Feb. 7, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
It was early last spring, April 25 to be exact, and Doug McDermott had a decision to make. It was one he had wrestled with for some time and it was decision day in the McDermott household.
On one hand there was his childhood dream to fulfill and NBA riches to be had. Perhaps it was time to live the dream. But on the other hand something stronger than the pull of professional sports still had its hold on McDermott. Something that he just wasn't ready to give up. Something that came without a price tag.
There was one more season he could play for his dad, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott. And, oh yeah, a shot at making a splash in a new league - the BIG EAST. Suddenly the decision wasn't that difficult to make.
"I'd say it was a combination of both," Doug McDermott said. "Those were two pretty good opportunities not to pass up. The NBA is one thing, it's definitely been a dream of mine since I've been little. But this is kind of a dream itself, me playing for my dad for another year in college and to go to places like the Garden and the BIG EAST Tournament and traveling to different cities all played a big part in it."
Yes, the NBA's temporary loss was certainly college basketball's gain.
It's been quite a magical run for the McDermotts. As father Greg has piled up 99 wins in three-plus seasons as the head Bluejay, not to mention a pair of NCAA Tournament victories and a pair of Missouri Valley Conference Tournament titles, Doug McDermott has been busy picking up back-to-back MVC Player of the Year honors and a pair of tournament MVP awards all while rocketing up the NCAA's All-Time Scoring Leader board.
"It's been incredible," said Doug McDermott, who currently sits in 17th place on the all-time scoring list with 2,773 points. "I don't think we ever imagined it would be as great as it's been. But looking down the road I think we'll see how really cool it's been being around my family the last four years."
But it's a story that may never have happened had it not been for Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson. Doug McDermott had originally committed to play at UNI for Jacobson but after Greg, then at Iowa State, was offered and accepted the Creighton head coach position - a team that played in the same Missouri Valley Conference as Northern Iowa - Doug had second thoughts and wanted to play for his father. Jacobson, to his credit, did not stand in the way.
"Doug figured that if he was going to be playing in the Missouri Valley Conference and I was coaching in that league then he wanted to play for me," Greg McDermott said. "So we made a call to Coach Jacobson at Northern Iowa and he gave his blessing and the rest is history."
Success has been a constant for the McDermotts. But it's the fact that the two have been able to share in all the successes that has made the past three-plus years so memorable for father and son.
"It's different having your dad as your head coach but because of the success I've had the last couple of years it means even more to me because he gets to be part of it too," Doug McDermott said.
"No question," Greg McDermott said. "I probably only had the opportunity to see half of his games in high school and he had a terrific high school career. But because of my job and my schedule it was just too difficult to get to as many games as I'd like to. So for me to be able to be part of Doug's career as his coach has been a treat. In a lot of ways it's hard to believe because I've seen it from the beginning and watched him as a player and all the work that he's put in to get to this stage. It's been an incredible journey, it's been very enjoyable but it's come as a result of a lot of hard work by Doug and a lot of dedication."
After accomplishing all they could while in the Missouri Valley Conference, the McDermotts are enjoying Creighton's first foray into the BIG EAST this season, a move the two say just enhances what has already been a special time in their lives.
Another first for the McDermotts will come Sunday night when the two will make their first ever visit to Madison Square Garden when the Bluejays take on a surging St. John's team. Just another item to check off on their basketball bucket lists. "I think every coach and every player just has tremendous respect for the tradition that the Garden holds," Greg McDermott said. "So for us to be able to go there together in Doug's senior year it's something that we'll never forget. Hopefully we can end up with a good result but St. John's will have something to say about that. But it will be another thing that we can add to the story that has been this last four years - to be able to visit one of the more storied basketball arenas in the country."
It's a visit Doug McDermott has had mentally circled on his calendar since the season's start.
"We're really looking forward to it," Doug McDermott said. "Neither of us has ever been there so it's going to be really cool. It's the Mecca of basketball. I think if you ask anyone where they'd like to play it would be Madison Square Garden. Having a chance to walk out on that floor will be really something to remember."
With eight regular-season BIG EAST games remaining, followed by the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournaments, Doug McDermott has a chance to move join a special few in college basketball history - those who have scored 3,000 or more points in a career. And while he has no shot at unseating former LSU star Pete Maravich as college hoops' scoring king (Pistol ended his career with 3,667 points), he could join Maravich, Freeman Williams (Portland State) , Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Alphonso Ford (Mississippi Valley State), Harry Kelly (Texas Southern), Keydren Clarke (St. Peter's), and Hersey Hawkins (Bradley) in the exclusive 3,000-point club. Passing Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson along the way only adds to the accomplishment.
"It is surreal," Doug McDermott said. "You don't think about it much now but I think it would be really cool when I'm older to say I passed a lot of those guys. But I'm more worried about winning games and trying to win a BIG EAST title. What we do as a team means more than what I do individually when all is said and done."
As the calendar flipped to February, both Greg and Doug McDermott know their time together as college basketball's first family is nearing the end of its run, even as each tries not to think about it.
"To not only see your son grow as a player but grow as a person during his college years has been incredible," Greg McDermott said. "Most parents don't get an opportunity to see their children once they go off to college except maybe three or four times a year. But I've been blessed to be with Doug just about every day. It's gone by unbelievably fast. It's really hard to believe that it's almost over. I'm just trying to enjoy every second so rather than worry about what it's going to be like when it's over, I want to make sure I enjoy every second of it."
But there's still work ahead for the McDermotts. Greg McDermott is one win shy of his 100th career victory with the Bluejays. Doug has his sights set on grabbing a BIG EAST Player of the Year award before he heads out the door, one to add to his two Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year accolades. And there is the goal of snatching a BIG EAST regular-season and tournament title in their first season in the conference. Still plenty to accomplish and to keep them busy over the next two months. Plenty to keep them from realizing their time together is getting shorter with each passing day.
"I don't normally look at our schedule much but I did the other day and saw we only have like three or four more home games and that's really hard to believe," Doug McDermott said. "I felt like it was never going to end but it is going to end and pretty soon so we got to make the most of it every day, going to practice and being around each other because we're going to miss this one day. It's been an unbelievable run."
So how would Greg McDermott like to see the final chapters of his story with Doug written?
"Obviously you'd like to end with a win but there's only one way to do that," Greg McDermott said. "But the journey has been what's spectacular and it won't be any particular point in time during that journey that I will take with me. It will be the culmination of four great years, coaching at a great place with a group of fans that really loves our team.
"And getting to spend that journey with my son, that's what I'll remember."