Tag Archives: Doug McDermott

Newsmaker Becomes Newsgatherer

August 23, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Our committee at the Omaha Press Club meets several times a year to discuss who will next be honored as the club’s “Face on the Barroom Floor.” When the committee’s chairman, Tom O’Connor, was nominated this year, only one committee member voted “no.” It was O’Connor.

O’Connor argued that the honor is meant for people who have made a difference in the community. It’s how people who cover the news give recognition to those who make the news.

For 14 years, he has chaired the committee that selects the Faces, the people whose illustrated caricatures end up on the walls of the Press Club. Everyone agrees he’s done a stellar job.

“Tom, over the years, helped make the Face an icon for Omaha,” says OPC Executive Director Steve Villamonte, who nominated the longtime member.

Tom-OConnor1Over his protests, O’Connor was roasted and toasted in February in front of a sold-out crowd. His was the 148th Face since the ritual began 45 years ago with Mayor Gene Leahy as the first honoree.

“One of the ways he has helped with awareness is with his contacts in the media world,” notes Villamonte.

O’Connor, who is senior associate director of public relations at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says knowing the community’s newsmakers is right up his alley.

“The Faces are the who’s who of Omaha,” he says. “It’s like winning the Heisman Trophy.”

Another recognizable Face is movie producer and Omaha native Alexander Payne, whose roasters included actor Will Forte. “It was one of the funniest roasts we‘ve had,” says Villamonte. “And to get someone of Forte’s stature as a roaster, well…”

The largest crowd during the Faces’ 45-year history came to salute Creighton basketball coach Greg McDermott and three-time All-American Doug McDermott who at the time played on his father’s team. The crowd was so large that O’Connor moved the dinner and roast to another venue. And the second largest was for…Tom O’Connor.

The third largest “Face” event was held in 2007 for Husker fan Dan Whitney, also known as comedian Larry the Cable Guy. I remember “Larry” dressed up for the occasion by adding sparkle to his trademark sleeveless plaid shirt.

Another Tom—Osborne—was a Face on the Barroom Floor in 1979. Since then he has returned to roast other newsmakers such as NFL greats Gale Sayers and Ahman Green. The former UNL football coach and athletic director was a roaster in May for UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts.

An Omaha Press Club member for 38 years, O’Connor is a past president (2001), past board member, a member of the marketing and newsletter committees, and he heads the Shatel Sports Lunch series.

“Tom has made the Face on the Barroom Floor a premier event,” says Jim Horan, the artist who has drawn the illustrated caricatures since the first one in 1971 (the artist is also my husband). “He took the roast concept to a new level, which has turned the night into 100 percent fun.”

O’Connor explains: “I tell people we’re the club with a sense of humor, the Face event is all about having fun and entertaining people. You’re always going to leave laughing.”

His quest for fun continues, as does his enthusiasm for honoring Omaha’s best. He has invited Bill and Ruth Scott to be Face No. 150 on Sept. 22. “They are unsung heroes who have transformed the city and the state with their incredible generosity. Being able to recognize great people like the Scotts, that’s what the Face on the Barroom Floor is
all about.”

He jokes that his wish list for future Face on the Barroom Floor honorees includes Pope Francis and Michael Jordan. Knowing O’Connor, I think it just might happen.

Visit omahapressclub.com/faces for more information.

Winning Psychology

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.”

Kelsey Saddoris and Kayleigh Begley

April 29, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Marriage proposals from secret admirers. Out-of-the-blue invitations to high school proms in distant states. Being dubbed “America’s Sweethearts.” Such are the lives of two of the city’s newest instant celebrities.

Being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated has the power to do that, you know.

Creighton University dance team members Kelsey Saddoris (left on previous page) and Kayleigh Begley were pictured flanking Bluejay senior Doug McDermott on the cover of the March 17 issue of the magazine. Saddoris is a pre-med junior from Ankeny, Iowa. Begley, a pre-law freshman, is the homegrown product of Millard North High School.

“This has all been like a dream,” says Begley. “This is my first year of college, and that has been a crazy enough experience in itself. But to be a part of the Creighton program in such an exciting year…and then Sports Illustrated…and now you guys. It’s just been a magical year.”

“The change to the Big East,” adds Saddoris, “has been huge for us. New logo. New mascot. New league. It’s been amazing fun. The response—not just to the magazine cover but to everything about Creighton’s success—has been just unbelievable.”

McDermott, the All-Everything “Dougie McBuckets,” led the nation in scoring with 26.7 points per game. He has since earned college basketball’s most prestigious honors in being named both the John R. Wooden Award Player of the Year and The Associated Press Player of the Year. His third first-team appearance on the AP’s All-America team makes him the first player to rack up a trio of such honors since Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale did so in the 1980s. McDermott’s 3,150 career points places him a lofty No. 5 on college hoops’ all-time scoring list.

Savvy sports fans know that the Sports Illustrated cover was homage to its 1977 ancestor that featured Larry Bird striking the same pose with Indiana State cheerleaders. Both covers carried the same headline of “College Basketball’s Secret Weapon.”

The magazine hit newsstands during spring break and Omaha Magazine’s photo shoot took place the very day that classes resumed.

“Pretty weird out there today, but in a good way,” Begley says while mugging for the camera. “Campus was totally on fire today!”

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