Greg McDermott Press Conference Tuesday, April 27, 2010 D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center Omaha, Neb.
Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen: “Thank you. I’d like to welcome you all for being here. I apologize a little bit. My computer crashed this morning. I hope that’s not a sign, so I’m going from hand-written notes, which probably isn’t very good. I know you’re not here to hear me, and yet there are a couple of things I need to say. First of all I want to thank Fr. Schlegel for his assistance in the process. He’s been absolutely awesome. Thank you very much, Father.
“This is obviously a bittersweet time for many. I am truly excited for coach Altman. He did not get the job at Oregon, he earned the job at Oregon. And I’m very excited for him to be at an outstanding school in an outstanding conference. I congratulate him and wish him continued success. Coach, his staff and his student-athletes continuously did a great job of representing themselves, their program, the University and the community and we wish them nothing but the best. In truth they did a great job of modeling the mission of Creighton University. No matter what we try to accomplish in athletics or accomplish in athletics, nothing that we ever do will meet up with the mission of Creighton University or what Creighton is accomplishing with its’ mission.
“I’ve been asked what I was looking for in a head coach. As a first priority, I wanted a head coach with documented success as a head coach, at the Division I level, with experience at the Division I level at the level at which we aspire to compete. That’s to be a nationally-relevant program in men’s basketball. I wanted someone who understood Creighton, who understood the MIssouri Valley Conference, who understood the Midwest, and who understood what it was to be the head of a major college basketball program in this country. I wanted someone with great passion for the game. Great intelligence in teaching the game, and great character. And great character was of critical importance to me. I wanted someone who was a great family man, and understood the emotions that these young men and their parents feel. I know how much Greg loves his wife Theresa and his kids Nick, Doug and Sydney, and that was very important to me. I wanted someone who was a great teacher and who had demonstrated the ability to develop players individually or as a group. And I am confident as you get to know coach McDermott, you will see that he is an absolutely perfect fit for that vision.
“Many people will wonder how we went through the process of identifying and hiring a coach so quickly. First of all, we could not have done it without the great cooperation of Fr. Schlegel. I would tell you that the quickness is only an illusion. And I hear that a lot when people talk about my quickness...that it is only an illusion.
“But I think one of the responsibilities of an athletic director is to always have a list of potential candidates for any of your head coaches. And while we have been blessed for the last 16 years to have one head coach, we have also been I think in a blessed position of having a head coach who was wanted by others.
“I think you can put coaches generally in three categories. Coaches that other people aren’t interested in. We don’t exactly like that category. Coaches that others are interested in and they leave. Or coaches that others continue to be interested in, and yet they stay at Creighton. And for the last 16 years we’ve had that situation. However, we’ve also had a situation where our coach has been interested in other jobs, has been a candidate for other jobs, and so for the last 15 years I have had a list of potential candidates for coaching men’s basketball at Creighton University. Now that list has changed on-and-off over the years, but there is one name that has always been on that list.
“And, so in reality, while you say it’s been a short process in terms of identifying and selecting a coach, in reality that’s not the truth. As I have watched basketball and observed coaches, I have observed those on my private list. I’ve watched them coach. I’ve watched how they interact with their players, with officials, with their boosters. I’ve watched how they’ve recruited. I’ve watched how they’ve taught the game. I’ve watched how they’ve conducted themselves.
“So in reality, there’s probably been a hundred or so coaches that have been continually been interviewing for the job at Creighton University.
“I’ve known coach McDermott. First of all, I’m a University (of Northern Iowa) alumni grad, so I pay particular attention to UNI. He was a very successful player at Northern Iowa. I’ve followed his basketball career.
“I first watched him coach when he was the head coach at Wayne State in Nebraska. Very successfully ran that program. Very-highly thought of, not only by the Wayne State people by the coaches in the state. He had great credibility. And with a lot of people who certainly are supporters of Creighton but also were supporters of Wayne State.
