Iowa takeaways: Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery dismisses 'hot seat' talk, plans top-to-bottom evaluation of his program
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Fran McCaffery’s Iowa men’s basketball team is in danger of losing 20 games for the first time since his debut season here. But that doesn’t mean his job status should be in question, the eighth-year Hawkeye head coach said Friday.
“It shouldn’t affect anybody,” McCaffery said when pressed by a reporter about whether he feels he’s on the hot seat. “You shouldn’t even be bringing it up, to be honest with you, or anybody else.”
Iowa is 12-18 and on a six-game losing streak heading into its regular-season finale Sunday vs. Northwestern (6:30 p.m., BTN). The Hawkeyes are 3-14 in Big Ten Conference play and, with a loss, would record the worst league mark in an 18-game schedule in program history.
McCaffery, 58, had six winning seasons before this, including three appearances in the NCAA Tournament. His career record — after stops at Lehigh, North Carolina-Greensboro and Siena — is 400-296. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has praised McCaffery this season, saying he’s confident he has the right coach to lead the program for the long-term. There are no signs that McCaffery’s tenure is in jeopardy of ending early.
McCaffery pointed to his “body of work” as reason why he’s not feeling pressure after a particularly disappointing season. The Hawkeyes were 19-15 a year ago and lost one player, star shooting guard Peter Jok.
“There is a lot of things to be evaluated. Maybe you should look at that,” McCaffery said curtly, cutting off discussion of his contract status.
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta extended McCaffery’s contract by two years in November, although he didn’t publicly announce that move, saying he wanted to wait until after the season. The deal would keep McCaffery in Iowa City into 2024 and would trigger a $10.2 million payout from the school if it dismissed McCaffery this year. He is making $2.25 million in base salary.
Iowa went 11-20 in 2010-11, McCaffery’s first year after Barta fired Todd Lickliter for going 38-58 in three seasons. Lickliter’s last team finished 4-14 in the Big Ten, as did McCaffery’s first.
Coach will 'evaluate everything’
McCaffery said he will examine his program from top to bottom after the season.
“We’re going to evaluate how we recruit, strength and conditioning, how we travel, how we do skill development,” he said. “When you have a bad season, that’s what you do, you evaluate everything and you break it down.”
That process will include individual meetings with each player to devise a course for offseason improvement. And a collective look at how the Hawkeyes can get better defensively. The team is last in the Big Ten in points allowed.
“That’s the professional way to go about it,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery said he may look for help from junior-college players as well. He doesn’t currently have a scholarship to offer.
“If somebody were to leave and open one up then potentially, but we haven't done a lot in that area,” he said. “We had great success with Bryce Cartwright, obviously, since I've been here. There have been others before me that had done really well, so that's a possibility.”
Bohannon takes it to heart
Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon is coming off his first scoreless game of the year — in Wednesday’s 86-82 loss at Minnesota — and is well aware of how much consternation fans are feeling while watching this year’s team struggle.
Bohannon was born in Iowa City and grew up in Marion dreaming of playing for the Hawkeyes.
“It’s a different level for me when I put (a Hawkeye uniform) on than anyone else. Because I know the importance of what it means to be in Iowa, what it means to have my name on the back of the jersey,” Bohannon said. “For us to be in this position at this point of the season, it’s really, not depressing, it’s really frustrating for me. Because we know what we’re capable of doing.
“I’ve got to step up, be a leader and let everyone know that it’s going to be OK. There’s brighter days ahead.”
Bohannon attempted only two shots in 21 minutes against the Gophers. He said he was disappointed in himself afterward.
“I knew I should have stepped up and tried to find my shot,” Bohannon said.
McCaffery knew it, too, which is why he benched Bohannon. But he reiterated that it was just for that moment.
“I just wanted him to be aggressive like he usually is,” McCaffery said. “It really wasn't that I was mad at him or upset with him.”
McCaffery got a strong response from shooting guard Isaiah Moss after sitting him down for most of the second half in a home loss to Indiana. Moss almost led the Hawkeyes to a rally from 20 points down against Minnesota. He had a career-high 32 points, including an incredible run of 19 in the final 96 seconds.
Immediately after the game, McCaffery hadn’t had enough time to appreciate the scope of what Moss had done. Upon further review …
“It was fun to watch. He made great decisions, made great moves. When to shoot it, when to drive it, when to give it up. We had a shot. You know, it was close to a five-second call (on them) at the end with us down two,” McCaffery said.
Moss said he was comfortable with coaches, teammates and fans expecting bigger things from him after his Minnesota fireworks. McCaffery agreed.
“He'll start seeing it. That's pretty special, pretty unique, 19 points in 96 seconds,” McCaffery said. “That kind of mentality I think is what we're looking for.”