Point/Counterpoint: Did Iowa hire Fran McCaffery too soon?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 31, 2010 7:30 AM

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I want it to be known that I’m on board with the “Franimal House,” and I fully support Fran McCaffery and his future endeavors at Iowa.

With that said, I argue that though he may be the appropriate individual for the job — I believe Gary Barta was once again a little premature with his hire.

I was hoping that after the last three abysmal years we had with Todd Lickliter, Barta would have been apprehensive to even put his toe in the “coaches for hire” waters. But a mere 13 days later, Iowa has itself a new basketball coach.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Look back to 2007, after Steve Alford resigned as coach of the men’s basketball team on March 22, Lickliter was hired by Barta 12 days later, on April 3.

Is it written in Iowa’s “Athletics Directors Code of Conduct” that waiting more than two weeks to hire a coach is inconceivable and will result in immediate dismissal?

I think when Auburn signed Tony Barbee and Northern Iowa gave Ben Jacobson his lucrative 10-year extension, Barta got a little anxious.

Coaches such as Dayton’s Brian Gregory, Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, Providence’s Keno Davis, and Tennessee’s assistant coach Steve Forbes were viable options.

My personal favorite was Forbes, who was still coaching in the NCAA Tournament when rumors started coming through about McCaffery as the new Hawkeye coach.

Forbes is listed as the No. 8 assistant coach in the nation by FoxSports.com for his natural ability to recruit some of the nation’s top players.

Add in that he’s an Iowa guy, born and raised, and it’s a bit frustrating to know that Barta didn’t wait a few more days to meet with possible candidates who are (and were) still alive in tournament play.

No matter how the McCaffery hiring turns out, I think Barta should have conducted more research before deciding. It would have been in his best interest to do so, because if this hiring doesn’t turn out to be right, Barta might be the next member of the athletics department searching for a job.

— by Jerry Scherwin Jr.


Who knew Iowa’s hiring of Fran McCaffery would be so reminiscent of the rhetoric from the 2008 presidential election?

By hiring McCaffery eight days after forming his official search committee, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta strove for change, not more of the same.

Sure, Barta could have waited more than a couple weeks to choose Todd Lickliter’s successor. He could have held out for the big name the Hawkeye faithful wanted, but what would that have done?

Bruce Pearl has explicitly said he isn’t leaving Tennessee, and Barta could then have missed out on the coach that led a once-moribund Siena team to 112 victories and three NCAA Tournament appearances infive years.

Instead, the AD moved quickly and snapped up one of the most underrated college coaches in the country. McCaffery may not share a surname with a leading financial publication or a deep-sea treasure, but he has won 251 games as a head coach with three teams.

Yes, Virginia, that’s 62 more wins than our previous two coaches combined during their tenures at Iowa.

Some may point out that Iowa’s 22nd court general is a guy who spent the last five seasons coaching against teams called the Peacocks and the Purple Eagles, and it’s true that only time will tell if McCaffery will actually turn the Iowa men’s basketball program around.

After all, it was only three years ago that Barta hired a coach with similar mid-major credentials to McCaffery, and we all know how the Todd Lickliter Era turned out.

Still, for the time being at least, McCaffery appears to be an excellent hire that could not have come at a better time. “Fran the Man” has had success against the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament, and, perhaps most importantly, he has said he wants to coach at Iowa. When a coach as successful as McCaffery expresses such interest in steering a program in the right direction, it is foolish not to pick him up as quickly as possible.

The possibility of getting a Pearl or Forbes has been a nice little pipe dream, but Barta’s quick move should make winning a Hawkeye reality once again.

— by Seth Roberts

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