“I watched him develop a very strong program at Northern Iowa. A very successful program at Northern Iowa and I watched how he conducted himself and how he dealt with players. The value and how important Northern Iowa was to him. The community was to him. And especially his student-athletes were to him.
“And then I’ve watched him work very hard to develop a successful program at Iowa State.
“So that even though it appears that this has been a quick process, in reality coach McDermott has been interviewing for this job for the last 20 years.
“I am very proud to introduce to you today, the 16th head men’s basketball coach in the history of Creighton basketball, coach Greg McDermott.”
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott: “Thank you. Maybe Bruce thought he was hiring a point guard the way this microphone was.
“I’ve never had any applause for me in this town before, so that’s kind of nice. That’s enjoyable. I am so excited to be here.
“Before I get into some thank you’s, I’ve got to tell you a little story.
“Mike West, who is over here who is in the athletic department. Sixteen years ago this month, I took the head coaching job at Wayne State College. Went through the interview process. And like us coaches always do, because usually our kids are in school, we leave our family behind and we go to start our job.
“One of the first people I met when I started to work at Wayne State College was Mike West. He was completing his last two weeks at Wayne State, while I was completing my first two weeks at Wayne State without my wife and without my family. So I think you can start to fill in the blanks as to what happened during that two weeks.
“Mike and I spent a lot of time together, mostly at night, mostly telling stories, and it was his last day in town. And I looked at him and I said ‘I am so glad you are leaving.’
“And he said ‘Why is that?’
“And I said ‘My wife wouldn’t like you very much.’
“And so last night I roll into town at 10 o’clock at night. I walk into the lobby of the Hilton, and who is the first person I see?
“It’s amazing how things work out and I’m really, really excited and happy to be back in the state of Nebraska. There’s a lot of my friends here from Wayne that drove down today. I had a great experience when I was at Wayne State College and I look forward to moving back to the state.
“I’d like to thank Father and Bruce. Bruce may not have think the process was short. I thought the process was short. Saturday night was the first time we talked and it really went forward in a hurry from there. But, like Bruce, who has known me over the years, I also have great respect for him.
“Rick Hartzell, who I worked for at Northern Iowa, was a good friend of Bruce’s while he was the AD at UNI. Spoke very highly of him. Dana Altman and I are good friends, and I’ve learned from Dana just what a special situation he had here because of his relationship with Bruce and the great job the he does with the athletic department here.
“So I’d like to thank both of you for this opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited.
“My parents couldn’t be here today. They still live over in Eastern Iowa. I think you are as a person in large part because of the people that you are around and the people that you value and the people that teach you how to act, and that started certainly with my parents.
“I’ve learned a great deal from Pete Chapman, the late Pete Chapman, who hired me at Wayne State College. From Rick Hartzell at Northern Iowa and then Jamie Pollard at Iowa State. He was a great mentor to me and a great friend and I can’t thank those gentleman enough for everything that they’ve done for me.
“I’d also like to thank the people at Iowa State. I had a great group of players. The staff that I had there are very close friends of mine. My co-workers there, coach Fennelly in particular, is one of my best friends in the world.
“And the fans of Iowa State. They were great to me and my family while I was there, and it was hard to leave. I’m a native Iowan. Obviously it’s a dream come true for a native Iowan to coach at one of the state universities, and I got the opportunity to coach at two of the three state universities in the state. So it was hard for me to leave and it was going to take a special situation for me to leave, and that what I think I’ve found here at Creighton.
“I’d like to introduce Erik Crawford and his family. His wife Nicole, his daughter Mya, and his son Trey. Erik played for me at Northern Iowa, was a great player on those teams I had there, was on my staff at Iowa State, and he will be joining me here at Creighton. I think the guys as they get to know him are really going to enjoy what he can bring to our program.
“My family has been a rock for me. Theresa and I have been through a lot together and she’s followed every move that I’ve asked her to make during my coaching career. The boys have bounced around a lot. This is Sydney’s first big move. Sydney got to take part in her first family meeting on Sunday night where we felt she was old enough that her opinion needed to be heard before we made this decision.
