Some men are lucky enough to be professional coaches, teaching the game they love as a career.
Some kids are lucky enough to be great athletes, talented enough at the game they love to earn a scholarship to play at an elite level.
Sometimes, the men lucky enough to coach are lucky enough to have sons who are lucky enough to be college athletes. Sometimes these lucky kids are lucky enough to play for their lucky fathers. These are the luckiest of all.
It's not all easy. There's the difficulty of maintaining a loving father-son relationship simultaneously with a demanding coach-player relationship. There are fans, some hurling accusations of nepotism, some chanting things no dad wants to hear said about his son. There are losses, so many tough losses.
But the bond held by coach-dads and player-sons is special. At an age when most children grow away from their parents, these pairs grow closer by working on the game they're both passionate about. Coach-dads and player-sons able to share knowledge, moments and experiences that build both into better men.
We interviewed a few Division I basketball coaches who coached their sons, as well as the sons who played for their fathers.
Steve Alford: head coach at UCLA, 2013-present, also coached son Kory at New Mexico
Wade Houston: head coach at Tennessee, 1989-1994
Ron Hunter: head coach at Georgia State, 2011-present
Ray McCallum, Sr.: head coach at Detroit, 2008-present
Greg McDermott: head coach at Creighton, 2010-present
Bob McKillop: head coach at Davidson, 1989-present
Tubby Smith: head coach at Texas Tech, 2013-present, also coached son G.G. at Georgia, 1995-1997, also coached son Saul at Kentucky, 1997-2001
Bryce Alford: rising junior at UCLA
Kory Alford: played at New Mexico, 2011-2013, played at UCLA 2013-2015, moving to a coaching position at UCLA this upcoming season
Allan Houston: played at Tennessee, 1989-1993, played 12 NBA seasons, currently GM of the Westchester Knicks
R.J. Hunter: played at Georgia State, 2012-2015, currently preparing for NBA Draft
Ray McCallum, Jr.: played at Detroit 2010-2013, currently plays for Sacramento Kings
Doug McDermott: played at Creighton, 2010-2014, currently plays for the Chicago Bulls
Brendan McKillop: played at Davidson, 2007-2011
Matt McKillop: played at Davidson, 2002-2006, currently an assistant coach at Davidson
G.G. Smith: played at Georgia, 1995-1999, currently head coach of Loyola (MD)
Saul Smith: played at Kentucky, 1997-2001, currently video coordinator at Texas Tech
Bryce and Steve Alford. Photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Growing up with hoops
When your dad coaches basketball, you're around basketball, from the time you're a baby:
Bryce Alford: I don't remember when I was so young, but looking back at pictures, I had a little tiny basketball in my hands since I was a little toddler, not even knowing what I was doing.
Ron Hunter: The very first day [R.J.] came home, in his crib, there was a small basketball. There wasn't a water bottle, there wasn't blankets, there was a little basketball. It was destiny from day one.
Ray McCallum, Sr.: I was the one who put the ball in [Ray Jr.'s] hands from the time he was born. He was born, and he had a little ball to hold ... From the time he could walk, at 4-5 years, he was "the Little Dribbler" at University of Wisconsin. At Ball State he was in the halftime act as "The Little Dribbler."
Coaches try not to force it, but when a kid's dad coaches basketball, they end up loving basketball:
Matt McKillop: I had no other option than to be around the game. It was so big in our family's life. My second home was going to the office of my father for him to look after me for the day, and I'd be in a basketball gym. I would go recruiting with him. I would go on road trips to go to road games with him. Ride the bus, sit on the bench, stay in the hotels. I was in that atmosphere and being in that atmosphere with every little aspect of the game was the reason I wanted to be a player and looked forward to becoming a good player and also become a coach.
Kory Alford: It's been ingrained since I was a young kid. When I was 2, I went to every single one of my dad's games at Manchester College. Whether they meant to or not, I had little choice in what I grew up liking.
Doug McDermott: I was the outlier that always wanted to go to practice. I wanted to sit back and watch film with my dad, even when I was a young kid, even if it was just practice. I just looooved everything about the game. I loved going to practices and learning from different players, doing imitations of various players out on the driveway. It always stuck with me.
