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Point/Counterpoint: Is McCaffery a good hire?

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

A strange feeling came over me when I found out Fran McCaffery would be the next Iowa head men’s basketball coach.

Rarely felt during my tenure as an Iowa student, the feeling was so shocking I had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t simply indigestion or the remnants of a hangover brewing inside me.

The feeling was, in fact, excitement. I’m actually looking forward to the 2010-11 Iowa men’s basketball season.

Not only is this a good hiring, it has the potential to be a great hiring. But for those complaining about the Hawkeyes’ landing another mid-major coach, let me tell you why McCaffery should not be compared with Todd Lickliter.

Lickliter inherited a Butler team that was already good. McCaffery is a proven coach who has rebuilt programs.

Lehigh had three winning seasons in the previous 33 years before McCaffery took over. He led the Mountain Hawks to back-to-back winning seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1987-88.

Still not convinced? The same goes for UNC-Greensboro.

The Spartans were 26-59 in the previous three seasons before McCaffery took the helm. He led the Spartans to four winning seasons and a NCAA Tournament berth.

And after inheriting a Siena team that went 20-40 the previous two seasons, he led the Saints to five-consecutive winning seasons. The Saints have reached the NCAA Tournament the past three years.

Fast forward to today, and McCaffery has yet another program to rebuild.

He should provide the much needed spark the Hawkeye basketball program desperately needs to get it back on a winning track.

He also plays an up-tempo style that should put more butts into the empty seats that have haunted Carver-Hawkeye Arena in recent years.

Fans need to put the past three seasons behind them (as hard as that might be) and embrace McCaffery and the new-look basketball program.

Siena averaged 75.1 points per game this season. Iowa scored 75 points or more in seven games during Lickliter’s three-year tenure.

Get excited Iowa fans. It’s a new era of Hawkeye hoops.

— by Mitch Smith

NO

So Fran McCaffery is Iowa’s choice to liberate the men’s basketball team from the depths of irrelevance.

When I first heard the name Sunday morning, I said, “Wait, isn’t that some mid-major coach? Didn’t we just have someone like that?”

Unfortunately, yes.

If we’ve learned something over the last three seasons, it’s that success at a mid-major school means nothing against the high-end talent of the Big Ten.

I’ve heard Iowa faithful call for two changes. First, Iowa needs a change of pace from the dawdling 3-point shooting offense of the past.

The second is an insurgence of all-conference caliber talent that hasn’t been seen in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, and Adam Haluska departed.

For those who have watched a Saints’ basketball game over the last five years, they’ll notice an attacking style utilizing a full-court press on defense and athletic slashing on offense.

In other words, McCaffery’s style is the opposite of the Lickliter era.

They’d also realize the difference in athletes between the Hawkeyes and Saints. My main concern and the question that will define the McCaffery era is whether he can recruit the level of athlete he had at Siena.

I seriously doubt whether he can.

Of Siena’s 15-man roster from 2009-10, only two were not from New York or a neighboring state. McCaffery’s ties to the Midwest, at the moment, do not exist.

I don’t expect Iowa to cherry-pick the talent from New York City from the likes of Syracuse and UConn nor recruit nationally on a consistent basis. Iowa has not done either recently.

Therefore, McCaffery will need to make Chicago his second home if he wants the same type of players he recruited at Siena. The Hawkeyes haven’t signed a blue-chip prospect from the Windy City area since Pierre Pierce in 2001.

So yes, McCaffery has won plenty of games and has coached his teams to NCAA Tournament victories. Lickliter did as well.

So unless he can recruit the athletes other Big Ten teams have, I don’t think Iowa ends up playing in late March any time soon.

— by Nick Gans


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