“But as Bruce said, my family is very important to me. They’ve been very supportive of me throughout my career. Those people who know me, who are my best friends, say the best part about me is my wife, and I think you’ll learn that soon as well. She’s the head coach in our house. She does a terrific job and I appreciate everything that you’ve done.
“So as I was debating this and trying to decide why is Creighton a good fit for Greg McDermott, I think what it really came down to is the core values I was taught as a child by my parents and in our household. It was faith, family and farm, at that time. Our faith was very important to us. Our family was very important to us. I have four brothers and we grew up on a farm in Eastern Iowa. And then the next thing that came was our farm. That was our livelihood. We all pitched in to make that as successful as possible. And now my core values are faith, family and my team and the University that I work for.
“And I’m not sure there’s an institution anywhere that embodies that better than Creighton University. I think Omaha is a great fit for my family. The fact that I’ve spent some time in the state of Nebraska...we spent a lot of time in Omaha. We know we can be happy here and we hope to contribute to this community and try to make it a better place if we possibly can.
“The other thing that I got to experience, and I’m not sure all of you know this, but my son Doug was recruited by Creighton. Creighton was one of his three final choices...the three official visits that he decided to make. So we got to get an inside look at the University through the athletic department’s eyes and through the coach’s eyes during Doug’s recruiting process.
“And I took an unofficial visit here in August with Doug and Doug spent some time on campus with some of the guys. Bruce and Dana were kind enough to take me out to play golf. And somehow I gave them both strokes and they both beat me scratch. Not a very good recruiting tactic, but I’ll know better next time, that’s for sure.
“But Doug was really impressed with what he learned about the school with his visit. Theresa came back in September for an official visit, and it was a really difficult decision for Doug as to where he was going to decide to go. The bottom line was at that time, coach Jacobson at Northern Iowa was one of my best friends. He is my daughter Sydney’s godfather. I coached coach Jacobson at North Dakota. He worked with me at North Dakota State. He worked with me at Northern Iowa. Theresa and his wife, Dawn, are best friends, so it was really difficult at that time for Doug to say no to coach Jacobson.
“But Doug has often said, ‘Dad, if I can’t play for you, I want to play for coach Jake.’ And now that Doug can play for me, I’m happy to report I can’t say as Creighton’s coach that he’s going to play for me, but as his Dad I can tell you that Doug is going to play at Creighton.
“He’s excited about it right now. After that first practice he might think otherwise.
“During the recruiting process, we were so impressed with the people of Creighton. Everywhere we turned, everyone we met across campus went out of their way to make us feel welcome and answer the questions that we had. That’s the type of environment that I want to be part of.
“This is just an unbelievable opportunity for me. We’re at a place that offers a first-class education and has one of the best fan bases anywhere in the United States. I know that first-hand from having played here. Those six or seven guys that sat right behind the opposing coaches bench. You know, they were in college and that was five or six years ago, but based on what they were doing at the games I’m guessing they still might be in college, somewhere...(laughter)...and I hope they’re saying the same things to opposing coaches next year that they were four or five years ago because those guys were having a good time.
“The Qwest Center. I coached in the Big 12 the last four years and there is no venue to play college basketball better in the United States than the Qwest Center. A lot of it has to do with number one, it’s a beautiful facility. Number two, the people that show up there and support their team with enthusiasm, with the great knowledge of the game, it’s become a very difficult place to play and we intend to make it even a more difficult place to play.
“And then there’s the commitment here. As I talked with Bruce about building and maintaining a program that can earn championships. If you’re going to earn championships, you’re going to be in the NCAA Tournament. As we saw this year with Butler, when you get to the NCAA Tournament, anything can happen. And really, that’s our goal. We’re here to win championships. We’re going to push these guys as hard as we can, but do it in the right way, in a respectful way, to try to get them to reach their full potential on the basketball floor while trying to reach their full potential in the classroom as well.
