Below is a complete transcript of the teleconference Iowa State men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott had with reporters on Tuesday night regarding Lucca Staiger quitting the team.
Opening Statement “Lucca Staiger informed our coaching staff this morning that he has quit the team and has decided to return to his native Germany to play professional basketball. Obviously, I am very disappointed with the timing of his decision in particular. But we really don’t have any choice but to move forward with the guys who want to be here and hopefully this will bring our guys a little bit closer. We are short in numbers right now. Lucca’s dream was to play in the NBA. He made that clear when we recruited him two and a half years ago. I think that as he progressed with his college career, he realized that probably wasn’t going to become a reality. So he decided that the next best option was to play professionally at home. An opportunity was presented to him where he could go home and play professionally, basically almost immediately. He wasn’t sure that that opportunity would present itself with any sort of guarantee in the future. He decided to grab it and take it. That is really all that we know at this point in time. Nobody was aware, whatsoever that Lucca was contemplating such a decision. Noone on our coaching staff, nor any of Lucca’s teammates.”
What was the time frame of him telling you guys this?
GM: He asked to have breakfast with Coach Rutter this morning at 7:30. I first got word that he wasn’t in class at 8 o’clock. I got a text at about 8:15 that he wasn’t in class. I attempted to reach Coach Rutter. Coach Rutter was obviously in a meeting with him at that time. I think they came in my office a little after nine and we discussed it before heading to the practice floor at around 10 a.m.
Do you feel betrayed?
GM: Somewhat. A lot of it has to do with the timing. The fact that Lucca didn’t feel comfortable enough to share his feelings with us as coaches or even some of his friends that are his teammates. He was celebrating in the locker room on Saturday night with everybody else. He was in the gym for a workout on Sunday on his own. He was at practice yesterday preparing for Texas Tech. He then decided today that he is no longer part of the team. My guess is that you don’t make a decision like this overnight. He is scheduled to fly back to Germany on Saturday. My guess is that you probably don’t schedule an overseas flight with three or four days notice. Obviously I am speculating because Lucca did not tell me this. My guess is that this has been in the works for a few weeks.
Is there any way that you could have kept him around?
GM: We attempted to reason with him and explain to him what we felt were the benefits of finishing the season for another seven or eight weeks, however long it might be and that we felt there were a lot of positives to that. Lucca however felt the guarantee he would have if he would choose to go back to Germany wasn’t worth the risk should he decide to stay and play and this opportunity may not present itself in the summertime.
What role did his parents play in this?
GM: Lucca’s parents basically left it up to him (last summer). They were going to support whatever his decision was. Obviously, this is a young man who has dreams of playing professional basketball and wanted to play in the NBA. I think that he became a little bit more of a realist the longer he was with our program and he was playing against people who were obviously going to move on to the NBA. A college education in the United States doesn’t carry as much weight in Europe as an education in his home country would carry. Even though the education was very important to Lucca and his family, I think the money that he is going to have the ability to make over the course of the next two years was something that he felt he couldn’t say no to.
Has he signed already? Do you know?
GM: No, I don’t believe so.
In your eyes, is this a lot like the Wesley Johnson situation?
GM: It is similar in the sense that nobody saw it coming. Anybody who was in the locker room on Saturday night after we defeated Nebraska wouldn’t have guessed that we were going to be sitting here talking about this three days later.
Do you feel like this is a turning point for your whole program and what you are trying to build here?
GM: I hope it is a rallying point for the guys in our program. It is difficult to lose someone who is your third leading scorer. He is right there basically taking the same amount of shots as Diante for the third most shot attempts on our team. He is playing the fourth most minutes on our team. We have a guy in Scott Christopherson whose shooting percentage is better. His 3-point percentage is better. He played some quality minutes in our win against Nebraska the other night and was probably the difference maker in the second half between us winning and losing that game with a couple of shots that he hit and passes that he made. There is an opportunity there for someone else. I am certain that Scott is going to grab a hold of that opportunity and run with it. There are some other guys in our program who will work really hard to make up for the minutes that we are going to lose with Lucca.
Will you take a red-shirt off of anybody or does this move the calendar up to February like we talked about on Monday (with Colvin)?
GM: That is a decision that I haven’t made yet and I certainly have to think though. Like I said, this blindsided myself and my coaching staff. I spent the better part of the day doing due-diligence preparing my team for Texas Tech. Outside of the plane ride, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about what to do moving forward. We have three options. Either we go with the seven scholarship players that we have. We possibly pull a red-shirt off of somebody or the third option is to lift the suspension of Chris Colvin. Obviously, neither of the three of those are ideal. But I have to decide along with input from my coaching staff, what is best for our basketball team and this point in time. That is something that we will discuss tonight and we will have to make a decision before tomorrow.
What was the reaction from the team?
GM: They were surprised and I think shocked at the fact that someone that just 12 hours ago was on the practice floor going over the defensive plan for Texas Tech. And then 12 hours later informs the coaches that he is not on the team.