GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing were back coaching their respective Big East squads -- St. John's and Georgetown -- at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. But it is another Big East coach who might well be the Knicks' biggest fan at this stage.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott has a vested interest in the Knicks because his son Doug is a valuable bench player for the team.
Greg, whose Bluejays are currently No. 25 in the nation and sit atop the Big East standings, watches as many Knicks games as he can on the NBA app and on TV.
"[Doug] is really enjoying New York City and likes being part of the Knicks," Greg said. "He really thinks it's a non-ego group and a group of guys that gets along extremely well."
The 6-foot-8 Doug McDermott is averaging 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Knicks (19-22), who visit Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. Like Doug, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek is the son of a coach. Hornacek's father, John, is a former high school coach in Illinois.
"My dad was a coach and when you're around that you see it and grow up with it," Jeff Hornacek told SNY.tv on Thursday after practice. "You pick up certain things and obviously having his dad coach him as well, he's learned a lot of things. So that's always an advantage."
Playing for his father at Creighton, Doug was a three-time All-American who scored more than 3,000 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds. He finished his college career with the fifth-most points in NCAA Division I men's basketball history and was named the National Player of the Year in 2014.
"It was pretty incredible,'' Greg McDermott told The Post of the experience of coaching his son in college. "I wish every father could have that experience with his son. Looking back, we'll both appreciate it more one day. You wish you could've smelled the roses more when you're going through the grind. But it was a special time in my life."
While Greg still has Creighton among the top teams in the nation even without Doug, his son is hoping to help the Knicks rebuild in the post-Carmelo Anthony Era. Doug McDermott and center Enes Kanter came to New York in the Anthony trade with Oklahoma City just before training camp.
That united McDermott with Hornacek, whom Greg had known since their respective college days, Greg at Northern Iowa and Hornacek at Iowa State.
"I've known coach Hornacek back to his days playing at Iowa State," Greg said. "He gave me one of the best cheap shots I've ever been given on the playing floor. He leveled me with an elbow one time. Back when there were only two referees he seemed to know when they weren't looking and he caught me one time."
Asked if he recalled the incident, Hornacek cracked: "Not really. He's bigger than I am, I must've hit him good then."
The two men also crossed paths when Greg McDermott coached at Iowa State.
"He means a lot to that Iowa State program so we connected several times during my tenure there," Greg said of Hornacek.
As for Doug McDermott, Hornacek said he would like him to be more aggressive shooting the three ball, where he's shooting 40 percent this season.
"All our guys, if you get an open three, shoot it," Hornacek said." Sometimes our guys have a tendency, Doug included, if a guy's running at him, they'll pump fake him and then go in for an 18-footer. The way the game is today, we need those threes and we're not a high-volume shooting threes right now. So if anything, just keep firing away."
Greg McDermott, meantime, believes the Knicks are an up and coming team that has a chance to make the playoffs this season.
"I think absolutely they do," he said. "I think Kristaps Porzingis is a unique talent and someone you can play through. I think if they can get Tim Hardaway Jr. back, obviously that's a little bit more punch in transiton and another guy that can shoot the basketball. I think what you're seeing is a team that plays together, they compete, they've played hard. They've let some close games slip away and I think once they learn how to finish some of those games, it's a relatively young group, new group playing together, I think anything can happen."
Doug McDermott and the Knicks will spend much of January on the road, where they are just 4-14. This stretch could well determine their postseason fate.
"Obviously," Greg McDermott said, "these next two or three weeks are important for them because they're on the road a bunch and they've struggled a little bit on the road."