Allan Houston: He never forced it on me. He always allowed me to love it for myself. But he also brought me around and let the other players be big brothers for me.
Tubby Smith: I was coaching at major colleges, so my sons were exposed to the best competition at the amateur level. These kids are growing up and their heroes are these players at different schools ... An 8 year old's hero isn't going to be the coach. It's going to be Jamal Mashburn, Scott Padgett. For Saul and GG, they had the opportunity to witness some outstanding players.
The downside is, coaching is a job with a lot of travel: Road trips, recruiting trips, etc. It means if your dad is a coach, dad isn't always around:
Saul Smith: He wasn't at my soccer games or my baseball games, even my basketball games. He was busy putting food on the table and providing for us.
In 2011, Ron Hunter left his job as head coach of IUPUI for Georgia State while his son was still playing high school ball in Indianapolis:
Ron Hunter: It was his senior year of high school in Indiana, and I was here. He was making a great run to the state championship, and I was here. When you're in Indiana, and you make it to the state championship game, that's sometimes bigger than the Final Four. And to be here and not be a part of that, that was one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life.
Recruiting a son
The process of a college basketball coach recruiting their own son is an incredibly strange one. A dad wants the best possible scenario for his son. Is that playing for him? What if his son isn't good enough? What if the son would actually prefer something different? How does a dad make sure he's not pressuring his son into making a bad decision? Each story has its own quirks.
Ron Hunter opted to remove himself from the recruiting process completely:
Ron Hunter: When I hired [assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie,] the first thing I told him was, "you've got to sign my son." I won't recruit him, I won't go on any visits. I didn't want him to feel the pressure to have to go play for his dad, I wanted him to make his decision based on strictly Georgia State, and the things he would like about it.
They set up a home visit, they set up official visits, they set all those things up without me being involved in any of them. On his official visit, I didn't go to any meals. I had a five-minute conversation with him, on the last day. He had a sit-down with the entire staff without me. They did a home visit back in Indianapolis, and when they did a home visit, I didn't show up.
There was not one conversation where we had a hard-core sale, like, "we need you here, we really want you here." I never had that conversation, and we spoke every night, before he went to bed.
But R.J., who had the talent to play at schools with more basketball prestige, still made a decision based on his dad:
R.J. Hunter: That process was kinda short for me. I had to figure out if I was going to pick a high major school over family, or pick family first. After I matured and realized family was always going to be first, it was an easy decision.
Doug McDermott was all set to play for family friend Ben Jacobson at Northern Iowa rather than his dad at Iowa State:
Doug McDermott: I wasn't quite good enough for the BCS level, or at least that's what people thought. I just didn't want to play for [my dad] at Iowa State. I thought a mid-major would be better for me to start off ... I was up in Cedar Falls signing papers for my summer housing. I was already out the door going to Northern Iowa.
But in 2010, just after the finish of Doug's high school career, his dad resigned at Iowa State and moved to Creighton, in the same conference as UNI. Jacobson released him from his Letter of Intent and the McDermotts headed off to Omaha:
Doug McDermott: It was kind of a no-brainer for me. I didn't want to play against him 2-3 times a year. It would've been kind of awkward.
Ray McCallum, Jr. was a McDonald's All-American, but his dad coached at Detroit, a Horizon League school. Not a lot of McDonald's All-Americans go to Horizon League schools. Would playing for his dad provide the best scenario for a potential professional career?:
Ray McCallum, Sr.: I thought that it was important to let him go through the process, because he had earned those opportunities with his ability. For that to occur, I felt like I had to sit back, let him go through the process of him getting recruiting by those high-major programs ... then you have Sean Miller offering a scholarship in your home, a coach I had worked with at Wisconsin who came in with a picture of Little Ray sitting on his lap.
Toward the end, it was time for me to make a pitch myself, but what I told him was to watch our team, watch our program, and we were getting better and growing, and I told him that he could make a difference and impact us. I told him that I'd love for him to play for me. That was a decision that he made at the end, but I thought the key was to let him go through the process and get a feel for other programs as well as watching us.
