'It's special to be back': HOF inductees Kyle Korver, Dana Altman treasure Creighton memories

Former Creighton star Kyle Korver gets a laugh from Nick Bahe, left, and CU coach Greg McDermott. Korver, from Pella, Iowa, helped four Dana Altman teams reach the NCAA tournament. “Most of us weren’t really wanted by anybody,” Korver said.

About an hour after the horn sounded to conclude a friendly alumni game at Creighton’s practice facility Saturday afternoon, Dana Altman was still out there in the middle of the court.

Some guys had already showered and left. Staffers were canvassing the sidelines and picking up empty Gatorade cups.

But a grinning Altman stood there with his hands on his hips as he bounced in and out of conversations. He laughed, shook hands and posed for photographs.

There were 45 former players and coaches in the building — their CU careers spanning the length of Altman’s 16-year tenure. They all returned to campus this weekend to help celebrate the Creighton Hall of Fame inductions of Altman and legendary scorer Kyle Korver.

“It’s special to be back — most importantly to be able to spend time with the players,” Altman said.

You can text and call all you want. And Altman does. He said he also picks up the newspaper every morning during the winter to check the stat lines of his former players in the pros. But there’s nothing like a face-to-face reunion.

So Altman was doing his best to cherish every moment Saturday.

“I’m blessed to have a group of guys who for 16 years really cared about Creighton, cared about each other, cared about building a winning program,” he said.

The players directed the credit right back at Altman on Saturday.

In fact, after Altman had entertained the group with joke-filled stories during a private lunch, Brett Angner thanked the program’s all-time leader in coaching victories for helping him and his teammates reach their potential on and off the court. Korver summed up the message with reporters later that afternoon.

“Most of us weren’t really wanted by anybody,” said the 37-year-old sharpshooter from Pella, Iowa, who is entering his 16th season in the NBA. “We came in here with a chip on our shoulder, and Coach showed us how to use that.”

A tone of appreciation seemed to define Saturday’s festivities.

The success during Altman’s era was worth celebrating — the Jays went to seven NCAA tournaments, including all four years Korver played. They set the stage for the program’s current pursuit of sustained national prestige. But the memories that resonate often aren’t about the games and the wins.

“It’s interesting to go through those years where you’re just pushing and you’re grinding,” Korver said. “Then you take this break and come back 20 years later and see how all of these people are who were pushing and grinding with you. And you see how those years helped form the men that they are today. Those really were great years.”

Korver couldn’t stop from busting up laughing when he recounted that a superstitious Altman had the players eating Arby’s roast beef sandwiches before away games one year — because they’d eaten that same fast food meal before their first road win of the season, and had to keep the same routine.

Altman chuckled as he detailed the time Alan Huss, now a CU assistant coach, celebrated a bucket so enthusiastically that his fist pump caught Korver in the face. Blood everywhere. Broken nose. Korver had to wear a mask for a couple of weeks because of it.

Both Altman and Korver were presented with pieces of the court from the old practice gym Saturday. That building holds a ton of memories, Altman said — he can still recall sitting in his office, which was situated underneath the court, and listening to players such as Korver getting extra on-court shots late at night.

There was shot-making on display Saturday, too. It all occurred at the Championship Center, though. So perhaps it was fitting that Altman and Korver just watched.

A couple of dozen former players suited up for a casual pickup game. Former CU assistant Len Gordy shouted “four-down” from the sideline — a nod to Altman’s old offense. Ryan Sears drew a charge. Angner wore one of his old game jerseys. Justin Carter and DeAnthony Bowden both dazzled with dunks.

This is fun, Gordy told Altman afterward. Altman nodded.

A trip home always is.

“It’s really a special place,” he said.

Jays retire No. 25

The No. 25 jersey won't be worn by another Creighton basketball player, CU announced as part of its Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Kyle Korver and Dana Altman on Saturday night.

Korver, the legendary scorer, and Altman, the program's all-time winningest coach, were recognized at a banquet before more than 700 people in downtown Omaha.

And at the conclusion of the event, Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen told the crowd that the Jays would be retiring Korver's No. 25 jersey number. Korver was presented with a framed Creighton jersey.

Korver becomes the fifth player in CU hoops history to have his number retired, joining Bob Gibson, Bob Portman, Paul Silas and Bob Harstad.

Korver, who played at Creighton from 1999 to 2003, was a second-team All-American as a senior. He was a member of four NCAA tournament teams. He holds the Creighton and the Missouri Valley Conference records for career 3-pointers made (371).

Reporter - Creighton athletics

Jon covers Creighton athletics, the College World Series and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JonNyatawa. Phone: 402-444-6611

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