Iowa's Fran McCaffery defends program: 'We don't have thugs'

Rick Brown

Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery is not worried about the public perception of his program in the wake of several player arrests.

"Not at all," McCaffery told the Register at a charity-golf appearance Monday in Des Moines. "Not in the least. We have great kids. We don't have thugs."

McCaffery has issued four press-release statements in response to the arrest of one his players since April. The most recent came Saturday, after senior guard Josh Oglesby was charged with public intoxication.

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Monday's comments from McCaffery marked the fifth-year Iowa coach's first detailed interview since legal troubles put three of his players -- Oglesby, Peter Jok and Zach McCabe -- in headlines.

McCaffery, who returned from vacation Sunday night, said he was still collecting facts on the Oglesby case.

"I just think everyone, like me, needs to get all the facts before you rush to judgment," McCaffery said during a Coaches vs. Cancer event at the Wakonda Club. "Especially on a guy who has had such an incredibly good track record. I'll tell you what. I wish I had a lot of Josh Oglesbys. Put it that way."

Perhaps most troubling to McCaffery, sophomore guard Peter Jok has been arrested twice since the 2013-14 season ended with an NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee.

Jok was arrested April 26 for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a charge he pleaded guilty to on May 2. Jok was riding a moped at the time.

Jok was arrested again July 14 for operating that moped with a suspended license.

McCaffery used the phrase "not good" to describe Jok's OWI charge and said that the sophomore's actions were "irresponsible."

"But that doesn't make him a terrible person," McCaffery said. "He's a terrific person."

McCaffery suspended Jok from the team, and that status hasn't changed.

"I haven't really talked to him too much since we suspended him," McCaffery said. "He's got to work through it. He's got to do better. Basically, I'm not worried about him. But he has to change his behavior."

Former player Zach McCabe was charged with assault after an altercation in an Iowa City bar May 16. McCaffery said he issued a statement about McCabe, even though he had completed his eligibility at the time of the incident, "because I knew the harassment that he endured and what he went through.

"Not that I condone a player getting in a fight. But he got into a fight. It takes two people to fight. Because he won the fight, he was the bad guy."

Charges against McCabe were dropped July 16.

"There was a reason why the charges were dropped," McCaffery said. "It's because Zach was not at fault."

McCaffery arrived at the Wakonda Club on Monday wearing three wristbands: one for the "V Foundation," one that brought attention to various forms of cancer -- and one for his son, Patrick.

Patrick had surgery to remove a tumor on his thyroid March 19. Doctors determined the tumor was malignant two days later. Patrick had a second surgery April 17, and pathology reports since have all been positive.

It was Oglesby who designed #TeamPat T-shirts to honor Patrick McCaffery at the Big Ten Tournament in March.

"That's all you need to know about Josh," McCaffery said.