Fran McCaffery is an excellent coach. That notion should be widely accepted given the job he’s done in bringing Iowa back from the disastrous Todd Lickliter era. In his fifth season at the helm, he has managed to elevate the Hawkeyes’ program from the Big Ten cellar to the upper tier in a state that isn’t exactly a hotbed of prep basketball talent. The 55-year old clearly knows how to develop players and build a program, but like everyone, he has some flaws. And McCaffery’s most visible flaw — his general temperament — was on full display during last weekend’s standoffish press conference following a 71-55 win over Maryland. When asked about Adam Woodbury‘s much-discussed eye poke of the Terps’ Melo Trimble (his third such incident in the prior two weeks), the head coach dismissed the reporter by asking for an “intelligent question.” When queried as to why the previous question wasn’t intelligent, he responded with a condescending, “because I said so.” In a vacuum, an ornery response from a coach in a press conference is no big deal. But in McCaffery’s case, last weekend’s incident is just the latest example in a pattern of poor behavior that one day may come back to haunt him.
Let’s further examine Sunday’s incident. For the third time this season, Woodbury did his best Three Stooges impersonation by poking Trimble’s eye. He had done the same thing to Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky in Iowa’s January 31 game against Wisconsin. Even if we give the junior center the benefit of the doubt and assume that all three incidents were accidents, the trend has now gone well past the point of inaction so that Woodbury must remedy the situation by altering how he uses his hands in a defensive stance. That much should be clear, and it seemed to be to everyone except Iowa’s head coach. On the contrary, McCaffery dismissed any question about it in kind, exhibiting himself as someone who is, at best, irrationally hostile to the media and, at worst, someone unconcerned with the well-being of opposing players. His reaction was an unnecessary gaffe, one that’s been skewered by national media and mocked on numerous blogs.