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Olson 446: Concordia's all-time winningest coach

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 16, 2023 in Women's Basketball

Confetti, cupcakes and the whole family greeted Drew Olson in the locker room following Wednesday’s 86-62 win over Morningside. The victory marked another feather in the cap for Olson, who surpassed his college coach, Grant Schmidt, as the winningest coach in the history of Concordia Athletics, regardless of sport. The celebration of the milestone became more about the people and relationships that have developed since Olson took over the Bulldog Women’s Basketball program prior to the start of the 2006-07 season.

With win No. 446 secured, Olson (career record of 446-133) preferred to shine a spotlight on some of the trailblazers for Concordia Athletics. Olson may have preferred to just let the achievement go unnoticed, but the players on the team weren’t about to allow it. They wouldn’t because they care for the coach who cares deeply for them.

“The celebration was fun because I care so much for them,” Olson said. “It’s cool that they care about me. It wasn’t something I really thought about a lot. Coach Schmidt’s an incredible coach. I think of all the different coaching icons and I don’t feel like I’m one of them. You’ve got Coach (Courtney) Meyer and Coach (Eunice) Goldgrabe and Coach (Carl) Everts and all these people. I’ve just been very blessed with incredible coaching staffs throughout my time. It’s all about the players. I’ve been very blessed to have some awesome players.”

In a Zoom call on Thursday morning, Coach Schmidt (445-276 career record) addressed Olson’s achievement. Schmidt coached Olson during the 2000-01 through 2002-03 Concordia Men’s Basketball seasons. During that time, Olson accumulated 1,123 points and was named an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American as a senior. Olson helped steer the ’02-03 squad to a GPAC tournament championship and trip to the NAIA national quarterfinals.

Said Schmidt, “Congratulations, Drew. It seems like it was not too long ago, but I guess it was 20 years ago when you played your last game. Now here you are breaking records. Here you are breaking my record. One thing I think is so strong about what you have established – is that in any business and any organization – it’s not about recruiting good people into your program, it’s about attracting good people. This is what you have established in your career. That attraction amounts to so many different things. That’s why you are a success. I just want to congratulate you. I’m so happy for you. I know that God will continue to bless your life and continue to bless your career. In so many ways, you have so much to look forward to. I just hope that God blesses me and I can be around when you reach that 1,000-win plateau because I know you’ve got it in you and I know it’s going to happen. Continue the good work and congratulations.”

Some of Olson’s notable accomplishments, in addition to the 446 wins, include:

·        2019 NAIA Division II National Champions

·        12 GPAC Championships (six regular season; postseason)

·        15 national tournament appearances (27 national tournament wins)

·        Five national semifinal appearances (two national runner-up claims)

·        Has coached players to 19 All-America awards and one National Player of the Year honor

·        2019 NAIA Phyllis Holmes National Coach of the Year

·        2018 United States Marine Corps/WBCA NAIA National Coach of the Year

·        Three-time GPAC Coach of the Year; four-time WBCA regional Coach of the Year

The milestone wins

·        No. 1 – November 2, 2006: 56-51 win at York College.

·        No. 100 – December 31, 2010: 72-47 win over Bethany College.

·        No. 196 (became winningest coach in women’s basketball program history) – November 12, 2014: 63-59 win at Mount Marty.

·        No. 200 – December 3, 2014: 62-54 win over Doane.

·        No. 300 – January 10, 2018: 95-67 win over Briar Cliff.

·        No. 400 – February 3, 2021: 77-71 win at Dordt.

·        No. 446 – November 15, 2023: 86-62 win over Morningside.

Reaction from the 2023-24 Concordia Women’s Basketball seniors:

Kendal Brigham
Coach Olson is so deserving of this recognition! What I appreciate about Coach is that he has a great balance of being competitive and focused while also having lots of fun. Even when we are deciding who gets the ball first at practice it’s made into a competitive trivia match to determine that. I also appreciate the confidence that he has in his players – he values our opinions when making team decisions. He also cares about his players beyond basketball and lets us know him beyond just being our coach. He welcomes us into his home for dinner and always brings his kids around, which means a lot to us! I’m so happy for Coach Olson and grateful to call him Coach!

Sadie Powell
What I appreciate most about Coach Olson is his drive to win, but also how much he cares about each one of us. He will always make sure we know what is going on, even if that means drawing on the floor with an expo marker instead of his clipboard. One of my favorite things about Coach is being able to celebrate with him by dumping water on his head after winning big games! I am so happy for him that he has been able to achieve great things!

Taysha Rushton
Something I appreciate about Coach Olson is his passion for basketball. Playing for a basketball junky like Olson is so much fun. We’ve had endless conversations about basketball as well as endless competitive 1on1 games against each other. It’s his love for basketball that made me want to come play for him, but his ability to create a home-like atmosphere that made me want to stay at Concordia. I’ll forever be grateful for how much time and love he pours into our team!

