Creighton coach Greg McDermott has repeatedly avoided the past three seasons the opportunity to point out to the college basketball world the special talents his son brings to the court.
“I didn’t want to be a dad blowing his son’s horn about how great he’s playing,” McDermott said.
That’s part of the fine line Greg McDermott has had to maneuver in being both coach and father to his team’s best player. It’s a line that he said he’s now ready to cross.
At least twice in his postgame comments after Creighton’s 83-79 win over St. Joseph’s — a game in which Doug McDermott scored 20 points and made the game-winning shot — Greg McDermott pointed out that it’s not easy being Doug.
“Not many college basketball players are getting double-teamed every time they catch it,” Greg McDermott told reporters after the game. “Every screen he comes off, they switch. All those other guys they’re talking about across the country aren’t facing that kind of defense.
“He stayed patient tonight and still found a way to get 20 and hit a big one when we needed it the most.”
Asked Monday about his comments, Greg McDermott admitted he’s probably held back a little too much over the years when it came to discussing his son’s achievements, which include earning first-team All-America honors the past two seasons.
“I think in the past I’ve been too leery to throw credit Doug’s way because I didn’t want it to come off wrong,” McDermott said. “As I’ve thought about it, I probably haven’t done that enough with Doug.”
He said he started re-evaluating how he’s handled the tricky situation after Doug was named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list last week. The award is one of several player of the year honors that he has contended for in the past and is expected to be a candidate for this season.
Greg McDermott said he didn’t point out the Wooden honor to the team, as he would have had it involved another player.
“If Doug is any of our other guys, I’m going to make sure that’s a huge deal to our team,” McDermott said. “But because Doug is my son, I probably haven’t done a good enough job of doing that.
“I think because Doug has accomplished all these things, we kind of forget some of the special things that we’ve had the opportunity to watch. I think with everything he’s accomplished, we don’t forget to take time and smell the roses.”
Doug McDermott added a couple more honors to his list of achievements Monday. The Big East named him its player of the week after he averaged 25.7 points in Creighton’s first three wins. It marked the 14th time McDermott has earned the conference’s player of the week award, the first 13 coming in the Missouri Valley.
Andy Katz of ESPN.com also named McDermott his national player of the week.
When Greg McDermott made his postgame comments Saturday, Doug was seated next to his father at the press conference. Doug said he didn’t think too much about what his father was saying, other than that his dad was right in talking about how opposing defenses are ganging up to try to stop him.
“It’s really tough, especially on a night-to-night basis when people are expecting so much out of me,” McDermott said. “It seems like the main focus of everyone on the other team is to make sure I don’t put that ball in the basket.
“But for me, it’s not about the attention. It’s not about being at the top of the player of the year rankings. I came back to win games, I didn’t come back to put points on the board. Winning is all that matters.”
Greg McDermott said few players experience the kind of pressure that accompanies his son to the court every single night.
“I think there’s an expectation that every time Doug steps on the floor, he’s supposed to score 30 points,” Greg McDermott said. “I don’t know if people understand how tough it is to score 15 points in a college basketball game, let alone trying to get 20 points when you’re the whole focal point of the other team.”
Jays not worried about polls
The reaction was predictable after Creighton players and coaches learned Monday that they had entered the college basketball rankings for the first time this season.
“It really doesn’t matter at this point,” guard Jahenns Manigat said. “This group of guys, we’re just trying to get better every single day. We need to come out each day and find a new passion to try and get better.”
The Bluejays, who have opened the season with three straight wins, moved into the No. 23 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls.
Creighton spent most of last season ranked but, despite the return of four starters — one being two-time All-American Doug McDermott — fell just short of landing a spot in either preseason rating.
“It’s nice to be in there because this group has worked really hard,” McDermott said. “We have a lot of guys returning, and we’re right back where we belong.”
Creighton is one of two Big East teams in the AP ratings. Marquette had started the season 17th but dropped to 25th after a 2-1 start. The Golden Eagles also had been 17th in the coaches preseason poll but dropped out of this week’s rankings.
Greg McDermott said having two teams ranked might be important to the perception some observers have of the new league.
“The reality of it is that programs with the history of success that Marquette, Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova have don’t have a lot to prove in my mind,” the coach said. “There are going to be peaks and valleys to every season, and every team goes through them.
“We’re obviously happy to be 3-0, but we have another challenge this weekend with Tulsa.”