In 1989, Wade Houston left his job as an assistant at Louisville to take a job as the head coach at Tennessee after Allan Houston had already signed his letter of intent to play at Tennessee:
Wade Houston: I pretty much left it up to Allan. I think Allan took a poll with the players at Louisville and as he talked to all of them, and they were trying to figure out how they could come with me to Tennessee.
Allan Houston: To me I never thought about why I would even play for anybody else. Why would I not play for him? I saw how he developed so many other players that developed into NBA players.
The Alfords had different reasons for picking their dad's school. Bryce was a star, but family came first:
Bryce Alford: From the time I was 5 years old I knew that if I was good enough, I would want to play for my dad. So going into high school, I started to get better, I had that potential to play at the next level, I told my dad, "Hey, I want to play for you. I don't need to waste any other coach's time. You can handle that. You can tell them I'm going to commit to you."
Kory wasn't a star. His only offers came from low-major schools that didn't have the prestige of New Mexico, where his dad coached. If he took those offers, he could play big minutes. If he stuck by his dad, he couldn't. But the choice wasn't hard:
Kory Alford: I thought about it, but I knew what I wanted to do is coaching. And to be a walk-on at a successful program like New Mexico, I knew I could learn from my dad.
Both McKillop sons wanted to play for Davidson.
Bob McKillop: Our boys, they grew up wearing Davidson on their heart.
Matt McKillop: I knew my mother, brother and sister wanted me to attend Davidson.
Brendan McKillop: My whole life I wanted to play at Davidson.
But were they talented enough? Matt went to prep school for a year after graduating high school to make sure he would fit in. With his dad coaching and his brother on the team, Brendan assumed he would too. But it wasn't that easy:
Brendan McKillop: My junior year, my dad told me I wasn't good enough. That was hard for me. I kind of expected ... my brother goes there, and you kind of expect that's gonna be an option ... But it gave me that extra drive to push myself those next 12 months to eventually make him change his mind.
G.G. Smith knew he was going to play for his dad, regardless of the school. When his left Tulsa for Georgia in 1995, he followed:
G.G. Smith: My mom calls me, I'm in Cancun on Spring Break, back then there were no cellphones. So she was calling the hotel. On the last day, she finally gets me. She says, "Where've you been?" I said, "I've been on the beach! I'm in Cancun!" She says, "Dad got the Georgia job!" So I guess I'm not going to Tulsa.
Two years later, his younger brother had to make the same decision, he wasn't so sure:
Saul Smith: We both played the same position, and I didn't want to play behind my brother. I thought I was better than him. Of course, I wasn't, but at the time, I thought I was. I was telling coaches the truth, that at the time I wasn't 100-percent sure I wanted to play for Georgia, because it wasn't me.
Saul was set to walk on at Georgia, but then his dad took the job at Kentucky:
Saul Smith: He asked me, I only have one point guard on the roster. Would you want to come compete for playing time there? I said, "Yeah, let's do it." That's how that ended up going.
G.G. chose to stay at Georgia to finish his career rather than compete for minutes at Kentucky. That led to the awkward situation of Smith vs. Smith twice a year in SEC play:
G.G. Smith: We played them close to my birthday. The game was on ESPN. It was tough, looking over to the sideline, and there's my dad. Looking behind the bench, and there's my mom, wearing blue and red. There's my brother and my dad. But once the ball got thrown up and started playing, it was basketball.
Tubby Smith: G.G. was going off! He's scoring right away, making threes, and they're leading us. So I had to call a timeout and say, "Listen, I'll tell you one thing. I know he's my son. But I don't want to see him score again." So out comes the competitive drive within you as a coach. It makes you think back to when you're playing him out in the backyard, you're not gonna let them win there neither.
Kentucky beat Georgia all four times they played before G.G. graduated.
Tubby Smith and Saul Smith. Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Coach ... or ... dad?
What to call your coach, who is also your dad? It's a tough decision!:
Bryce Alford: Calling him "coach" is weird, because he's my dad. Calling him dad is weird because we're at practice and everybody else is calling him "coach."
Brendan McKillop: I didn't want to yell DAD in the middle of practice. But I never called him coach, that would've been so weird for me.
