After playing a game in the world's most famous arena, the Creighton basketball team got to meet one of the world's most famous entertainers.
The Bluejays crossed paths Sunday night with Bono, the lead singer for the rock group U2 who also has been recognized worldwide for his humanitarian works. The chance meeting came at the Teterboro Airport in New Jersey a couple of hours after the Bluejays had lost to St. John's at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Jeff Vanderloo, the Bluejays' director of basketball operations, might have been the first in the Creighton party to spot the rock star. Or maybe it was freshman center Zach Hanson.
“Bono walked out of the bathroom, and Zach was like, 'That's Bono!' ” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “But Loo kind of initiated things. He can talk to anybody, and it doesn't matter who it was.''
Vanderloo admits Gibbs' assessment of his gift for gab is a fair one. Vanderloo said he walked up to Bono and asked, “How you doing? Where you off to?''
Bono replied that he was flying to Los Angeles along with Jimmy Iovine, a record industry executive and co-founder of Beats By Dre headphones.
“I told him I was with Creighton basketball,'' Vanderloo said. “He asked, 'Where's Creighton?' I said Omaha. He said, 'You're from Omaha? I love Omaha. Do you know Warren?' ''
Vanderloo said he didn't personally know Warren Buffett but he knew of him. Bono replied that he had just been in Omaha to sing at Buffett's granddaughter's wedding.
“Susan is a great friend of mine,'' Bono said, referring to Buffett's daughter.
Bono is a member of the board of directors of Susan Buffett's two Omaha-based foundations.
Vanderloo asked the singer if he would mind taking a picture with the team. “Nah, no problem,'' Bono said.
Bono and Iovine posed for several pictures, which were soon posted on Twitter.
“I'm not a big U2 guy but Bono was really nice,'' Gibbs said. “A few guys asked to have individual pictures taken with him. He was real generous. It was cool.''
Vanderloo said most of the players scattered after the pictures were taken but he stuck around and talked to Bono for perhaps 20 or 25 minutes as the team and the singer waited for their planes to be de-iced.
“We talked about South Africa and his new song about Nelson Mandela,'' Vanderloo said. “We talked about concert ticket prices and college athletics. He said, 'You guys take private planes?'
“I told him we had to get our guys back to school.”
He was amazed when Vanderloo told him that the Bluejays drew 17,000 to 18,000 people for their games. Bono said he would be returning to Omaha in December for a board meeting, and Vanderloo invited him to a Creighton game.
“He was just a super nice guy,'' Vanderloo said. “There was no arrogance to him at all. He seemed like real common folk.''
Overall, the experience brought an end to a big day for the Bluejays. Most of the players and coaches got their first look at Madison Square Garden at the morning shoot-around and then played their first game there at night. Then, before returning home, they got a chance to meet Bono.
“Some of our guys that don't follow that genre of music didn't think it was that big a deal,'' Vanderloo said. “But some of our guys were really pumped.''
Vanderloo liked it for another reason. At 5 foot 9, he usually is one, if not the, smallest members of the travel group. As he stood talking with Bono, he found himself a couple of inches taller that the rock star.
“He was way shorter than I was,'' Vanderloo said. “Made me feel like the big man on campus.''