“I’ve got great respect for Doug Elgin and his staff at the Missouri Valley Conference. Doug and I became very close during my time at Northern Iowa. We’ve maintained that friendship from a distance the last four years. I talked with him yesterday. Had some questions for him. Just really excited to be back and be part of the Missouri Valley. I think it’s a great league. It’s a league where the teams truly care about each other and the decisions that are made are in the best interests of the league. Sometimes you have to put your own individual goals and priorities aside for what’s best for the league. I always felt that that’s why this league was able to develop during my time at Northern Iowa so much to the point where we had three teams in the NCAA Tournament. Because we were really fighting for one another. We were making decisions that were in the best interests of the league, and I’m confident that that’s going to continue.
“When I took the Wayne State job 14 years ago, they were coming off a season where they were 7-20. When I took the Northern Iowa job, they had just finished a season where they were 7-24. Those two jobs were truly rebuilding jobs.
“This one is not. Coach Altman has done an unbelievable job here during his tenure building this program to the level that it is. I understand that there are huge shoes to fill, because of not only what he meant to this university and this basketball program, but how he was thought of in this community. I take that responsibility very seriously.
“This isn’t a rebuilding job, this is a retooling job. We need to tweak some things. We need to maybe put our stamp on it. But these guys understand what it takes to compete for championships, and we’re going to try to pick up right where coach Altman left off. Our recruiting is going to start at home and we’ll branch out from there.
“I know some of my best teams at Northern Iowa had a lot of guys from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and then you have to go find those players from out of our region that can really be difference-makers. I think the current roster here has a good blend of that, of guys that are local, that really are excited to be at Creighton, and are guys that have come from a long ways from home because when they visited here, they saw what my son saw when he visited here, that this is a special place.
“I’ve had an opportunity, not as much as I would like the last few days, to just watch a little film of last year’s team. I’m really impressed and excited about the core group of guys that returns to this team. I think there were eight or nine players that played significant minutes last year, and that’s a great place to start. We’ve got a couple of incoming recruits that I think can have an impact right away and are excited to be on board, and we’ll contact them tonight to make sure that’s the case.
“I can’t wait to work with this group. I think it’s a special group. I had an opportunity two years ago when Dana brought the team over to Iowa State for a closed scrimmage in November. So a lot of these guys that are now sophomores this year, juniors this year, were young players on that team and we spent about 3 1/2 hours in the gym that day, so I got a good feel for what they’re capable of. After watching the tape yesterday, it’s obvious to me how much they’ve improved, the strides that they’ve made and hopefully they are hungry to continue that progress.
“When I think of Creighton basketball, for me, I was able to admire what Dana did from afar when I was coaching at Wayne State when he had Ryan Sears, had Ben Walker. I saw it first-hand when he had Nate Funk and he had Kyle Korver, I was playing against those teams. That was a special time in Creighton basketball and we have to get back to those times. Because when I took the Northern Iowa job, the Creighton program was the benchmark for every other program in the league to follow.
“When us coaches, when coach Altman wasn’t around, would talk, we would talk about how are we going to get our program to where Creighton is? What changes do we have to make to get where Creighton is with their program. And frankly I had a lot of those conversations with Rick Hartzell when I was working with him. If we’re going to compete with Creighton, here’s the things we have to do improve our program to the level of program that their’s is. This program, this university, is really a benchmark for all to follow and we have to keep it there and try to take it to another level if we can. And we’re certainly going to do everything we can to try to keep making sure that those guys that have played here in the past are engaged with the team’s that we’re coaching here now. They’re a big part of Creighton basketball and I will do everything I can to make sure that they always feel that way.
