Fans come out to support McCaffery


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Excitement about the Iowa men’s basketball program was sparse over the past year.

The Hawkeyes compiled a 10-22 record, leading to the firing of former head coach Todd Lickliter after three seasons.

But despite a dismal era on the hardwood, fans of all ages found a reason for hope Monday evening in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, meeting new Iowa hoops headman Fran McCaffery at his first public appearance since assuming the position on Sunday — an event advertised by both the Iowa athletics department and the Hawks Nest, a student-affiliated organization.

Although many attendees said they needed to research McCaffery on Google after hearing about the hire, those who did, such as Hawkeye fan Matt Knudson, were impressed.

“I had been following kind of closely, so I hadn’t heard a lot about him,” the North Liberty resident said. “The more I read about him, it seemed like a pretty solid hiring, and at his press conference today, I thought he hit it out of the park — a lot better than past coaches. I thought he did a really good job.”

University of Iowa students munching free pizza and donning white “Fran Is Our Man” T-shirts saw McCaffery and his family up close on the Hawkeyes’ home floor, where excitement about the new coach and the upcoming 2010-11 season brewed.

The buzz was enough to not only get students to come meet McCaffery, it also compelled them to purchase student tickets for games next year.

“This year, I kind of lost interest toward the end of the year, but I think I’ll stick with Fran and go to a lot more of the basketball games, and I feel like a lot of the students are really excited for him to come here,” said UI freshman Christopher Rickert, while sporting one of the “Fran” T-shirts. “I think this place is going to fill up a lot better than it did.”

Those in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday also watched Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta introduce McCaffery to the Hawkeye faithful. They took part in a questionnaire as well with inquiries ranging from recruiting to generating a better atmosphere for games.

McCaffery discussed similar topics at his press conference earlier in the day, talking about the style of play and how he would handle recruiting.

“I think above all, you will see our student-athletes have fun,” he said as he addressed the fans who came to see him. “When you see them having fun, you’re going to have fun in these seats, and you’re not going to be sitting very much. You’re going to be standing and cheering what you’re watching.”

Hearing about the fast pace McCaffery intends to implement had UI senior Jerry Stone thinking about making the trek from Des Moines to Iowa City for games after graduating in May.

“I think we’ll be able to utilize the players that we have and, hopefully, in the future get different players from around the country who can play up-tempo basketball, because that’s what I think we need to be doing,” he said.

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