Crean offers glimpse into a different side to coaching

Rick Brown

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Coaching rivalries are often fiercely competitive. But sometimes, life's curveballs bring a heavy dose of perspective and take an edge off the intensity.

That happened last March, when Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his wife, Margaret, got the news no parent wants to hear: Your son has cancer. After Patrick McCaffery had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor, tests discovered that it was malignant.

Fran McCaffery heard from a number of his peers after the news got out, offering their prayers and support. The first Big Ten coach to reach out to McCaffery was Indiana's Tom Crean.

"I've always had a lot of respect for Fran," Crean said before Tuesday's Iowa-Indiana game at Assembly Hall. "A tremendous amount of respect for him. And when something like that happens, your heart goes out to him in so many ways. Certainly first and foremost as a father and as a husband and as the guy that's got to be the leader and spiritual leader of his home."

Patrick, 14, is now cancer-free and playing basketball again. He dunked in several eighth-grade games this season, and he plans to play for his dad at Iowa. He'll join his older brother, Connor, a sophomore at top-ranked Iowa City West who committed to the Hawkeyes last fall.