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The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Reflecting on the Dominant DeVries Era

Tucker Devries won back-to-back Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year awards and led Drake to two NCAA tournament visits. Photo by Sarah Fey | Staff Photographer

Sport Analysis

Darian DeVries was hired as the head coach of Drake men’s basketball in March 2018. DeVries spent 20 years on staff with Creighton’s men’s basketball team before getting a shot at a head coaching gig. 

After six years as head coach, on March 24, 2024, the DeVries era officially ended in Des Moines; he accepted a position as head coach of West Virginia men’s basketball. Between his arrival and his departure, DeVries built a winning program that will go down as a golden age of Drake basketball. His work led to six 20-win seasons, two Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year awards and three NCAA Tournament appearances. 

DeVries inherited a team with one returning starter and rebuilt the program from scratch. He quickly assembled the foundation for a winning basketball program at Drake and soared to a 24-10 record in his first season as a head coach. 

DeVries’ was named the MVC Coach of the Year, led Drake to a regular-season conference championship and carried the Bulldogs to the MVC tournament semifinals, all in his inaugural season at Drake. The Bulldogs lost by two points to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, but a strong foundation was built for the coming years. 

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Drake notched back-to-back 20-win seasons with a 20-14 record in the 2019-20 season. The team made it to the MVC semifinals once again but was defeated by the Bradley University Braves. By then, however, DeVries had built a strong basketball culture, as Drake legends Roman Penn, D.J. Wilkins and Garrett Sturtz blossomed under DeVries and drew fans to the Knapp Center. 

In 2020-2021, the Bulldogs followed up a loss in the conference tournament semifinals with their best season yet of the DeVries era. The team improved to 26-5, and DeVries won the MVC Coach of the Year award for the second time. 

The Bulldogs fought past Missouri State in the MVC tournament to reach the championship game. Wilkins and Tremell Murphy gave Drake 20-point performances in the championship game, but their efforts weren’t enough to lift Drake over Loyola University Chicago, and the Bulldogs lost 75-65. Although they didn’t win the conference, the Bulldogs season-long dominance earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

The Bulldogs competed in a March Madness First Four game against Wichita State and won 53-52. Drake’s performance earned them a date with the University of Southern California in the Round of 64, but the magic ended there for DeVries’ team. USC defeated Drake 72-56, with the Mobley twins — two future NBA players — leading the Trojans in scoring. 

A March Madness berth brought excitement to Drake basketball, and the addition of the highest-ranked Drake recruit since 1989 gave fans further hope for the future. Coach DeVries brought in his son, Tucker DeVries, to be the star of the Drake basketball program. Tucker was a four-star recruit and the Gatorade Iowa Boys Basketball Player of the Year coming out of Waukee High School. 

Tucker made an instant impact on his father’s team, scoring 13.9 points per game in his debut season. The DeVries duo led Drake to a 25-11 record in the 2021-22 season and a second straight appearance in the MVC championship game. The Bulldogs matched up against Loyola again and lost. Drake had lost too many games in the regular season to warrant an NCAA Tournament bid, settling for an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational, where they lost in the second round. 

Drake wouldn’t go long without March Madness play, as Darian coached the team back to the tournament in the 2022-23 season. In the final year of eligibility for Penn, Wilkins and Sturtz, the team pushed through to win the MVC championship. Tucker won MVC Player of the Year, and the Bulldogs steamrolled Murray State, Southern Illinois and Bradley to win the conference. 

Drake got matched up against Miami in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament and lost heartbreakingly. The Bulldogs led with under three minutes left in the game but lost by seven points. Penn, Wilkins and Sturtz all played their final game for Drake, and Darian DeVries had to find replacements for the next season. 

Darian pulled in three-star recruit Kevin Overton and transfer guard Atin Wright to play alongside returners Tucker, Conor Enright and Darnell Brodie in the starting lineup for the 2023-24 season. With new faces came uncertainty, but the team meshed together instantly. Darian coached the Bulldogs to their sixth straight 20-win season, the team got back into the NCAA Tournament by winning the MVC tournament and Tucker repeated as MVC Player of the Year. 

Drake lost in the NCAA Round of 64 to Washington State, but the season was a success for Darian. The Bulldogs had gone to three NCAA Tournaments in four years, and Darian had built a mid-major monster in Des Moines. But, his success was too elite to fly under the radar. 

Darian left Drake to ink a five-year deal with West Virginia that will top out at $3.2 million in the final year of his contract. After nearly three days of silence, Tucker finally announced on March 27 that he would be joining his father in West Virginia. Since Darian’s departure, eight Drake players have entered the transfer portal. Drake will have to rebuild its program from the dust, as they did when Darian was hired in 2018. Drake is potentially in for some rough basketball years, but the Bulldogs faithful will always be thankful for the success that Darian DeVries generated in his six years at Drake. 

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