Creighton will recognize its past as it moves into its future at its inaugural Big East men's basketball game.
Former coaches John “Red” McManus, Eddie Sutton, Tom Apke, Tony Barone and Dana Altman will be honored during a short ceremony at halftime of the New Year's Eve game against Marquette.
Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen likes to say that the Bluejays' present success has been built on the shoulders of others.
“There are a lot of people responsible for what we have today,” Rasmussen said. “Some of those are players, some are boosters. But some of the people who were directly responsible were our former coaches.
“We wanted to recognize them for what they did for Creighton's basketball tradition and for giving us the opportunity to be where we are today, about to begin play in a major basketball conference.”
McManus took the Bluejays to two NCAA tournaments in his decade as coach (1959-69). He generally is regarded as the coach responsible for raising Creighton's national stature as a basketball program with his play-anyone-anywhere scheduling philosophy. He passed away last July and will be represented by his widow, Mary Jean.
Sutton, a member of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, got the Bluejays to the NCAA tournament in the final of five seasons he coached at Creighton. His 1973-74 team is one of three Creighton squads to advance to the Sweet 16.
Apke, who played for McManus, oversaw Creighton's return to the Missouri Valley. His best team, the 1977-78 squad, produced one of the greatest victories in school history when the Bluejays rallied to beat Larry Bird's Indiana State team in the championship game of the Missouri Valley tournament.
Apke went on to coach at Colorado and Appalachian State, and has blossomed as an “actor” since his retirement. Apke and his wife, Eileen, have made numerous appearances as extras on Showtime's critically acclaimed series “Homeland.”
Apke now lives in Charlotte, N.C., where the series is filmed.
“I saw an ad in the local paper that they needed professional men for filming a certain episode,” Apke said. “I thought, shoot, I can wear a suit. I sent in my picture and got hired as a background actor. It's non-speaking, but occasionally we spot each other in a background shot.”
Apke has appeared on the first two seasons of the series and got called back for season three. His wife also has worked as a background actor.
“It's been a fun little thing for us to do together,” Apke said. “We have several friends in Omaha that watch 'Homeland' faithfully. They're jealous as hell that we're in it.”
Barone coached the Bluejays from 1985 through 1991 and got the team to NCAA tournaments in 1989 and 1991. He left Creighton to become the coach at Texas A&M, a move he now said he regrets.
“My bride told me it was going to be a bad decision, and it was,” Barone said. “They doubled my salary, and most people say if they're going to double your salary, you have to go. But it wasn't a good decision.”
Altman took over the Creighton program in 1994 after the school had endured three seasons in which it won just 24 games. Although it took him awhile to get things going, Creighton eventually made seven NCAA tournament appearances in his 16 seasons, including five in a row from 1999-2003.
He left Creighton after the 2009-10 season to become the coach at Oregon. He will be unable to attend because his team will be in Utah preparing for a game, but he will be represented by his wife, Reva.
Rasmussen said he attempted also to have Willis Reed and Rick Johnson attend the game. Reed coached the Bluejays from 1981-85, while Johnson presided over the 24-win stretch from 1991-94.
Rasmussen had difficulty contacting Reed, who gained most of his notoriety as a player with the New York Knicks.
“He moved back to Louisiana, and when I finally did get a hold of him it was too late,” Rasmussen said. “He had already made plans.”
Rasmussen made repeated attempts to contact Johnson but was unsuccessful.
Rasmussen said Creighton had discussed doing a number of different things to commemorate its first Big East game.
“The time of year really limited some of the things we wanted to do,” he said. “We had talked about bringing all the former players back, but our players are spread out all over the place.
“We didn't think it would be right just to have the ones that were close and could get here. So we decided against that idea.”
Creighton periodically has had alumni weekends for its men's basketball program.
“The timing of this just didn't work, but we'll do that at another time to recognize the players,” he said. “The good thing is that we can get some of the coaches back. These coaches were very influential in the history of Creighton basketball.”