up in Storm Lake, Iowa, and played junior college ball in the state before finishing his playing career at Northwest Missouri State. He went into coaching at his alma mater, then spent four years at rival Emporia State before returning to the Bearcats in 2009 as a 27-year-old head coach and embarking on a 15-year run of unprecedented success.

McCollum led Northwest Missouri State to four national titles, going 32-7 in the Division II tournament, and he has an overall record of 394-91. That includes 12 regular-season Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association championships, eight conference tournament titles and 11 consecutive appearances in the national tournament.

“I’m not the type that’s self-promoting. It’s just not what I do,” McCollum said after Northwest Missouri State won its most recent title in 2022. “I’m not constantly out there searching for the next place to go. If that place comes to find me and it’s a match, that’s probably how it will end up happening. If I do leave at some point.

“But the right fit,” McCollum said at the time, “is probably a bigger version of what we have here.”

That turned out to be Drake, a small private school in Des Moines, Iowa, that lost far more than it won throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s but has become something of a coaching launchpad during the past two decades.

Keno Davis led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 2008 before he was hired by Providence; Niko Medved led them to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in 2018 before leaving for Colorado State; and DeVries had six straight 20-win seasons while he led the Bulldogs to the past four Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title games and the past two championships.

“Ben understands what it takes to achieve sustained excellence,” Drake athletic director Brian Hardin said. “While his incomparable record of success in competition stands out, in talking with people who know Ben, the positive impact he has on the lives of his student-athletes has left a more indelible mark.”

While McCollum has never coached above the Division II level, there is precedent within Drake’s own conference. Josh Schertz, the longtime coach of Division II Lincoln Memorial, was hired by Indiana State in 2021. He went 11-20 his first year, 23-13 last season and has the Sycamores at 31-6 and playing Utah on Tuesday night for a spot in the NIT title game.

“Ben McCollum is an elite coach in every category I know of,” Texas Tech coach Grant McCasland said in a statement provided by Drake. “He knows the game as well as anyone, both on offense and defense, but what separates him is the relationships he builds. That allows him to hold guys accountable to the highest standard of winning, but he doesn’t just win championships, he builds programs that can sustain championship capabilities. I’m thrilled that Ben and his family get the opportunity to be at a dream school like Drake.”

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