Hannah Spearman
One of my favorite attributes about Coach Olson is his love for the game. His energy and passion he brings is very contagious and helps to fuel our team. Our theme verse this year is about real victory, so while winning on the court is exciting, Olson also reminds us to give glory to God and our real victory is through Him.

Mackenzie Toomey
One of Coach’s favorite quote is: “We have a lot of talent, but do we have enough team?” Coach Olson is obviously great with the X’s and O’s and winning games, but what I think makes Coach stand out from the rest and be as successful as he is, is that he knows how to create a team that feels like a family. He genuinely cares about each of his players, the students at Concordia and the community of Seward. As a player I have immense respect for his passion of the game. He is definitely the most competitive person I know…there is no card game that is safe!! Not only does he know how to win, he knows how to have fun. Coach Olson leads us in more ways than the many facets of the game of basketball. He shows us what it looks like to walk in faith and to keep God in the front seat. His faith, his love and respect for his wife and family and the way he carries himself in success and defeat is respectable and admirable. Nobody deserves the title of most winningest coach other than Olson. The love for the game, the love for his players, the love for competition and the joy he has while coaching radiates off him – and if anyone gets the chance to play for Olson, they need to take it. Congrats, Coach! Let’s get you some more wins this season!

What past Bulldogs said after Coach Olson’s 400th win …

Grace Barry | Concordia career: 2018-20
The lessons I have learned from Coach Olson are endless. He taught me both the power of meticulous detail on the fundamentals and the power of being creative within the game. He created a culture where athletes could enjoy playing basketball while also cultivating a competitive and driven environment. In addition, Coach Olson leads by example and instills in his players to keep one’s priorities straight: God, Family, School, Basketball and then everything else. One of the greatest aspects I took away from playing for Coach Olson was when we had a tough practice or a bad game he would always say “Go home, move on, and come back ready to work tomorrow.” I believe when Coach Olson said that it was more than just a lesson for basketball but a life lesson. I believe what makes Coach Olson a great coach is not only his understanding of the game of basketball but his willingness to teach his players about life.

Coach Olson has been incredibly successful because of his will and commitment to win. When it comes down to it, he is going to do whatever it takes to win, whether that be having grueling practices where he is getting after everyone, doing individual workouts with every player, having the tough but necessary conversations, or thinking completely outside the box. In addition, his ability and willingness to listen to his players and work with his players is uncanny. I can remember numerous different conversations Coach Olson and I had that were tough to have but were necessary to help our team develop into a national championship level team. Overall, he has an uncommon commitment to challenge and aid his players to become the best players they can possibly be. He does all of this while also demonstrating a genuine love for his team and his players. One day I hope to be half the basketball coach he is.

Taylor Cockerill | Concordia career: 2017-present
When being recruited to play basketball at Concordia, Coach Olson’s understanding and passion for the game was apparent. He has always been easy to talk with and he truly cares about each of his players. Not only is he an amazing coach but is an even better person off the floor. The countless card games, competitive 1-on-1 games, and the daily fun battles are just a few of the memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I have learned so much from Olson and feel blessed to have won a National title while playing for him. It was a moment I will truly never forget. Thank you Coach for everything you have done for me and this program! Congratulations on 400 career wins!!

Philly Lammers | Concordia career: 2016-20
What makes Coach Olson successful? Well, the fact that he is a complete nerd when it comes to basketball probably helps. I don't know if there is anything about the game that he doesn't like. But the stats, figuring out how to motivate his players, and what needs to be tweaked to improve his team-- that he loves. He'll spend so much time analyzing games and thinking about his game plan, even if everything is seemingly going great at the time. His focus and drive to get better every day is something he not only teaches his team, but practices himself. That is something from my time at Concordia that continues to motivate me. Coach also always saw his players as people to get to know. He understood that we were all different, had different abilities and roles that we could fill. I think the fact that he cares about his team like a family lets him connect and understand his players, which gives him an insight to the game. He was always willing to take the time to talk or workout which showed me more than anything the importance of investing time into people and the importance of relationships. In all reality, there's really no way to concisely sum up four years of experiences and takeaways from Coach Olson. I know that I'll be drawing from my time at Concordia in many different situations and in many different ways whether I realize it at the time or not. And that the 4th key to success is always to have fun.

Quinn Wragge | Concordia career: 2015-19
He was a great coach to learn from, but an even better person to be around. He always challenged me to be better in every aspect of my life, but especially on the court. His dance moves were always a great reminder to not take yourself so seriously, haha!

I took a number of lessons from Olson during my time at Concordia, but here are some that still ring true in my life today! God, Family, School, Basketball. I still try to live my life according to these priorities! Olson was a coach who was constantly trying to improve and better himself. As I have started my own coaching career I realize what an important part of success this is for any team. I am lucky to have witnessed one of the best.

Leave people and things better than you found them – one of his famous expectations. It is one of my favorite things I took with me from Concordia. Huge congrats to Coach Olson on 400 wins, but I know many more are to come.