New coach, new level for Bulls' McDermott
As the son of a basketball coach, Doug McDermott has been around the game his entire life.
When his father, Greg, coached at Iowa State, he regularly attended practice. And while Doug, who attended Ames High School at the time, would have loved to play for the Cyclones, he didn’t get a lot of attention from Division I schools.
“I was kind of a late bloomer,” admits Doug. “I wasn’t getting recruited a lot.”
So the younger McDermott committed to attend the University of Northern Iowa. But when Greg left the Big 12 for Omaha, Nebraska, things changed.
“When he got the job at Creighton, I was fortunate enough to join him,” said Doug. “We had a great four years. I got a lot better under him and his staff.”
The entire McDermott family—parents Greg and Theresa, along with Doug’s siblings, Sydney and Nick—was on hand at the Berto Center Monday as the Bulls introduced their 2014 draft picks.
As he did on draft night, General Manager Gar Forman stated that the Bulls had targeted McDermott, someone who the team had been watching closely since his freshman year at Creighton. Chicago traded up to acquire him, sending the 16th and 19th picks and a 2015 second round pick to Denver for his rights and forward Anthony Randolph.
Forman sees McDermott as a great fit, bringing an uncanny ability to shoot the ball along with a versatile game, the ability to play inside or out, and a high basketball IQ.
For McDermott, it’s a level that few could have seen him reaching as recently as a few years ago.
“He developed quickly but Doug has put the time in,” said Greg. “It’s a unique story because he was a sixth man on his high school team as a junior. Six years later, he’s a lottery pick and that doesn’t happen very often.”
Doug credits high school teammate Harrison Barnes—then regarded as one of the country’s top prep player and now with the Golden State Warriors—for pushing him in all those competitive practices. It was Barnes’ work ethic that rubbed off on McDermott and ultimately made him a better player.
Still, though, the NBA was not something Doug or Greg thought possible—until after his freshman year of college.
That’s when Doug was one of 12 players selected to represent USA Basketball at the U19 FIBA World Championships in Riga, Latvia. A good showing there—Doug averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds—fueled his confidence. He also put on an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle which allowed him to finish through contact as well as extend his shooting range.
As a sophomore, Doug saw a significant increase in his production across the board. The NBA began to take notice. By the time he closed out his college career, the accolades and accomplishments had piled up: National Player of the Year. First Team-All American. Fifth in NCAA history with 3,150 career points, having passed the likes of Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
And through it all, there was Greg, Doug’s father and coach, who stayed on him to be his best, though it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for either of them.
“There were definitely some tough days in practice,” said Doug. “Since I was his kid, he had to be a lot harder on me to set an example for the team. At first, that was hard to get used to. But by the time I was a senior, I really got used to it.”
The elder McDermott agreed: “It was a challenge at first. For 18 years, my voice was his father’s voice and overnight it became his coach’s voice.”
As both Greg and Doug looked back on the adjustment period and surely recalled some of the highest highs and lowest lows in their minds, both agree that it was an extremely rewarding experience at the end of the day.
Now, as McDermott joins the Bulls, it’s no longer Greg who will be working with him in practice or drawing up plays in the huddle. Still…
“He’ll always be my coach and my biggest critic,” said Doug with a smile. “I’ll have to deal with that the rest of my career. But it is what it is and we’ve had a lot of fun together. I’m excited to play for a new coach.”
That being said, Doug doesn’t expect playing for Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau to be any easier.
“It could be harder. I’ve heard some things from my dad that maybe Thibs won’t say to me,” laughed McDermott before turning serious. “I’ve got some pretty high expectations. I’m going in with an open mind. I know it’s going to be hard and I think it’s going to start today actually. I’m planning on getting a workout in this afternoon so we’ll see.”
As Greg watched his son enter the NBA world on Monday, the coach in him couldn’t help but envision Doug on the floor with the likes of Derrick Rose.
“Doug didn’t get many open shots in college,” stated Greg. “He had to work for everything he got and a lot of his three-point shots he had to catch and they’d be gone because he didn’t have much space. Derrick’s ability to create things off the dribble for himself and his teammates is going to allow Doug to get some open shots. And when he gets open shots, more than not he’s going to knock them down.”
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Doug. “I’m just excited to meet him right now. I’ll be like a little kid meeting him. I couldn’t ask for a better point guard. He draws so much attention and is so explosive. I feel like I can really play off a guy like that.