MBB: Coach finds new home

Former ISU basketball coach Greg McDermott pauses Tuesday during a news conference in Omaha, Neb. McDermott was introduced as Creighton University’s newest coach at the D.J. Sokol Arena. Photo: Chris Cuellar/Iowa State Daily

Chris Cuellar —

OMAHA, Neb. — Less than 24 hours after a team meeting at his Ames home, former Cyclone basketball coach Greg McDermott was introduced as the head coach at Creighton University.

Walking through a tunnel of cheerleaders and a mascot, donning a blue shirt and tie at the D.J. Sokol Arena on Creighton’s campus, McDermott appeared comfortable in front of a few hundred welcoming fans and Nebraska media members.

“I am so excited to be here,” McDermott said. “It was hard for me to leave. It was going to take a special situation for me to leave, and that’s what I think I’ve found here at Creighton.”

As gloomy as the ISU campus was Monday after discovering McDermott would depart, Creighton’s brick buildings were shining bright Tuesday for his arrival.

The contrasts don’t stop there, as the change of scenery will be thorough.

“So as I was debating this, and trying to decide, ‘Why is Creighton a good fit for Greg McDermott?’ What it really came down to were the core values that I was instilled with as a child by my parents,” McDermott said.

“Now, my core values are faith, family, and my team, and the university that I work for. I’m not sure there’s an institution anywhere that embodies that better than Creighton University.”

There are a few differences in the 165 miles that seperate the two jobs for the coach. Iowa State and Creighton’s mascots are both fowl — one red, one blue. Big 12 powers like Kansas and Texas will be replaced by Missouri Valley powers Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

But a major difference to accepting the offer from the downtown Omaha-based Jesuit Catholic school was the chance to coach his son Doug.

The Ames High senior was in attendance Tuesday in a Bluejays basketball shirt.

“Doug was really impressed with what he learned about the school with his visit. Doug has often said, ‘Dad, if I can’t play for you, I want to play for [UNI’s Ben Jacobson]’,” McDermott said. “As his dad, I can tell you that Doug is going to come play for me. He’s excited right now, but after the first practice he might think otherwise.”

Creighton Director of Athletics Bruce Rasmussen said he had followed McDermott since his time at Wayne State, and that the tall Iowan had always been on his short list of candidates.

“I’ve watched how he has conducted himself, how he handles his players — even though it appears that this has been a quick process, in reality, coach McDermott has been auditioning for this job for the last 20 years,” Rasmussen said.

McDermott’s last Missouri Valley job ended with three-straight NCAA tournament bids at Northern Iowa.

He faced four straight losing seasons at Iowa State, with player departures plaguing his tenure.

Creighton players met with McDermott on Tuesday, but he wanted to ensure the Bluejays that he felt great about their roster.

“I’ve just looked at his resume and met him, and he seemed really excited to be here. If he’s excited to be here, we’re excited to have him,” said Creighton’s freshman forward Ethan Wragge.

Iowa State fans had mixed emotions at McDermott’s departure from Ames, some citing his 59-68 overall record as reason to be glad, others insinuating he left the department a mess.

Throughout his 35 minutes in front of a podium on the gym floor, McDermott thanked Iowa State officials and fans, appreciating his experience but looking towards his next challenge.

“I’d like to thank Iowa State. I had a great group of players. The staff that I had there were close friends of mine. And the fans of Iowa State, they were great to me and my family while we were there,” McDermott said.

“Without question, my experience at Iowa State has made me a better person, and has made me a better coach.”

McDermott’s assistant of basketball operations and former UNI player Erik Crawford was also introduced as an assistant for his staff at Creighton.

The new coach said he would evaluate adding new members to his staff from Iowa State or from within at Creighton.