Sunday, March 28, 2010

Welcome to the Big Ten Fran (and Margaret) McCaffery

The Iowa Hawkeyes have a new head coach
In a move that surprised me, and I believe other Big Ten fans, the University of Iowa has hired Fran McCaffery as their head basketball coach. This is something of a surprise move when you consider that Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobsen was in the same state, took his team farther than McCaffery, and beat McCaffery’s squad by 17 points. It is also a surprise that it seems Iowa never reached out to Tennessee coach and former Tom Davis assistant Bruce Pearl. The odds are Pearl wouldn’t have been interested, but it seems nobody bothered to ask. Even odder, perhaps, is that this job didn’t go to Tom Davis’s son Keno who has coached in-state at Drake and is now at Providence. Perhaps Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta’s apparent disregard for these guys is why many in the Hawkeye fan base seem less than pleased with this hire. Perhaps they also see a lot of similarities between McCaffery and former coach Todd Lickliter who fans in Iowa never warmed up to. It will be interesting to watch how McCaffery gets welcomed to Iowa or, based on this years attendance, if anyone shows up to welcome him at all.

Though the choice seems odd, McCaffery’s background is pretty solid. He was an assistant coach and top recruiter at Notre Dame for 11 years. He’s gotten Siena into the postseason the last three years and pulled off an impressive win over the Big Ten’s Ohio State last season. Obviously he’s skilled enough to coach, but the real question will be can he recruit to the Big Ten? Lickliter had plenty of success at Butler, but he couldn’t consistently recruit or keep Big Ten players. As a result, McCaffery will inherit a team that isn’t exactly loaded. Will Iowa fans be patient? I doubt it. The fans in Iowa City aren’t happy and they aren’t going to welcome another mediocre season from another mid-major coach.

They better be careful if they voice their displeasure, though, because Fran McCaffery’s wife might be listening. Fran’s wife, Margaret, isn’t afraid to share her opinion. She gained a great deal of national attention when both she and Fran were ejected from a 2006 game at Hofstra. He got tossed first and she followed after cursing out an official. A few years later she entered a postgame press conference and when her husband declined to answer a question on some questionable officiating, she declared official Will Bush “horrendous.”

If she thinks Bush is bad, I really have to wonder what she would think of Curtis Shaw. The fact is Margaret McCaffery knows what she is talking about. She was once an assistant basketball coach at Notre Dame and ranks in the top-15 on the Fighting Irish scoring list, so she clearly knows what she is talking about. That said, when the Hawkeyes come to Evanston, I’m not sure I want to sit next to her. Of course, it couldn’t be as bad as my experience sitting behind Bo Ryan’s family and listening to one of his children drop f-bombs at officials until she was asked to stop by the scorer’s table.

So I’d like to welcome Fran and Margaret McCaffery to the Big Ten. It should be an interesting experience for them both on and off the court.

1 comment:

Loretta8 said...

Jacobsen has done well at UNI, but he plays the same kind of slowdown halfcourt style that failed with Lickliter, so Iowa wanted to go the other way with a coach who likes to run.

Surprised McCaffrey didn't hold out for a job better than Iowa's though.