SIOUX CITY | Coach Greg McDermott, spinning tales both self-deprecating and inspiring, entertained 795 guests of the Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, at the 21st Annual Bishop's Dinner for Catholic Schools on Sunday evening at the Sioux City Convention Center.
McDermott, a native of Cascade, Iowa, said he's the product of a Catholic education, if just for a few years in his youth before matriculating to Cascade High School.
"I just think that the values that were instilled in me and the attitude in the schools that I was a part of, it helps shape who you are," he said.
After playing collegiate basketball at the University of Northern Iowa, McDermott, who played professionally for a brief time in Switzerland, has enjoyed head coaching stops at Wayne State College, North Dakota State University, UNI, Iowa State University and Creighton University, the Jesuit school in Omaha he's served since 2010.
McDermott opened his remarks by talking about golf, his wife, Theresa, their three children, and chided his longtime friend, KCAU Channel 9 News Anchor Tim Seaman, whom he met while coaching the Wildcats at Wayne State.
"I used to lie to Tim and get him to come cover us at Wayne State by saying there were two other TV stations already in Wayne covering us," McDermott said.
Seaman had introduced the keynote speaker by saying how he'd been mistakenly introduced as the new coach at Creighton. "They announced their new coach as Doug McDermott," Seaman said with a laugh.
"That's true," Greg McDermott said with a nod.
Doug McDermott went on to earn All-American accolades while playing for his father. The younger McDermott last week was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association. So, he indicated with a proud giggle, it's really no shame at all in being known as Doug McDermott.
Prior to his talk, it was disclosed that Greg and Theresa would donate $10,000 to the Diocese of Sioux City for use in the Catholic schools. Greg McDermott, a product of Catholic education system through eighth grade, talked about how he can discern he's in a Catholic school when on the road recruiting. After all, he's been in hundreds of high schools throughout his career as a basketball coach.
"If I'm blindfolded and you put me in a school, I can tell you if it's a Catholic school," he said. "There's a vibe, a culture, an atmosphere there that's special.
"And this is no knock against public schools," he added, noting he's a product of a public high school himself.
He and Theresa's youngest child, daughter Sydney, is a junior at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, and was a member of the school's undefeated state champion volleyball squad last fall.
Coach McDermott went on to say how the students in those schools often carry themselves with confidence while showing courtesy and respect toward visitors and peers. He lauded those present, many of them Catholic educators, for living out their beliefs in the classroom, helping to mold tomorrow's teachers, tomorrow's family leaders and community pillars.
"Students in Catholic schools cannot go home and complain about how something is the teacher's fault or the coach's fault," he said. "That attitude of accountability is found in all Catholic schools."
McDermott also touched on parish consolidation, a touchy subject within the local diocese and across the country. Cascade, a city of 2,281 in Dubuque County, for decades, if not more than a century, was home to a pair of Catholic churches some seven blocks apart. St. Mary's, on the south side of town, largely served German Catholics in Cascade; St. Martin's Church, on the north side of town, was predominantly Irish in its makeup.
The churches consolidated 22 years ago. The result, according to the Bluejays coach, is one church body standing stronger than two individual parts, primarily because the dedicated members of each congregation, leaders throughout Cascade, made a commitment to one other, a commitment based in faith, to carry on for the good of the church, her people, and their community.