McKillop-McCaffery rivalry goes back 38 years

Rick Brown

Bob McKillop and Fran McCaffery won't need an introductory handshake when they coach against each other in Friday's second round of the NCAA Tournament in Seattle, Wash.

"I have a lot of respect for him," McCaffery said. "I've coached a lot of games against him."

McKillop, in his 26th season at Davidson, and McCaffery, in his fifth season at Iowa, go back in time. Way back.

"A lot of people don't know how far back Fran's relationship with me goes," McKillop said.

Try 38 years back, to be exact. It was at a high school basketball tournament played at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Va. McKillop was the head coach at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, N.Y. McCaffery was the star guard at LaSalle High School in Philadelphia, Pa.

"Fran was an outstanding player with a great IQ," McKillop said. "That's how far our relationship goes."

That relationship evolved from player-coach to coach-coach in 1999, when McCaffery was named the head coach at North Carolina-Greensboro. A Southern Conference rivalry was born.

"He had a great run there," McKillop said. "We had very intense battles with them."

They coached against each other 13 times between the 1999-2000 and 2004-05 seasons. McKillop had a 7-6 edge. Seven of the games were decided by five points or less. McCaffery won five of them. The rivalry ended when McCaffery took the Siena job.

"We beat them a bunch of times and they beat us a bunch of times," McCaffery said. "The last time we played, we beat them. It was a tough loss for them. They'd run the table in the regular season and we beat them in the (Southern Conference) tournament. For a stretch there, they had to go through us to win the tournament, and we had to go through them. So that's where the respect comes in."

That last meeting was in the 2005 Southern Conference semifinals. McCaffery's team won 73-68. Davidson had gone 16-0 in regular-season league play. McCaffery's team was led by Kyle Hines, the league's freshman of the year. Hines is still playing professionally in Europe. He's currently with CSKA Moscow.

"He's made a boatload of money playing in the European marketplace," McKillop said. "Credit Fran for one, discovering Kyle. And two, for coaching and teaching him to the point where he's a very wealthy man."

Davidson enters Friday's McKillop-McCaffery reunion 24-7 overall. The school moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. Picked to finish 12th, the Wildcats won the regular-season title with a 14-4 record. Davidson lost in the tournament semifinals to Virginia Commonwealth but received the first at-large NCAA bid in school history.

Senior guard Tyler Kalinoski was the A-10 player of the year, averaging 17 points and shooting 43.1 percent from 3-point range. As a team, Davidson is second nationally in 3-pointers per game (10.9) and 14th in 3-point percentage (.397).

The Wildcats are sixth nationally in scoring, at 79.9 points a game, thanks in large part to that 3-point attack. Davidson outscored its 31 opponents by 486 points from behind the arc. Inside the 3-point line, opponents outscored the Wildcats by 128 points.

Friday's game will be an interesting contrast of styles, Davidson's 3-point attack against Iowa's superior size and length. But there will be nothing new about the coaching matchup.

"Our relationship is very good," McKillop said.