June 19, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A burst of electricity raced through the Omaha crowd. The score was tied, 60-60, with the clock nearly exhausted. Only 2.5 seconds remained. Then, Doug McDermott sank a three-pointer. Fifteen thousand blue-and-white bodies leapt to their feet.

Creighton won the mid-season conference match against St. John’s by a single basket. McDermott not only sank the winning three-pointer, he also scored a season-high 39 points.

Dr. Jack Stark was taking mental notes from the sidelines. As usual, Stark was standing amongst the team. He is the official sports psychologist for the Bluejays, a volunteer position that he has held for seven years.

Stark previously worked with Cornhusker football (1989-2004), with Omaha Mavericks hockey, and a host of other collegiate and professional programs. For the past 14 years, he’s been in the pits of NASCAR. He currently works intensely with six drivers: Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (winner of the Daytona 500 this year).

Altogether, Stark has been part of 20 national championships. He earned three championship rings with the Huskers, where he was instrumental in launching a player feedback council.

Players need someone to consult when crisis strikes off the field, he says, someone who isn’t the coach.

Stark continues working with former Huskers coach Frank Solich at Ohio University and recently began helping the Wyoming football team and Omaha Lancers hockey team. His accolades, mementos and signed posters adorn his home office in West Omaha. The former clinical psychologist (originally from Hastings, Neb.) refers to his collegiate and high school sports consulting as a “hobby.” NASCAR and business consulting provides his income.

Despite Stark’s privileged position to watch some of the world’s most memorable sporting events, he says that the Creighton Bluejays’ narrow win over St. John’s remains a particularly insightful moment for anyone wishing to understand one of sports history’s most special relationships—the relationship between one of college basketball’s all-time greats with his coach/father.

“Doug McDermott absolutely loves to play for his father. You can tell,” Stark says, recalling the frigid night in late January when coach Greg McDermott turned to his son with a simple compliment: “Doug, it was a great game, great effort.”

The younger McDermott was beaming in response, not because he had single-handedly carried the team. Rather, he was simply happy to help his father.

“I’ve been blessed to have worked with Heisman winners, players of the year, All-Americans, Olympic gold medalists, all of them,” Stark says, “but none of them are as good as Doug McDermott.”

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