Eddie Sutton had but one regret in his return to Omaha to watch Creighton face Marquette in Tuesday night's Big East debut.
“I'd really like the opportunity to coach these guys,” Sutton said. “They're really a talented ballclub.”
Sutton was one of five former Bluejay coaches honored during halftime ceremonies of Creighton's inaugural game in its new conference. Also making the trip back were Tom Apke and Tony Barone, while the late John “Red” McManus and Dana Altman were represented by their wives, Mary Jean McManus and Reva Altman.
Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen also had contacted former coaches Willis Reed and Rick Johnson but they were unable to attend. Rasmussen said the university wanted to recognize the coaches who had helped bring Creighton to this historic juncture.
Sutton, who coached Creighton for five seasons from 1969 to 1974, said he was thrilled when he received the invitation to return from Rasmussen.
“The only time I had been back was when I brought my team here to play,” said the 77-year-old Sutton, a member of basketball's Hall of Fame. “I had a marvelous five years here. One of the things I enjoyed was that as the host school for the College World Series, I got to see every inning of every game.
“I've always been a big baseball fan, and that event just keeps on growing.”
The same could be said about Creighton, Sutton said. He said he took time Tuesday to tour the campus, and its growth astounded him.
“I'm so pleased that it's grown like it has,” Sutton said. “We were talking today, and I think we're all pleased to see how this program has developed.”
Sutton, who succeeded McManus as coach, took the Bluejays to the 1974 NCAA tournament. He left for Arkansas after that season, and he subsequently reached the NCAA tournament with the Razorbacks, Kentucky and Oklahoma State, becoming the first coach to get four schools to the event.
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Apke succeeded Sutton and coached the Bluejays through the 1981 season. Three of his teams made it to NCAA tournament play, and he also was the coach and athletic director when Creighton returned to the Missouri Valley.
Apke, who played for McManus in the 1960s, said he's thrilled for Creighton as it enters a new era of basketball and athletic competition.
“I had an opportunity to visit with Bruce when they were considering joining the Big East,” Apke said. “We talked about all the factors that go into a move like this, the pluses and the minuses. It's going to be an exciting journey for everyone involved.
“They are about to encounter a lot of first-time experiences, and I'm thrilled to be able to be a small part of this.”
Barone took Creighton teams to the NCAA tournament in 1989 and 1991 while coaching the Bluejays from 1985 to 1991. Now an executive with the Denver Nuggets, Barone said Creighton faces a tall challenge with its move to the new conference.
“I'm not worried that Creighton won't be able to compete, but this is a new level of intensity for the program and the university,” Barone said. “Everything they do here is at the highest level of class, but now they're going to be competing against schools that are all-in in regard to their basketball programs.
“I know coach (Greg) McDermott understands everything that is involved with this move, but I don't know if the average fan realizes what they'll be in for.”
Like Sutton and Apke, Barone said he was thrilled to receive the invitation to be a part of opening night.
“The thing is, after you've been away from a place, you wonder if people remember what your teams did,” Barone said. “It's not about what I did, but what my teams did.
“I had some great teams here, and I'm happy that those guys get a chance to be recognized for what they did for their university.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott got to spend time with Sutton, Apke, Barone and Reva Altman at dinner on Monday night. McDermott said it was fitting that Creighton took time to recognize the contributions made by the coaches.
“I think it was appropriate that we thank those people that put us on the map,” McDermott said, “and got us to where we are today.”
Brooks, Artino prove key in second half
McDermott praised the second-half contributions that Devin Brooks and Will Artino made in helping the Bluejays weather some difficult spots.
Brooks was especially key in scoring six of his nine points in a span of two minutes after Marquette had pulled within 40-30. Brooks then found Jahenns Manigat for a 3-point basket that hiked Creighton's lead back to 49-30.
“We got an unbelievable lift off the bench from Will and Devin,” McDermott said. “We were dead in the water when Austin Chatman got his third foul with 16 minutes left and the game is still a 10-point game.
“You never know when your number is going to be called, and I thought our guys as a whole did a good job.”
Manigat pointed to Brooks' performance as a sign of growing maturity on the junior's part 13 games into the season.
“He brought tremendous energy when we were in that rut there,” Manigat said. “You know what you're going to get when Devin comes into the game. He's going to make a spectacular play here and there.
“But he's also learned so much about where guys are and who he's playing around. He doesn't necessarily feel like he has to go out there and do it all on his own. He understands who he's playing with, and he did a really good job of finding guys tonight.”
Brooks had two assists and also grabbed six rebounds, matching Manigat's total. Doug McDermott led the Bluejays with seven rebounds.
Physical Golden Eagles focus defense on Doug
Doug McDermott scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in helping stake the Bluejays to a 21-9 lead eight minutes into the game.
He found points harder to come by as the game wore on as Marquette adjusted its defense and tried to rely on physical play to keep him off balance.
Creighton played Cincinnati and Duke in last season's NCAA tournament, and McDermott said Marquette ranks with those teams in terms of physical play.
“They made things hard,” he said. “I got off to a good start, but after that they did a much better job of switching screens and being real physical. But that allowed some of our other guys to get going because they were bringing so many guys at me.”
At times, McDermott appeared frustrated by a lack of calls from the referees. Creighton shot only four free throws in the game, the first ones coming with 6:34 to play in the game.
Asked if he sensed his son was getting frustrated, Greg McDermott replied, “I don't know. Doug gets that look on his face every once in awhile. I've seen it for 21 years, so I'm used to it.”
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>> Video: See Fox Sports highlights from Creighton's 67-49 win over Marquette:
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>> Video: See the postgame press conference with CU coach Greg McDermott, Doug McDermott and Jahenns Manigat: