It’s Friday! That means 10 big stories in 10 little bites. We’ll hit Husker hoops, NFL free agency, I-L-L…I-O-U and lots of NCAA tourney coverage. But first, the play-by-play of a very big day in Creighton basketball’s restoration.
On a Saturday in April 2010, Dana Altman left Creighton for Oregon. That night, Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen was in his Vinardi Center office late. Very late.
Rasmussen met with players individually, some of whom were lined up in the hallway. He also called prospective coaches. High on that list was Greg McDermott.
Rasmussen had tried to get ahold of McDermott all day, but the coach was hosting recruits at Iowa State and didn’t want to talk to Rasmussen while he was at work.
Finally that night, they spoke. Rasmussen told McDermott about the job. McDermott called his AD, Jamie Pollard. And he called his wife, who was at a family cabin a few hours from Ames. You better come back, Greg said. We have some things to talk about — she got home at about midnight.
Back in Omaha, Rasmussen was in the office ‘til 2 a.m. He got home and told his wife he was setting his alarm for 6. But if he didn’t hear it, she needed to wake him up.
Rasmussen had told Creighton players he’d be in his office all day Sunday. But he also packed a bag, telling his wife he might be going on the road for a while. He wanted to see some coaches and he couldn’t keep those meetings private in Omaha.
Sunday morning, he got to the office. McDermott called. He wanted to meet.
Rasmussen headed for Des Moines. On the way, he called his wife and said he was leaving.
Where, she asked. You’re better off not knowing, Rasmussen said. That way, if someone asks, you don’t have to lie. He figured if things didn’t go well with McDermott, he’d fly out of Des Moines en route to his next choice.
Rasmussen arrived at the West Des Moines Marriott. He purchased a room. He called McDermott and told him the room number. Come in the side door. They ordered room service and talked for a long time. Three or four hours.
Rasmussen left his phone in the car. When he got back to it that afternoon, he had a text from his daughter: “Are you really at the Des Moines Marriott with Coach McDermott?” (Rasmussen still doesn’t know who spilled the secret to a Des Moines TV station.)
Rasmussen called home to check in with his wife.
“She says, ‘How is it that everybody in the world knows where you are but me?’”
McDermott drove back to Ames that afternoon and started talking to those close to him. He didn’t immediately tell his kids, but Doug knew something was strange when Greg met with assistant coach Erik Crawford in a living room they never used.
Later that night, before McDermott officially said yes, he asked his youngest son a very important question: Do you want to go to Omaha?
And that’s how this whole thing started.
>> Hey, Husker fans. Check out another quote from Rasmussen.
“The biggest factor in recruiting is conference. You might do a great job recruiting and it might be a great fit for that particular person, but then a Big 12 or Big Ten or ACC school will come in at the last minute and they’ll choose them because they wanted to play in the Big 12 or Big Ten or whatever.”
No doubt there are things about the Nebraska job that will scare away some candidates. But new facilities, the Big Ten Network and a fan base waiting to jump on a bandwagon are attractive. Now Tom Osborne and Marc Boehm have to sell it.
>> Was Nebraska trying to contact Brian Gregory? I wish I could shed light on this bizarre story. I think Doak Ostergard was just having fun with a former player. At least I hope so. Otherwise, Osborne needs to hire a different search firm.
>> Unbelievable story about Illinois athletics. After firing three coaches, the Illini have spent $7.1 million on coaching buyouts since December.
>> Quick, raise your hand if, 12 months ago, you thought Peyton Manning would play the 2012 season in Tennessee/Denver and Mario Williams would play in Buffalo. From a local standpoint, the most interesting free-agent signing is Carl Nicks to the Bucs. He’s leaving Drew Brees for Josh Freeman? I’m not sure that’s worth the extra cash in his bank account.
>> The 5 most impressive performances of Day One at the NCAA tournament.
1– VCU. Made a very good Wichita State team look bad. I thought the Shockers were Sweet-16-bound.
2– Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg showed no jitters in his first NCAA tournament game. Neither did his team.
3– Gonzaga. Took Bob Huggins’ team to the woodshed, or coal mine, or whatever they call it in Pittsburgh.
4– Murray State. Too quick and physical for Colorado State. Sets up a great match-up with Marquette.
5– Colorado. UNLV came into the tournament slumping. But give Tad Boyle credit. Next up is a Big 12 reunion with Baylor. Pretty sure if those two programs can win an NCAA tournament game, so can Nebraska.
Honorable mention: New Mexico, Marquette, Wisconsin and, yes, UNC-Asheville.
>> Syracuse can’t make the Final Four after Thursday’s stinker against Asheville, right? The ‘Cuse needed help from the refs, too.
>> I hate to beat a dead horse (I say this every year), but why can’t the NCAA allow its tournament sites to have individual floor designs? Not only does it make the tournament more interesting, it lets viewers who like to flip channels recognize who’s playing whom.
>> Rick Majerus hasn’t coached in the NCAA tournament since 2003. Hard to believe. He’s back with Saint Louis today.
>> VCU, baby. Gotta love Shaka.
>> Did Harvard relax its academic standards to get better at basketball?
>> Southern Miss will not win any sportsmanship awards.
>> My upset pick today is Belmont. Here in Omaha, I just want to see one nail-biter. Just one. In 2008, we didn’t get any.
>> There are a lot of things to like about Kansas. But KU’s tournament history ranks high on the list. The Jayhawks started in Lincoln in 1988. They started in Omaha in 2008. Both times, they won the national title. This year, Bill Self’s team is staying at the same Omaha hotel as four years ago (the Embassy Suites). And practicing at the same high school (Central).
>> I really liked Self’s answer Thursday to a question about KU players using Twitter.
“We have had a couple of Twitter episodes in our program that probably wasn’t totally negative, but it wasn’t the most positive thing…We haven’t had any major issues, knock on wood, here of late.
“It’s also part of growing up, too, guys. We want to put our players in a situation where we help educate them and get them more prepared and a lot of times telling them they can’t, in my opinion, doesn’t help them long term.
“They’ve got to learn the value of what they say and how it impacts not only their image but everybody else’s image…”
>> Let’s finish where we started. I’m curious to see how Greg McDermott uses his bench today. Creighton generally plays 10 guys every game. That’s a lot, especially in March. Fatigue isn’t really a factor in the NCAA tournament because of extended TV timeouts, so I wonder if McDermott will shorten his bench. Maybe give Will Artino and Avery Dingman 2 or 3 minutes instead of 7 or 8. Keep an eye on CU’s rotations. Barring foul trouble, the more time on the floor for Creighton’s top six or seven players, the better.
>> In the World-Herald, we have plenty more to chew on. Pick up a copy. And have a great weekend. Thanks for reading.