Monday, March 29, 2010

Fran McCaffery - First Impressions

As everyone knows by now, Iowa has selected former Siena coach, Fran McCaffery to be the next leader of the Iowa Men's Basketball team. Although the immediate reaction to the news was "Oh man, why couldn't they have gotten Coach K, or do you think John Wooden would come out of retirement?" Iowa fans are insane. We think of our program as being far greater than it actually is. The bottom line is that Iowa is a football school, but that doesn't mean we can't succeed in basketball. There's no reason that schools like Ohio State and Wisconsin can have very good programs and Iowa can't. Hell, even Minnesota made the tournament. I watched the press conference today on the Big Ten Network, and here are my initial thoughts on Coach McCaffery.

Obviously, with a new coach coming in, the biggest concern is what is going to happen with the players under scholarship and those high schoolers who have signed letters of intent to Iowa. McCaffery said that he has met with the team, and everyone was very positive about him coming in to Iowa (not sure if this included John Lickliter). He has also talked to all of the recruits, and will continue to build that relationship so right now it appears that everybody is on board with the Hawkeye program for next year. McCaffery also mentioned that he is going to analyze the weaknesses of the team and could be bringing in more players to the Hawkeye program, presumably juco guys.

He also addressed how he has talked to former players, highlighted by Jess Settles, that want to get involved with the program. I think this is extremely important, and something that Lickliter failed at during his tenure at Iowa. Not only is it great to have their experience, but it will also be a tremendous help on building relationships within the state so all of the best players stop going out of the state to play basketball.

He also stressed that Iowa will play at a much faster pace next year. This is obviously great news as even when Iowa was playing well (those rare, wonderful times), Lickliter's teams were still extremely boring to watch. He also stressed that he is going to be mixing things up on both sides of the floor, as he plans on using the press and switching between man-to-man and zone. This is another thing that really got me excited as Iowa was extremely predictable these past few years.

My biggest concern with McCaffery coming in is that his teams have an extremely low foul rate. I know that sounds like a good thing, but it worried me that they would not be aggressive on defense. The talk of putting on full-court presses made me feel good. The thing that made me feel great is he addressed the lack of fouls and basically said that he didn't have the depth where he could afford anybody being in foul trouble. This was really the highlight of the press conference for me as he seemed to be a guy who will recognize what talent he has and adjust accordingly on both sides of the floor. A game plan for a team in 2010-2011 may be completely different than a game plan for his team in 2012-2013 depending on what type of personnel he has.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't get chills listening to McCaffery. If I was any more excited after that press conference, I would have knocked a glass off the table with my boner. There's one question that I am surprised I'll be asking, but I know I will be: Is it basketball season yet?


P.S. As excited as I was with McCaffery's press conference, he was still not the highlight. When BTN went back to the studio, Tim Doyle stole the show. Mike Hall asked Doyle about why the Iowa job was more attractive to McCaffery than Seton Hall or St. John's. I was expecting the Big Ten conference to be part of that, but boy was I wrong. Doyle basically made the argument that McCaffery chose Iowa because it's a better party school than those other two. He then waxed poetically about how Iowa City is one of the most fun places he has ever been and he always has a great time there. He sounded like an 18 year old high school senior with a fake ID the way he talked about how great Iowa City is. It was awesome. Tim Doyle, I salute you.

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