Going with "dad" opens a son to public ridicule:
G.G. Smith: Even though he was my coach, I always called him dad. I got a lot of heat from the players my first year as a player.
But going with coach ... well ... it just doesn't feel right:
Ron Hunter: The first two days of practice, [R.J.] actually tried to call me coach. And he said it was the weirdest feeling.
Some feel "coach" provides a sense of professionalism that's necessary:
Steve Alford: My dad did a great job of helping me when we were between the lines and when there was a team practice, I knew to call him coach. I wasn't allowed to call him dad. I called him coach ... My sons know to call me coach.
Saul Smith: We had rules on my team. I never once called him dad in those four years, I called him coach. In college, he wasn't my dad. He was my coach.
The most tried and true tactic is a combination of silence and the HEY method:
Bryce Alford: I try to wait until we have eye contact, or just say HEY loud and just get his attention without saying either one.
Matt McKillop: I never called him dad or coach. I'd just say hey.
Ron Hunter: It was more about eye contact. He'd call me dad away from the court, but in between the lines, he wouldn't call me anything. For three years.
Doug McDermott: I didn't really call him either. I'd try to get his attention some other way, so I didn't really have to choose.
At the end of the day, it seems to make sons most comfortable to say "dad":
R.J. Hunter: The first two years, when I had to get his attention, I didn't call him anything. The last year, I called him dad the whole time. I was like, "What am I avoiding this for?" That was easier.
Dealing with "Daddy's Boy"
Coach's sons take a lot of heat. Even before they play for their dads:
Matt McKillop: I'd guess a lot of coach's sons deal with it at an early age. When I made my junior high, high school teams, people said the only reason I was making those teams was because my father was the coach at Davidson.
R.J. Hunter: Even in middle and elementary school.
Bryce Alford: My brother got criticism, and he didn't even play all that much. He was a walk-on and really was just on the practice squad.
Sometimes the criticism came from opposing fans:
Matt McKillop: You play a road game, and you walk out and there's signs saying "Daddy's boy" and there's chants calling you daddy's boy, it's something you can't avoid.
Sometimes it came from fans who were supposed to be supportive:
Tubby Smith: I remember, my very last call-in show at Georgia. G.G. was starting PG after his sophomore year. We'd just won the most games we'd won in a season. And he'd started every game, played well all year. And somebody calls in, "Coach, we appreciate what you did this year, but you got a point guard coming in this year?" I said, "Come on, man."
One player in particular was the center of a perfect storm of criticism:
G.G. Smith: I didn't get a lot of feedback at Georgia, Georgia's a football school. It was more difficult for Saul than it was for me. He was in that huge spotlight at Kentucky. I know a lot of Kentucky fans weren't a big fan of that.
Tubby Smith: Saul at Kentucky, you can imagine what that was like. He was probably as scrutinized as much as any player in the country at that time.
Surrounded by the nation's craziest fans, playing heavy minutes for teams with national title hopes, Saul Smith was the center of a perfect storm of criticism. But he managed to move past it:
Saul Smith: It's never fun to hear somebody say you're not good enough, but you also can't let it stop you from what you want to do. I wanted to be a basketball player, and I want to be a very good one. So my mentality was: the first day I showed up as a freshman in the summer, I might not have been as highly recruited as [my teammates,] but what I can do is win this one-on-one battle or in the weight room or this sprint. What I can do is beat them, be physical, punish them, be more aggressive.
And when I did that, they all respected me. They all knew I wasn't some kid just getting a chance because the coach was my dad. My teammates will tell you to this day there were not a lot of times that Saul wasn't winning all these competitions or drills or weight rooms. They knew I was good enough, so the outside stuff didn't really matter to me. A lot of that negativity didn't really reach me. You turn on the radio, news, read the newspaper, you'll see some columnist's opinion. So I didn't worry about that. I didn't turn on the radio, I didn't read the newspaper. None of that I heard.
The best way to beat jerk fans is to just pour points on their heads:
Bob McKillop: I'll remember this always: Matt actually silenced one group of fans maybe 5 feet from the baseline, at East Tennessee State many years ago. He had 20-plus points. The chants of Daddy's Boy died down really quickly after he started making three after three.
