The story of the 2011-12 Creighton Bluejays has been, up until the past few weeks, a mostly endearing one. Forward Doug McDermott emerged from this past summer's time with Team USA with scoring gifts previously unseen, and his unique ability to put up volume numbers with ruthless efficiency catapulted him near the top of every college hoops analyst's national player of the year ballot. All of a sudden, Harrison Barnes' friend and former teammate was a much more likely national POY selection than the much-touted, NBA-destined UNC forward. How cool is that?
Even better, Creighton was winning and winning and winning some more, to the tune of a 21-2 start and a practically guaranteed trip to the NCAA tournament.
Even better than that? McDermott's excellence just so happened to come under the paternal gaze of second-year coach Greg McDermott, whose own story -- he willingly accepted the Creighton job before he had a chance to be forcibly removed from an unsuccessful tenure at Iowa State, and so on -- served as its own encouraging tale of redemption. An overlooked and dismissed father-son combo reinvigorates a dormant Creighton program: It's not exactly Jeremy Lin, but as stories go, it's still pretty neat.
And then, of course, came the losses. Creighton lost on a last-second buzzer-beater at Northern Iowa. It lost at Evansville. On Saturday, it was absolutely trounced by Wichita State, which for all intents and purposes has ascended what for much of the season appeared to be Creighton's rightful place atop the Missouri Valley throne. All of a sudden, Creighton's magnificent offense has gone cold. The nation's leader in field goal and effective field goal percentage has posted a paltry 45.1 eFG% average over its past three games. McDermott is 12-of-30 in his past two outings. That sudden dip in scoring has exposed Creighton's defense for what it really is: a thoroughly mediocre unit that can't get the stops it needs to stem the tide against a good team like the Shockers. If the Bluejays don't score, they can't win. Simple as that.
None of which must have been very pleasing to either Greg or Doug McDermott, but the father seemed particularly steamed Saturday. Per the Omaha World-Herald, the elder McDermott gave his son a thorough tongue-lashing Saturday, a rare outburst for the same tandem that was, when we last checked in, laughing off Drake fans' chants about Doug's alleged adoption:
"He had the right to," Doug said after the loss. "I wasn't playing well." Worse than playing poorly, Greg didn't think Doug was playing hard.
"He's one of our best players, and there's a lot that goes with that," Greg said. "There's a lot that you have to shoulder. That's being able to compete your tail off on the defensive end when shots aren't falling."
Greg's lecture probably hurt his son's play more than it helped.
"It got in my head a little bit," Doug said. "It's part of coaching, I guess. It's tough. It's hard to focus on what you're doing. But it's gonna happen."
In the past, yours truly has marveled over how well the McDermotts seem to handle their awkward dual relationships -- father and son, coach and player. This can get awkward. Wires can get crossed. Things that should stay on the court don't, or vice versa. It's as true in college hoops as it is in rec league soccer. The dynamic is just different. The McDermotts seemed to be handling the whole thing masterfully, but it's easy to do so when the shots are falling and the wins are piling up. It's a bit more difficult when the shots turn to bricks, the wins turn the losses and your team's soft defense is exposed to the tune of an 89-68 rout. The McDermotts are probably fine. But the fact that they had to even answer these kinds of questions in the first place speaks to the difficulty presented by their unique situation. It's intriguing, to say the least.
In any case, Greg McDermott's upbraiding of his son produced one of the great photos of the 2012 season. You can even see the "Whoa ... Coach is angry" look wash across the rest of the Bluejays' faces. "Uh ... maybe we let them sort this out themselves." Classic.