MBB: McDermott departs for Creighton

Former ISU men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott faces the media after losing to Duke. McDermott took the coaching job at Creighton on Monday. File Photo: Chris Cuellar/Iowa State Daily

Chris Cuellar —

After days of speculation, hours of rumors and a single team meeting, the Greg McDermott era has ended for ISU basketball.

Announced Monday afternoon, McDermott accepted an offer to become the head coach at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed by Creighton, a private institution, but reports from the Omaha World-Herald said it would be for 10 years for a total of $9 million. Iowa State’s contract with McDermott included an $800,000 buyout if another school pulled the coach away before 2015.

Holding a 59-68 record overall — just 18-46 in Big 12 play — McDermott’s clubs struggled against the top competition Iowa State faced throughout the schedule. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard gave the coach a vote of confidence on March 8, giving McDermott more time to work through his fourth consecutive losing season. Pollard’s news conference appearance came just two days after the Cyclones defeated then-No. 5 Kansas State, pushing McDermott’s record against top 25 competition to 1-20.

Creighton coach Dana Altman left the job he held for 16 years for Oregon on Sunday, and McDermott accepted the university’s offer in just one day.

“I know this was a very difficult decision for Greg and his family,” Pollard said in a news release.

“The contract terms that Creighton offered him and an opportunity to coach his son were significant factors in his decision. We wish Greg the best of luck at Creighton.”

Also departing with McDermott is assistant director of basketball operations Erik Crawford. A graduate of Northern Iowa in 2006, Crawford played for McDermott’s NCAA tournament teams and joined him as an assistant once he hung up his jersey. McDermott’s son Doug was a member of Ames High School’s state championship team and had committed to his father’s old school, Northern Iowa. The Panthers are coached by Ben Jacobson, McDermott’s best friend and former assistant, and a Missouri Valley school that knocked off top-seed Kansas in this year’s NCAA tournament. Both McDermotts will move back to the Missouri Valley, just a bit farther west to the Qwest Center. Opened in 2003, the Qwest Center seats more than 17,000 fans for basketball.

McDermott’s departure is just another step in the tumultuous year of the Cyclones. Numerous player departures and injuries contributed to a 15-17 season for 2009-10, and the staff was forced to hire two assistant coaches within the past week. Nick Nurse, formerly the head coach of the NBA Developmental League’s Iowa Energy, was hired Thursday, and Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer, Jeff Grayer, was added Friday.

Roster size isn’t always a great barometer of team depth, but, in the Cyclones’ case, having only five scholarship players remaining isn’t a positive sign. For now, the players are trying to absorb what just happened.

“Well, I think everybody was just taken aback, because it happened so abruptly and so quickly, but it’s just something that we have to deal with. We’ve gotta move on,” said senior guard Charles Boozer.

Boozer was injured in January, just one game removed from a career high 19-point game. He said McDermott’s decision won’t change his stay in cardinal and gold, and he has every intent of returning healthy next season.

“I think everybody is shocked by the whole thing, and we’re going to take a couple days off to evaluate our life goals and see what’s next for each individual,” Boozer said. “My goals are still to just to bring Hilton Magic back, that won’t change now.”

Four newcomers have signed on to play for Iowa State next season, and two more current players will come off of their redshirt season to suit up. The impact they will have on the floor remains to be seen, but they will undoubtedly be important pieces to the roster puzzle as the off-season progresses.

Boozer and starting point guard Diante Garrett are the only players still on the roster from McDermott’s team in 2007-08, with roster overhauls nearly every season. The 2009-10 campaign was the only season in which the coach returned his top scorer from the previous season, with Craig Brackins turning away an NBA opportunity for his junior year.

The athletics department, fielded rumors all day Monday. The hiring is a major shake-up in the traditional job chain, as McDermott is moving from the Big 12, considered a “power six” school, to the “mid-major” Missouri Valley Conference.

The athletic department stopped allowing players to speak with the media after a few quotes slipped out in the morning, and Pollard said he would have no other comment after his news release. Pollard also said that his “immediate attention is focused on finding a replacement.”

Director of basketball operations Jeff Rutter was just given his title this month, and was an assistant under McDermott in Cedar Falls from 2003-06. T.J. Otzelberger, a 32-year-old entering his fifth year with Iowa State, is the only returning assistant coach.

“T.J. was one of the main reasons I wanted  to go there,” said ISU commit Melvin Ejim. “So not knowing who the head coach is kinda makes me have second thoughts, but if T.J. is new head coach or is there, I’ll be there. But, if not, I may have to open my recruitment again.”

While McDermott achieved three consecutive NCAA tournament bids out of the Valley at the tail of his five years at Northern Iowa, the same success never arrived to Ames. The Cyclones’ last tournament bid was the 2004-05 season with Curtis Stinson and Jared Homan leading the team.

Creighton has scheduled a news conference for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the D.J. Sokol Arena in downtown Omaha. The public has been invited to attend.