“I really look forward. I got to meet a couple of people this morning as I walked through the athletic office and I walked around campus. I’m one of those coaches that’s kind of a sports junkie, so I like to go and watch other teams play. I’m looking forward to meeting the other coaches on the staff and the rest of the sports at Creighton. And I really can’t wait to get working with the team. I know this is their last week of classes before finals, so I’m going to spend most of my time here in the next seven or eight days before they take off for a little while developing a relationship with them, getting to know them, and getting them to understand that having a successful program is about trust. It’s about trust between teammates. It’s trust amongst coaches. It’s trust from coaches to team members. And it’s the team members being able to trust the coach. Trust is build over time. It’s built as you develop relationships. And that’s what we’re going to start this week. Our priority is let’s finish strong in the classroom and let’s get to know each other. And that’s where we’ll spend the majority of our time in this coming week. And we’ll be committed to representing ourselves, our basketball program, Creighton University, the Omaha community, the state of Nebraska, in a first-class manner. We’ll work high to reach our potential on the basketball floor. I think when you leave the game, you will feel like you’ve watched a team that left it all on the floor, and that’s really what we’re after.
“And at the same time, when I left Northern Iowa, I didn’t know anything about this new NCAA rule called the APR. When I got to Iowa State, I became an expert, because of some of the problems we had there during the transition. So now coaches across the country call me with APR questions. But I’m very committed to helping our guys understand the value of education. The importance of the discipline it takes to earn your education, and what a proud moment that is for everybody involved when they walk across that stage and they earn their degree. That’s what we’re going to be after. As we seek to become champions on the floor, we’re going to attempt to do the same thing in the classroom.
“I’d be happy to answer a few questions, I think that’s what Rob wants me to do.”
Creighton Sports Information Director Rob Anderson: “We’ll have microphone holders on each side, just raise your hand and we’ll come over to you. If you could identify your name and affiliation, that’d be great. Anybody with a question?”
Ross Jernstrom (WOWT Sports): “Coach, Ross Jernstrom from Channel 6 here in Omaha. When did you get offered the job and how long did it take you to accept it?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “Bruce and I first talked about the job on Saturday night. We met on Sunday afternoon and I was offered the job at that time. And then I accepted it yesterday afternoon.”
Eric Olson (Associated Press): “Eric Olson with the Associated Press. You mentioned Butler and I’m just kind of curious. You’ve been away in the Big 12. Now that you’re back at the so-called mid-major level in The Valley, how have things changed at the mid-major level since you last were here and how Butler really fits into the model of what you aspire to?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “I think what’s changed is the playing field has certainly leveled off. Part of that is because there are so many young people that are playing AAU basketball now, that wasn’t necessarily the case 10 years ago. Ten years ago they were playing in the summertime but they weren’t playing in the spring and in the fall like they are now. What’s happened is there aren’t any secrets anymore, and the BCS conferences can only take so many guys, and the next guy is pretty doggone good. I think that’s what we found out when we watched Butler. Very talented team, very complete team. And if you can defend and you can rebound and you can shoot it a little bit, you can play with anybody. I just think there’s never been a great difference between the Missouri Valley and a lot of the schools in the BCS, especially the upper-echelon of The Valley, but I think we’re in a special situation here where we can attract kids that are looking at BCS schools because of our location, because of our facilities, because it’s such a quality education. And then once they get here and find out how wonderful the people are, that gives you the opportunity to maybe land someone that’s being recruited by BCS schools.
Shawn Terrell (WHO-TV): “Shawn Terrell, WHO-TV. Greg, you said Doug will be following you here. What was the phone conversation like to call Jake and to clear that with him?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “First of all, I’d like to thank my friends from Iowa that were in my driveway yesterday afternoon for making the trip to Omaha. You could have just jumped in the car with me if you would have liked. You know, as I mentioned, coach Jake and I are great friends. I’ve talked to coach Jake. Doug has talked to coach Jake. He was 100 percent in support of Doug having the opportunity to play for me. Now there’s a process we have to go through. He has to be released from the national letter-of-intent and from the conference letter. So, until that’s completed, we really can’t comment on it beyond that. What I will say is that I’m confident that that won’t be a problem because coach Jacobson has been so willing to make it happen.”