Do that enough, and nobody will hate:
Steve Alford: My freshman and sophomore year, every time I was put into a game, I was booed. And by junior and senior year, when I'm averaging big and doing those things, every time my dad took me out, he was booed.
Wade Houston: Everything was easier because Allan was the best player on the team. My assistant coaches used to always try to get me to get more shots for Allan.
Greg and Doug McDermott. Photo credit: Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports
The not-so-special treatment
Think coach's sons get an easy ride because their dad is the coach? Think again:
Doug McDermott: Off the floor, he treated me better than the other guys, because he's my dad. But on the floor, honestly he'd use me as an example to get the team going. He'd yell at me or if he wanted to have a day where he really wanted competition he'd bring the best out of me instead of attacking another guy, getting under somebody else's skin.
Bryce Alford: If the team has a bad first half, and we're coming into halftime, whether I played well in the first half or not, I know I'm going to get the brunt of the yelling at halftime. He knows I respond well to it, but he knows the team responds well. When they see that he's yelling at his son, he's mad. He wants us to do better. If he's yelling at me, it sends that message to the whole team that it's time to get serious, and we have to play better.
The yelling wasn't strictly due to family relationships:
R.J. Hunter: It was tough for me to decide [if he treated me differently] because I was always the best player. Coaches treat their best players one way, and that's tough. So I didn't know if that was him being tough on me because he was my dad, or because I was the best player and the captain. That made it easier too, knowing I was the best on the team. I knew I had a lot of responsibility and that's why he was getting on me. So I didn't really take it personally.
But most coaches try to treat their son the same as anybody else:
Steve Alford: They're part of a team. They're just one member of a team. The rules are the same. The expectations of how you conduct yourself are the same.
Greg McDermott: As long as he would treat me like his coach between the four lines and on game night, we had very few issues. I think most people that watched us from the outside would have a hard time telling we were father and son from the interactions in practice. Frankly, that's the way we wanted it. Obviously we enjoyed the experience tremendously. We had a lot of small celebrations as a family during his four-year career, but when we were between the four lines it was all business.
Doug McDermott: We put everything aside when you're on the court. It was strictly a coach-player relationship. When we got outside the lines, I'd go to him for money, mainly.
The hard times
Coach-dads can struggle to find the line between pushing a player-son to reach his peak potential and pushing him too far:
Ray McCallum, Sr.: When [Ray, Jr.] was in fourth grade, I remember a time when he said, "He,y let's go out and play. I really want to be a player. This is what I want to do." We were down in Houston, and it was 30 straight days over 100 degrees, and we were out there in the middle of the day, and it was a little steamy. And he had a problem going through the workout at the pace I wanted. That ended the workout.
I said, "Let me know when you're ready to come back and work." And you know how kids are: He was like, "I'm ready," the next day. And it's been going on ever since with the training and the preparation and the gym time. Whenever we could get into the gym, we were there. Before games, at school, it wasn't unusual for us to be in the gym at 6:30 in the morning getting shots up. After Thanksgiving dinner, one of my college practices, we're back in there at night. After Christmas Day dinner, we're in the gym. New Year's Day, we're in the gym.
One of the biggest struggles for coach-dads is remembering how to be a coach sometimes and a dad other times, and not to let the two bleed together:
Greg McDermott: For 18 years, my voice was his father's voice, and overnight, it becomes his coach's voice in practice and during games. For any 18-year-old, that would be difficult, and I think there was a period of adjustment during those first few months on the practice floor and on the game floor.
Doug McDermott: It becomes a little annoying, I'm not going to lie. I'm a college kid. I kind of want to be a college kid. You don't always want to be around your parents when you're in college. That got annoying hearing the dad voice every once in a while.
Bryce Alford: I'm a 20-year-old kid. I don't like getting yelled at all the time. I don't like hearing that from my dad all the time. I want to get away sometimes. Being around your dad 24/7, having him yelling at you, he can hear every move when you're playing the game that you love, it's tough, it's tough being around that 365 days a year. It wears on you a little bit. You've got to pick your spots when to let it go in one ear and out the other, when to hang around the other coaches and let them talk to you.
