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Point/Counterpoint: Who should have been the DI's Coach of the Year?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Lisa Bluder

Fran McCaffery and the men’s basketball team certainly had successful season in 2015. They reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in years and took a giant step forward in terms of potential for the program.

And if the men’s program continues to build on this year’s run, there’s a good chance we look back on this season as the one that started it all.

But if we’re talking about what coach had the best season of 2015, let’s not overthink things here; women’s head coach Lisa Bluder was the class of the Hawkeye coaches’ guild this year, an organization I created just now.

Bluder’s Hawks finished with an impressive 26-8 record, the fewest losses for a Bluder-coached Iowa team since she took over the program in 2000.

Those 26 wins include a remarkable 18-game unbeaten streak on the Hawks’ home court, the most Carver wins by an Iowa team in history.

What’s more, of the six games they did drop, three came against teams that ranked in the top five in the country. The Hawkeyes also registered a win against No. 16 Rutgers and two against No. 15 Nebraska.

Their final loss of the season came in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament at the hands of a Baylor squad that almost knocked off powerhouse Notre Dame.

Bluder’s 2015 was historic for a number of reasons, all of which should add up for a richly deserved Coach of the Year award. 

— Ryan Rodriguez

Fran McCaffery

It may be hard to think about amid the criticism that is launched in Kirk Ferentz’s direction every year, but this may be one of the best years in a long time for Iowa coaching.

Rick Heller turned the Iowa baseball team into one of the nation’s biggest surprises, the ever-so-consistent Lisa Bluder took the women’s basketball team to new heights, and all of Iowa’s smaller programs such as soccer have built upon their recent success.

But my vote for Coach of the Year goes to men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery.

For McCaffery, it isn’t that this season was so extraordinary, although Iowa did win its first NCAA Tournament game since what seemed like forever. Rather, the rate and consistent nature of progress with the basketball program has been eye opening.

The team was supposed to take a step back in the absence of Devyn Marble; instead, it took a giant leap forward. Some of that credit should be directed to the players, but one would be incredibly mistaken if they believe McCaffery didn’t play a huge role in that improvement.

Despite the sideline antics, I like to think that McCaffery is a player’s coach. He’ll publicly stick up for and support his players. Sometimes — as was the case this season when he told a reporter to ask an intelligent question — that can be a detriment to his public image.

But if McCaffery’s five seasons with Iowa have taught us anything, it’s that he is a damn good coach and that any questions about his ability to bring winning back to Iowa should be responded as such: Ask an intelligent question.

— Jacob Sheyko


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