Matt Perrault (Rivals.com/KXNO): “Matt Perrault, Rivals.com. I guess fans want to know the style of play that you will bring. They’ve watched your teams at Iowa State but coming to Creighton, what type of style will you bring?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “It depends on the personnel. I think the personnel that we return is a team like they did this year that can put some pressure on people, can play on the full-court some defensively, certainly can play in the full-court offensively with some of the quickness and speed of the guard court. There’s some big people that can really run and there’s some guys that can really shoot the three-point shot. I think because of that we can be really creative in the way that we play. I think there’s a lot of mismatches to be had because of the versatility of a lot of guys on the roster. Every coach is going to determine how he’s going to play once he gets to know his team a little bit better. You know there’s a couple of my teams at Iowa State where we had to play slow because of a lack of depth, and we averaged in the low 60’s. But this year we averaged 73 or 74 points per game because our roster was built for that better. I think with the athletic ability from what I’ve seen on film and what I witnessed a couple years ago when we scrimmaged these guys, that we’ll be able to play at a pretty fast pace and an exciting pace.”
Chris Cuellar (Iowa State Daily): “Chris Cuellar, Iowa State Daily. Could you tell me a little bit about some of the things you learned at Iowa State that can help you here at Creighton?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “Without question, my experience at Iowa State has made me a better person. It’s made me a better coach. My relationship with Jamie Pollard and Bill Fennelly, in particular, the friendship that I’ve forged with them and the things that they’ve taught me on and off the floor, are invaluable. We faced some adversity at Iowa State. There were a lot of things that it seemed for a while whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. You have to find a way to get yourself up in the morning and get back to work and look ahead instead of look back. That can be difficult to do at times. Fortunately for me, I had a support system in particular with Jamie and Bill and within the last year coach Rhoads, people that have been there done that and can help you through those times. Our family wouldn’t trade our experience in Ames for anything. We’ve made some life-long friends there and for that reason it was very difficult to leave.”
Dirk Chatelain (Omaha World-Herald): “Coach, Dirk Chatelain with the Omaha World-Herald. You’ve kind of circled this program for a long time now. From Wayne State to UNI to Iowa State. Did you, and have obviously followed it pretty closely, did you envision a scenario or talk with your family about a scenario in which you might coach here someday?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “You know, I don’t know how many years ago this was. Six, seven maybe. We’d just got beat in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, I think it was Erik’s junior year. It was our second NCAA Tournament team, the first at-large team. And we got upset in the first round and I was mulling around after the game not feeling very happy and Bruce came up to talk to me. And we had a great conversation and as part of that conversation Bruce told me ‘I just want you to know Greg, if Dana ever leaves Creighton, I don’t care where you’re coaching, you’re going to be my first call.’ And I just kind of passed it off as, thanks Bruce, we just got our tail kicked and I know you’re trying to make me feel better, Creighton’s going to win another conference tournament championship. Alright, go do what you’ve got to do. But when we talked Saturday night, one of the first things he said is that ‘I told you you’d be my first call.’ So in the back of my mind because of the respect I have for Bruce, I always thought it might be a possibility if Dana were to look at another opportunity, but as Bruce said, it tells you what a special place Creighton is that a coach and a person the caliber of Dana Altman would choose to stay here 16 years. And a lot of that has to do with you folks and certainly a lot of that credit goes to Bruce and the relationship and the work that he does to have the basketball program be at a championship level.”
Terry Leahy (KOZN): “Coach, Terry Leahy from 1620 The Zone here in Omaha. Any ideas on firming up an immediate coaching staff, assistants, that sort of thing yet?”
Creighton Men’s Basketball Head Coach Greg McDermott: “A couple of my staff members back at Iowa State are still in limbo as to what’s going on back there. I think they’ll make decisions in the next 24 hours. All I know as of right now is that Erik will be on my staff in some capacity. Also going to talk to a couple members of the current staff.