It's tough when you lose:
Ron Hunter: His sophomore year, we lost the conference championship game. I saw him crying. And he didn't play well, he wanted to play better. We lost the game. We didn't go the NCAA Tournament. At that point, I should've been dad, and I was coach. And I kick myself now. I should've been dad. I had the entire team, and all these things going on, and I lost that particular moment. That's the one thing I will always regret.
Matt McKillop: When you're losing, it's not just your team, but a team you've loved your whole life. And it's not just a coach, that's your dad. That's your family. We're all huge fans. We've got a huge extended family who live and die Davidson basketball. Basically it just amplifies everything.
The hard times can provide valuable learning lessons:
Bob McKillop: Matt's freshman year, there was a chance with a couple of seconds left in the game, and we're down two points, and Matt's in the game and his roommate, Brendan Winters, is in the game. And we had an out of bounds play. And the need to make the decision of who's going to take that final shot to win the game or lose the game. It's an anxiety-prone situation for me. I thought prior to going into the huddle, if I select Matt to make the shot and he makes it, great. If he misses it, my son is going to feel awful, and I'm going to feel awful.
And then I realized that Brendan Winters was also somebody's son. So he's going to feel awful and his dad's going to feel awful. So it was a great, quick understanding that every player I have is somebody's son. It fostered an attitude within me to treat each of my players like somebody's son. And it was a great learning lesson for me as a coach and as a father to go through that high-pressured moment making that decision in crunch time.
The McKillop household is right across the street from Davidson's campus. There wasn't a whole lot of separation, physically or emotionally, between the space where Bob coached and Matt played and the space where Bob was a father and Matt was a son:
Matt McKillop: I remember opening presents on Christmas morning, finishing breakfast, and then being shown film of mistakes I had made in a game two days earlier. There were times that I avoided going home because I didn't want to hear the same voice that was yelling at me.
But Coach McKillop learned over the course of Matt's career, and by the time Brendan played at Davidson, he understood the importance of boundaries better. Another holiday story has a much different ending:
Brendan McKillop: I remember my freshman year we were top-25 for the first time in who knows how many years, and we went and lost to Western Michigan. It was an awful game. We came back the next morning and had practice, and it was Thanksgiving morning, and it was by far the worst two hours I've ever experienced in my life. I was just physically beat down with running and the drills, and I was the target of a lot of it.
And I remember going home for Thanksgiving dinner. He told me he thought I wasn't going to show up for Thanksgiving dinner, but he sat me down and one of my teammates that was with me and said: "This morning, that was basketball. This is a time to celebrate with family. So let's put that behind us." I was pretty nervous to show up, but he quickly took that away, and had that separation so we could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
So no more Christmas film sessions:
Brendan McKillop: I think my mom shut that one down before I got to school.
The pain can make the joy even better:
R.J. Hunter: Sometimes you just want to have a family. When you're in the college business -- and it is a business -- it continues to be a business. Then your family is involved and mood in your family is based on how the season is going. That was the frustrating part. But then when you have success, it's double the success.
Allan Houston: The value now that I look back is seeing how he handled being the first African-American coach in the conference and the obstacles that came with that, people being critical, and seeing him go through adversity, not just the good times. The way I saw him handle that was as valuable as anything I learned on the court.
Ray McCallum, Sr., and Ray McCallum, Jr. Photo credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
A special time
For many college students, heading off to school is the beginning of the end for life with parents. For coach-dads and player-sons, it's the opposite:
Greg McDermott: Most kids go away to college and you see them three or four times a year. I got to see Doug virtually every day. It was really a bonus for year and a time in my life I'll always cherish. I think with each passing day, Doug and I probably appreciate what we had more. When it's going on, you're in the moment, you're getting ready for the next day, the next practice. Sometimes the days run together. But the farther we get away from the end of his career, the more we'll appreciate our time together.
Bryce Alford: My whole life, he's been traveling. He's been on recruiting trips, he goes on road trips. Being able to be on those road trips, being able to be a part of something that he's a part of, finally getting to experience what I imagined as a little kid. I went on a few road trips when I was little, and being a part of his team was always one of my biggest goals. It was something I strived for. So to be able to do that the past two years has been a special experience.
