News Columns & Blogs

New Jay in Omaha

There are two ways to look at Greg McDermott, who will be introduced today as Creighton’s men’s basketball coach. Live streaming video here, if you’re that interested.

McDermott is the X and O wizard who revived Northern Iowa basketball after the disastrous Sam Weaver (30-57, 16-38 MVC) three-season run. He went to three straight NCAA Tournaments and built the foundation for the current Panther success under Ben Jacobson, his former assistant. Take a trip to Cedar Falls to understand the work involved. When McDermott started, UNI was a program with little success, located in a cold, out-of-way part of Iowa playing in front of sparse crowds in a dome at a school where football rules. It didn’t take long for McDermott to change things and now the Panthers have been to five NCAA Tournaments in seven seasons – a record basketball-savvy schools Wichita State, Bradley and Creighton envy.McDermott, as much as any person and more than most, profited from the MVC’s rise this decade. His Panther teams never seriously challenged for an MVC title, never won more than 12 conference games. When picked as preseason favorite in 2006, UNI went 11-7 in the MVC and finished in a tie for fifth. Yet, pulled along by the rest of the MVC and the willingness of Iowa and Iowa State to play in-state rivalries, UNI earned at-large bids in 2005 and 2006, both times over teams who finished ahead of it in the MVC standings. He turned all that into the Iowa State job. Now he is resetting the shot clock, as Doug Gottlieb would say, by moving to Creighton and escaping Iowa State.

There’s some validity in both views. Creighton, in my mind, made a good choice. McDermott’s teams always looked well-prepared and well-coached. His teams are a nightmare to prepare for because of their many plays and discipline and patience. If he can get UNI to three straight NCAAs, it’s quite possible he can do even better at Creighton with better resources and tradition. McDermott knows the MVC, knows the area and is a proven winner. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin can relax, because one of his marquee programs appears to be in good hands.

Creighton players are glad their AD worked fast.McDermott seems confident his son will join him in Omaha. Not so fast, says the UNI AD. I expect this to get worked out because both sides are reasonable. However, it’s an interesting situation. UNI coach Ben Jacobson, best buddies with McDermott or not, isn’t running a charity and can’t get walked over by his former boss. This adds a bit of zip to future CU-UNI games.Former Creighton coach Dana Altman wears the green.Former Wichita State assistant Tad Boyle may reunite with some other former Shockers in Colorado.