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BASKETBALL

Two friends will face off when Creighton takes on Iowa State — McDermott and Otzelberger

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McDermott

"It wouldn't be my choice to have to compete against him," Greg McDermott said of his friend and Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger. "Those games are never fun."

Creighton coach Greg McDermott watches Iowa State games and roots for the Cyclones because one of his closest friends leads the program.

So he's not thrilled that he'll have to stand on the sideline opposite T.J. Otzelberger on Saturday night. Because someone has to lose.

"It wouldn't be my choice to have to compete against him," McDermott said. "Those games are never fun."

The 12-year CU coach just went through a similar experience Tuesday — North Dakota State coach David Richman was a grad assistant under McDermott at Northern Iowa. And there may be more down the road as McDermott's coaching tree keeps expanding.

His former assistants are leading Division I programs at Drake (Darian DeVries), Northern Iowa (Ben Jacobson), Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Steve Lutz) and Central Connecticut (Patrick Sellers). South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson played for McDermott at Wayne State and worked on his staff at Iowa State.

McDermott would much rather be picking those guys' brains about tactics, or checking in on their families. Not game planning against them.

Otzelberger feels the same.

He said he and McDermott routinely trade verbal jabs, as friends do. They joke with each other often.

But they're so close, and have been for years, that they're extremely invested in each other's career.

"We've always leaned on each other," Otzelberger said by phone. "There's always been a mutual respect, and a trust. I've learned so much from him and it's important to me that we continue that relationship."

Otzelberger

"We've always leaned on each other," T.J. Otzelberger said of Greg McDermott. "There's always been a mutual respect, and a trust. I've learned so much from him and it's important to me that we continue that relationship."

Technically, the bond began with a recruiting letter — what a smiling McDermott described as a basic "questionnaire" generated from a template.

But the letter was branded with Wayne State insignias and Otzelberger, then a sophomore in high school in Wisconsin, kept it. The document still sits inside a binder of Otzelberger mementos that his dad safeguards.

It was a few years later — nearly two decades ago now — that the McDermott-Otzelberger friendship took off.

They both happened to be in Hutchinson, Kansas, for a junior college national tournament and grabbed lunch together. Two years later, McDermott hired Otzelberger, then 29, as an assistant at Iowa State.

The rest is history.

"The sense of loyalty to him I'll have for giving me the opportunity — had he not given me that, I'm wise enough to realize, you don't know if you ever would have got one," Otzelberger said. "That means a whole lot, and then there's the personal friendship side."

They planned to connect Friday night in Omaha. And again after the game, perhaps to trade scouting reports on each other's still-improving squads. Or just to share ideas.

"There's not a lot of people that I trust with just about anything in this profession," McDermott said. "He's one of them."


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