McClaren, unveiled as Nigel Clough's successor on Tuesday morning, watched from the stands as academy manager Darren Wassall took charge of the first team in midweek.
It must have been uncomfortable viewing for the former England boss as the visitors scored three times in the first quarter of an hour through Christophe Berra, Daryl Murphy and Aaron Cresswell.
Zak Whitbread had reduced the deficit to just one with a goal on his debut after arriving on loan from Leicester on Monday.
Murphy then made it 4-1 with his second goal of the night and Derby trudged off for half-time looking dead and buried.
McClaren is not due to officially begin his role until Wednesday but he took it upon himself to go down to the dressing room and deliver a rallying call to the Rams players.
It worked. Captain for the night Craig Bryson gave Derby hope early in the second half and Jamie Ward pulled another goal back on the hour.
Bryson then completed the comeback with the equaliser in the 88th minute to send Pride Park wild.
"We weren't good enough in the first half and Steve came down at half-time and had a few words to say," said Wassall.
"He made a few changes as well and it did the trick, the second half was much, much better.
"The response from the players in the second half was absolutely magnificent and that bodes well for the future.
"Steve came back down to the dressing room again at the end of the game and he was absolutely thrilled with the response."
Derby's comeback means Ipswich are still looking for their first away win of the season.
Town manager Mick McCarthy felt the Rams were worthy of a point for the way they played in the second half.
He said: "That hurts, and if I'm being honest it feels like a defeat.
"I think that's what they call a game of two halves, isn't it? The first half was absolutely fantastic for us and we deserved to be in the lead, absolutely.
"But in the second half we made mistakes and the goal at the start of the second half gave them hope - they had nothing to lose.
"Then they attacked us and attacked us and in the end what should have been a win has turned out to be a hard-fought draw.
"We took our foot off the gas. We didn't start the second half well, we didn't win a couple of tackles and then lost a couple of headers and our shape wasn't right.
"We made mistakes and let them in. We were bad at the back when we've been particularly good there ever since I came through the door.
"We've dropped two points, no doubt about that, and we are going to have to pick them up from somewhere else.
"That all sounds negative but there are lots and lots of positives from that performance too in the first half.
"There were things that were really, really good and there were things that were really, really bad and I'm sure they will be saying the same thing about their performance.
"But they will be considerably happier than we are, although in the end I think they deserved a draw for their second half performance."