Ex-Hawkeye Connor McCaffery accepts job with NBA's Indiana Pacers

Chad Leistikow
Des Moines Register

A random connection at an name, image and likeness (NIL) event in Des Moines ultimately planted the seed for Connor McCaffery to land his first professional job.

McCaffery, the former Iowa basketball and baseball player whose father is the Hawkeyes’ head basketball coach, has signed an offer to join the staff of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, he told the Des Moines Register on Thursday.

Ultimately, McCaffery wants to pursue a career in coaching. His role with the Pacers as a team assistant will include a little bit of everything.

“I’ll play dummy defense, run the scout team, help coaches on film stuff, help on video projects if they need, scouting reports if they need,” McCaffery said. “It’s kind of all-hands on deck, whatever you’re asked to do, be ready to do it.

“It’s a way in. It’s an entry-level job. You’ve got to work hard and work your way up. That’s obviously what I want to do.”

The professional future of McCaffery, who will turn 25 in July, was always going to be intriguing. He came to Iowa as an accomplished two-sport athlete from Iowa City West and was on a good track to enter the Major League Baseball draft in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the college baseball season and shook up everything.

Former Iowa basketball player Connor McCaffery will get his coaching start with the NBA's Indiana Pacers in an entry-level position.

McCaffery, who excelled in the classroom as well, wound up battling injuries and ultimately focusing on basketball, where he would play for father Fran McCaffery for another three years (six in total). His 166th and final Iowa basketball game was a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Auburn in March, and he left as the program’s all-time leader in assist-to-turnover ratio.

It was during his final season at a dinner in Des Moines that Connor McCaffery spoke with Kevin Bannister, an area businessman. Bannister had a connection to Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan, and McCaffery reached out and got Buchanan on the phone to learn about what it would take to get started in coaching. That conversation led to an opportunity with the Pacers, and McCaffery was excited to snap it up.

Because of a recent surgery on his left (shooting) wrist, McCaffery cannot fully participate in basketball activities – his new job will be somewhat similar to a student manager in college but paid, of course – so he won’t get started with the Pacers until September, when players return from their summer break. (McCaffery first injured the wrist in a Dec. 11 home game vs. Wisconsin.)

“I’m really excited. I want to get away and try to learn from someone else, somewhere else,” McCaffery said. “I’ve always been under my dad’s shadow and tutelage. Now, learning from someone like coach (Rick) Carlisle … and the assistants they have there, they’re all good basketball minds ... I’m just going to try to take everything in.”