For the past five seasons, Big Ten fans outside of Iowa looked through schedules in November and were upset if their team only played the Hawkeyes once. They wanted to pick up two easy wins. That won’t happen anymore, not with Fran McCaffery around. McCaffery came to Iowa from the east coast to change the culture around the program and make an immediate impact. Every coach says the right stuff during the introductory news conference but it doesn’t always translate to more wins. In Iowa’s case, however, those wins have come during his second season – already surpassing last year’s overall season total with more than a third of the conference schedule left on the plate. More importantly, the attitude and the brand of the Hawkeye basketball program has changed in 2012. McCaffery is rubbing off on the program and the results show on the court.
The 53-year-old coach keeps it simple but intense. Intense may not begin to describe his behavior during the game or behind closed doors in practice. If you haven’t heard about the best chair-related tirade in the Big Ten since Bobby Knight chucked one across the floor in the ‘80s, you are missing out. During a blowout (down 69-41) at East Lansing against Michigan State, McCaffrey blew a gasket halfway through the second half. In addition to getting a technical, he yelled at his players during the timeout and slammed a chair on the court. As an outsider, there are two aspects of the incident that stick out as positives. Most tirades by a head coach result in the assistants trying to gang-tackle him so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game, but not in this case. Every one of his assistants was just as upset with the pace of the game and their players. The head coach was frustrated with his players because they could not adjust and match the physicality of the Michigan State Bruisers. Neither McCaffery nor his staff will settle for excuses. His intensity is contagious because Iowa may not have the most talented or mature team, but they will play with a chip on their shoulder every single night. Rebuilding teams can’t afford to pity themselves and blame the referees for losses.