One of the teams to watch in the upcoming NCAA tournament are the Creighton Bluejays, who on Sunday won the MVC tournament to wrap up an automatic bid. CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, talking with McDermott about his time as a player and a head coach.
Jon Teitel: As a 6'8" high school player in Iowa you were fourth team all-state and MVP of the 1983 Dr. Pepper All-Star game. How good a player were you back then?
Greg McDermott: I played at a smaller school and had a great high school coach, and the combination of those two things blended together very well for me.
JT: You went to college at Northern Iowa, where you shot over 60% from the field during your senior year. Why did you choose to attend UNI, and what is your secret for being a good shooter?
GM: I chose UNI due to its proximity to home, which allowed my family to come watch me play. To be honest it was one of the only schools that wanted me at the time. I played center so a lot of my shots were close to the basket, and I had a good shot selection.
JT: After graduation you played one year in Switzerland. What did you learn from this experience, and how did it compare to college basketball?
GM: It was unbelievable: they play quality basketball over there. My wife and I got married one month before we moved so it was great for both of us. You are only allowed to have one foreign player on each team so it was really educational to have teammates who spoke a different language.
JT: In 2000 you left Wayne State to become coach at North Dakota State, but after one year there you left to become coach at UNI. How did it feel to be at three different schools in a three-year span, and what did it mean to you to become coach at your alma mater?
GM: My intention was not to leave North Dakota State after only one year, but any coach would love the opportunity to coach at his alma mater. I had a wonderful five years at UNI.
JT: What are your memories of the 2004 NCAA tournament (David Gruber scored 16 points in a five-point loss to eventual national runner-up Georgia Tech)?
GM: My memory is that we were five points short in all three of our tourney games! We took the lead in the second half but did not have enough firepower in the end. We were very competitive against a team that made it to the title game.
JT: What are your memories of the 2005 NCAA tournament (Ben Jacobson scored 20 points in a five-point loss to Wisconsin)?
GM: It was a grind-it-out game so baskets were very hard to come by. Wisconsin started off shooting extremely well. We focused on their big men in the paint but their guards made us pay.
JT: What are your memories of the 2006 NCAA tournament (reserve guard John Little scored 17 points in a five-point loss to Georgetown)?
GM: We controlled the first half and were up at halftime thanks to John having a career night, and it was yet another game that went down to the final minutes.
JT: In 2006 you became coach at Iowa State. Was it hard to leave UNI, and do you have any regrets?
GM: It was very difficult to leave but I am not the kind of guy who looks in the rear view mirror: I try to always be looking ahead. I learned a lot during my time at UNI, met a lot of wonderful people and coached some great players.
JT: In 2010 you resigned to become coach at Creighton. What are your expectations?
GM: At Creighton your expectations are to compete for a championship, so we are just trying to get our offense and defense in place so that we can do what we want to do.
JT: What do you hope to do in the future, and how do you want to be remembered the most?
GM: I hope we can build on the tradition of success that Dana Altman established, as he did an incredible job here.