Ron Hunter: Not every dad gets the chance to go with their 18-20-year-old son on road trips. To see him every day, whether it was going to dinner or whatever. That was unbelievable. That was the part that was extremely rewarding. I have a daughter, and when she went to college, I didn't get that time with her. With my son, I was able to have that special moment. I'll always remember that.
Allan Houston: It wasn't so much about teaching skills, as it was about those conversations about life. When I was in high school we had conversations when we were together, but now I got it first hand, like an apprenticeship. Seeing him not just coach me but pull me into his office, talk about girls, relationships, avoiding temptation, all that stuff. It was a critical time for me to have him.
The moments that make it all worth it
Greg McDermott: I'm the envy of every father in the country. To watch my son become one of the top scorers in the history of college basketball, and to be there for every one of those points, to watch him grow and develop not only as a player, but grow and mature as a person during his collegiate years was very gratifying.
We beat Alabama, Doug's sophomore year, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. To be standing there, him on one side of the camera, me on the other side of the camera, being interviewed after the game, after the victory, I remember looking across at him and wondering, "How the heck did this all happen?"
Bob McKillop: I would stand at the national anthem as it concluded. We're playing Duke at Cameron Matt's first year, and after the national anthem, I turned to go into the huddle, and there was Matt. And just to know that here we are in one of the palaces of college basketball, and here he was in the uniform he had such a love for, and I had the opportunity to coach him and he was gonna play there. I have a crystal clear memory of that moment.
Ray McCallum, Sr.: It was a dream come true to walk him all the way through birth, to his development of a player, into a state champion and McDonald's All-American, and then to come here and be Horizon League Freshman of the Year, then player of the year, then lead us to the first NCAA Tournament in 12-13 years. That's the way it was supposed to be. That was his plan. That was his goal. To have that happen was very special.
Doug McDermott: I grew up as a son going to all of our games and tournaments, postseason conference tournaments. And our first year, we won the title in St. Louis. That was the most special. I grew up going to that tournament as a kid, always dreaming to be out there. That was really cool. It was a humbling experience because you realize how fast time flies.
After experiencing such a close relationship with his father and realizing how it helped him succeed, Houston now runs programs preaching the importance of fatherhood and mentorship through basketball with his charity, the Allan Houston Foundation:
Allan Houston: That was the inspiration for the opportunities that we've had to give back. We heard it was a unique relationship. But we didn't want it to be unique. We wanted it to be standard ... We wanted to hear fathers and give them opportunities to spend time with their children. We saw the value of having time together to bond and connect. You don't even have to have a lot of conversation. But we found that consistent time together was so important. And learning the fundamentals of what to do with that time, lessons that I learned with him, marrying those lessons with fundamentals that we learned on the court.
Tubby Smith won the title his first year at Kentucky, with Saul on the squad:
Saul Smith: Winning a national title is a huge deal. That run we had was very special ... And my dad was with me. When we got to the end and we win, I thought, "Man, it can't get any better than this."
Bryce Alford took a shot for the win in the NCAA Tournament that ended up winning them the game, via a goaltending call on SMU:
Bryce Alford: Right after the SMU game, my brother comes and tackles me on the floor. That's all over SportsCenter, all over everywhere. It's a really cool deal to experience that not just with your teammates, and stuff like that, but you have real family on the team as well.
R.J. Hunter drilled a game-winning shot against Baylor in this year's NCAA Tournament, famously making his dad fall out of his chair in celebration. Unsurprisingly, both remembered it fondly:
Ron Hunter: From the time when he made the shot, until we got to the hotel, those couple of hours were really special. We were all together, for every single interview, for everything. That was our moment.
R.J. Hunter: We just enjoyed that week. The tournament can be stressful. We were the one team there that enjoyed the ride. We enjoyed that moment.
Ron Hunter: Regardless of what happens in my life -- go to the Final Four, win the NCAA Tournament, whatever -- nothing will replace that moment. I think RJ would say the same thing, including playing in the NBA Finals, or whatever it would happen to be. Those couple of hours were the most memorable time of our lives.