Point/counterpoint: Without McCaffery, who was Iowa's Coach of the Year?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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Larry Wieczorek, track and field

I respect what head coach Fran McCaffery has done this season. I never thought Iowa basketball would be a relevant topic on campus, much less be the talk of the town.

But the real coach of the year probably wasn't a relevant topic on campus at all this year. And by my best guess, Larry Wieczorek won't be the talk of the town, either.

I hope I'm wrong, though. The man deserves it.

He's just a year removed from arguably his best season as a track and field head coach — the coach affectionately known as "Wiz" led the Hawkeyes to an eighth-place finish at the indoor NCAAs and followed that with an outdoor Big Ten championship.

Those achievements placed astronomical expectations on the Iowa tracksters this year, mainly because plenty of his team was returning. But injuries plagued Wieczorek's crew, causing it to limp through the indoor season before finding the light on the opposite end of the semester.

And through it all, Wiz didn't bat an eye.

He kept his composure as a coach, which leaked down through his staff and can now be seen in his athletes. That kind of leader is deserving of a Coach of the Year award.

But the coolest thing about Wieczorek's job is that he isn't finished yet. His tracksters travel to Madison, Wis., to defend their conference crown this weekend.

And before you think the injuries — and Indiana, the Big Ten's highest-ranked school at No. 7 as of Monday afternoon — will take that away from his team, here's a little bit for you to chew on:

Wieczorek's team had 100 points on paper going into last year's outdoor conference meet, meaning that if nobody competed and the results were taken directly from the rankings, Iowa would've scored 100 points and placed third.

But the Hawkeyes did compete, and racked up 125.5 points under Wiz's leadership en route to the conference title.

Wiz's crew has about 99 points on paper heading into Madison this year.

Lightning has struck twice before. And Wiz can definitely do it again.

— by Cody Goodwin

Tracey Griesbaum, field hockey

Field hockey is most popular in the East, but Tracey Griesbaum has excelled in coaching the sport in Iowa. Griesbaum has led the Hawkeyes to three Big Ten Tournament titles since 2006 and five NCAA Tournament berths. Griesbaum's squad finished fifth in the nation in 2007 and followed that with a sixth-place finish in 2008.

But Iowa field hockey hit a dry spell after 2008. The Hawkeyes ended the 2009 season unranked for the first time in 10 years and repeated the dubious achievement the next season.

Griesbaum brought field hockey back to Iowa this year. The Hawkeyes went 15-5 on the season finished 12th in the nation, their best place since 2008.

Griesbaum coached junior Jessica Barnett to third-team All-American honors. The team also featured three other regional All-Americans this season: Sarah Drake, Kathleen McGraw, and Kim Scraper.

The coach herself was named regional Coach of the Year.

Griesbaum's ability to excel in field hockey in the Midwest is impressive. Only two middle-America schools finished in the top 12 this season: Michigan finished eighth, followed by Iowa in 12th.

Griesbaum's field hockey legacy in Iowa — which is now back on the upswing after the coach's successful season — is so influential that Iowa can recruit athletes from the East, the heart of field-hockey territory.

Every Iowa player but Drake, a Michigan native, comes from the East or abroad. Griesbaum was able to recruit an entire championship-caliber team from outside her region because her name and legacy is so powerful.

And now that she's winning again, that legacy will continue to grow. That's why Griesbaum deserves to be named Coach of the Year.

— by Molly Irene Olmstead

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