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Iowa State hires McDermott

Friday, March 24, 2006

AMES (AP) - The job of turning around Iowa State's basketball program was given to a self-described Iowa farm boy who promised that the return of "Hilton Magic" was just around the corner.

Four days after firing coach Wayne Morgan, Iowa State announced Tuesday the hiring of Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott.

McDermott, a 41-year-old Cascade native, led the Panthers to three straight NCAA tournaments in his five seasons and 20-plus wins in each of the past three seasons.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said that McDermott has agreed to a six-year deal at $650,000 per year, plus incentives.

"This place was special enough to leave home to come here," said McDermott, a former Northern Iowa player. "I'm one of you. I'm a farm boy from Cascade,

McDermott's hiring comes at the end of a search that Pollard had whittled down to two candidates: Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Rob Jeter and McDermott.

Pollard met with McDermott on Sunday, decided on him over Jeter and offered McDermott the job late Monday night. Pollard called Jeter at 7 a.m. Tuesday to break the news, and said the UW-Milwaukee coach was very disappointed he wasn't offered the job.

"It was hard. He's an outstanding coach, and he's going to have many outstanding opportunities ahead of him," Pollard said. "I just feel coach McDermott was a better fit for Iowa State."

McDermott spent seven seasons as a Division II head coach, six at Wayne State College and one at North Dakota State, before joining Northern Iowa.

The Panthers went 90-63 under McDermott and finished 23-10 this season, losing to Georgetown on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Last season Iowa State began the season ranked No. 25, but finished 16-14 and missed out on postseason play.

"Next year's Cyclones team is going to defend. We're going to value the basketball and we're going to play unselfish basketball," McDermott said.

McDermott replaces Morgan, who was fired on Friday - two days after a report surfaced that Iowa State and a number of other programs may have steered more than $100,000 to a California business run by a junior college coach.

A CBS Sportsline.com story last week alleged that D1 Scheduling, a company founded by Los Angeles Community College coach Mike Miller, might have been delivering LACC players to Division I schools, including Iowa State, that paid the company to arrange games.

Iowa State has said they do not believe Morgan was involved in any wrongdoing.

Morgan's predecessor was Larry Eustachy, who resigned in 2003 after newspaper photographs showed him drinking with college students on Big 12 road trips.

Pollard said he wanted the next coach to have Midwestern roots be able to turn the program around.

"It came down to giving a guy from Iowa a chance to prove that his formula works at the big-time level," Pollard said. "What's important to me is that we build this overall athletic program the right way."

It's been a bad month in the publicity department for the Cyclones, who also saw juniors Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock announce their intentions to enter the NBA draft.

But the school pulled out all the stops to welcome McDermott to Ames, holding a press conference in Hilton Coliseum featuring the student band, cheerleaders, the school mascot and thousands of fans.

The team, including Blalock, was also in attendance. Blalock said he will not hire an agent and pay his own way to NBA workouts so he can retain his eligibility if he doesn't get picked.

"I realize they just hired a really great coach, and as far as I'm concerned if things don't work out I'll have no doubt in my mind I'll come back."

Forward Rahshon Clark said Wednesday night that he will return to Iowa State next season. Centers Jiri Hubalek and Shawn Taggart said earlier Tuesday that they are undecided.

McDermott said the decision to leave Cedar Falls was a heart-wrenching one, but the chance to coach in a prestigious conference and remain in his home state was too good to pass up.

"Part of me could have stayed at Northern Iowa forever and sailed off into the sunset," McDermott said. "But the competitive side of me wanted to coach in the Big 12 conference and wanted to attempt to win a championship in the Big 12 conference."

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