Doug McDermott is in comfort zone at Creighton
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sometimes in life, things just fit perfectly.
Greg McDermott and Creighton? They fit perfectly.
The 58-year-old coach of No. 6 seed Creighton, which plays No. 5 seed San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament South Region final on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center for the school’s first-ever Final Four berth, is a simple man, which is not to denigrate his intelligence.
McDermott, who has coached at Creighton since 2010, is happy doing what he’s doing and where he’s doing it. In a college basketball world littered with coaches who self-promote with more vigor than they recruit, McDermott is the furthest from that guy.
Because of that, he’s one of the most overlooked and underrated coaches in college basketball. And you know what? He doesn’t care.
Underrated and overlooked suits him. In fact, he uses it as one of the weapons in his coaching arsenal.
“I do think he’s underrated,’’ McDermott’s son, Doug, who plays for the NBA’s Spurs, told The Post by phone Saturday. “But at the same time, this is the way he likes it. He likes being the underdog, and I think his players kind of reflect that. That trickles down from my dad and it goes through the whole roster.’’
Greg McDermott is not a city slicker. He’s not obsessed with where his next coaching stop may be. He’s the anti-Rick Pitino.
“Underrated, overrated, that makes no difference to me,’’ McDermott told The Post on Saturday. “I read a book when I was a young coach that was titled, ‘Make the Big Time Where You Are.’ The first guy I ever worked for, Rich Glas at the University of North Dakota, instilled that in me as well — just do the best job you can on that day with the job that you have.
“I think anyone that’s into self-promotion is cheating the job that they have because they’re not doing the job that they should be doing. I just kind of put my head down, go to work, have fun doing it and make sure our guys are playing with a little bit of joy.’’
McDermott’s joy comes not only from taking this Creighton program to heights it has never reached before, but also from watching his son, Doug, who played for him at Creighton from 2010-14 before being drafted, succeed in the NBA.
“Every time I watch him on TV or am fortunate to see a game in person, I still see the scrawny sixth grader that was pretty clumsy in my mind,’’ McDermott said. “And to watch what he’s doing and the fact that he’s done it for almost a decade in the world’s greatest basketball league is incredible to me.
“We FaceTimed late [Friday] night, and to see the joy that he has — not just for me, but for a program that means a lot to him and that he invested a lot in to get to this stage — was a really cool conversation.’’
Doug McDermott, who called his time in New York “awesome playing with the Knicks and wearing that uniform,’’ proudly spoke about how legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich “has taken a few sets from Creighton because they like some of the stuff my dad runs.’’
The practice is mutual.
“I’ve picked a lot of stuff up from ‘Pop’ and I think my video guy probably gets annoyed by me texting him saying, ‘San Antonio, out-of-bounds play one minute 32 seconds left in the second quarter, I want it on my desk tomorrow,’ ’’ McDermott said with a smile. “I’ve stolen plenty of stuff from ‘Pop.’ Basketball coaching is all about stealing stuff and applying it to your system and making it work.’’
McDermott has made it work so well at his overlooked school from Omaha, Neb., that the Sweet 16 win Friday night over Princeton was his 300th at Creighton.
His coaching career has taken him from North Dakota to Nebraska to Iowa and back to Nebraska. It’s difficult to envision him leaving the Midwest.
“I grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, so the big city’s not necessarily for me,’’ McDermott said. “I’m pretty simple in what I do. At Omaha and Creighton, it’s the people, and that really determines your happiness. If that’s the case, then what else are you really looking for? I’ve had opportunities and said ‘no’ to them because I’m very happy where I am.’’
Doug McDermott, whose 10-year NBA career has taken him from Chicago to Oklahoma City to New York (with the Knicks in 2017-18) to Dallas to Indiana and now San Antonio, laughs at the thought of his dad coaching in a big city.
“He’s happy,’’ Doug McDermott said. “The Midwest is just him. He grew up on a farm in Iowa. He worked on the farm for his family growing up. He’s just a simple guy. I think it just fits him, the people fit him, the recruiting fits him.’’