Thatâs my initial reaction to the Greg McDermott story. I try not to be surprised by anything, but this is truly stunning.
For one, that the Creighton menâs basketball coach would use a racist term in a locker room speech to his team. McDermott admitted as much and apologized on his twitter account on Tuesday.
After the loss at Xavier last Saturday, McDermott said he told the Jays, âGuys we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I canât have anybody leave the plantation.â
Creighton University called the word âdeplorable.â Thereâs no other way to describe it.
Couldnât he have said âstick together?â Jump ship. Mac is from Iowa. How about stay on the farm?
I’ve never ever heard that phrase. Not here in Nebraska, not in Omaha, not in the Midwest.
What the heck was he thinking? Why would he say that?
Iâve never heard McDermott come close to saying anything racist. I donât follow him everywhere. But in being around the coach 11 years, nothing. Not one racist word. Nothing close.
And in those 11 years, not one allegation or accusation from a former player or coach.
And from a coach who encouraged his players to speak their minds about racism, whose players wear message of âequalityâ on the backs of their jerseys.
None of this makes sense. Of all the words to use, why plantation?
Some will call for McDermott to be dismissed. I donât agree.
Body of work should mean something. And McDermottâs body of work at the school, in the community and with players is strong.
That body of work says that this incident is an outlier, a departure from the way the coach has conducted himself.
This is serious enough that both CU President Daniel Hendrickson and Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen traveled to Cincinnati on Monday. They met with the coach and Creighton players to discuss the matter.
You bet itâs serious. This is a public relations nightmare. As the head coach of the menâs basketball team, McDermott is the face and voice of the university for many â including students.
This doesnât just potentially hurt basketball recruiting. It could impact drawing students to the university.
This has gone viral nationally. It wonât just be a 24-hour story. This will come up at next weekâs Big East tournament in New York. And at the NCAA tournament.
Will McDermott be reprimanded? Suspended? Whatever the punishment, it cannot be kept private, as CU said in a statement on Tuesday.
Creighton may be a private school, but this is a case that needs transparency.
Certainly, that includes McDermott.
We need to hear from the coach. He said he immediately recognized his mistake on Saturday. But why did it take until Tuesday to acknowledge it and apologize publicly?
And while social media is all the rage, releasing a statement on twitter is not enough. Not here.
McDermott should take questions on the matter. He wonât want to do it every time he speaks, but itâs likely to come up in New York and in the NCAA tourney media Zoom sessions.
The more meaningful dialogue that should come from this is after the season. McDermott should immerse himself in discussions â on campus or in Omaha or nationally â on race.
Itâs a topic we canât talk about enough. And Mac should be involved.
Now, we need to hear from the players.
Something that also struck me about McDermottâs post-game comment last Saturday was the idea that the Jays might break apart.
This is a veteran team, co-Big East champs a year ago, with a lot of leaders. They had won four in a row. Would one eight-point loss to Xavier pull them apart?
Is this team that fragile?
How fragile are they now?
The Jays are playing for an outright Big East title this week, first at Villanova on Wednesday night and Saturday against Butler.
Then itâs Big East tourney time. And then the NCAA tournament.
Will this be harmful? Where is the locker room on this?
CU assistant Terrence Rencher released a statement on Tuesday and mentioned that the players âhave decided to continue to chase their goals this season with coach McDermott…â
Was there a vote? Was there a chance of a player boycott? Is the room divided?
CU might want to keep this in-house, but the players should speak up. There are several older and thoughtful voices on the team. They should be heard.
If all is well, letâs hear it. If not, letâs hear that, too.
This is the last thing I thought weâd be talking about as one of Creightonâs great teams heads into the biggest games of the season. Stunning, to say the least.