How Did the Hawkeyes Evolve Under the Leadership of Fran McCaffery?

Fran McCaffery, the head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of Iowa, has maintained the level of excitement surrounding the Hawkeye basketball team for the past 12 years. 

He has been a head coach for more than 20 years, during which time his teams have won six conference tournament championships from four different conferences, including the Big Ten, and advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments. Their overall record is 493-339.

Although he was raised on the north side, he played the game in its playgrounds and inner-city courts. You might be surprised to learn that McCaffery met the Hawkeyes for the first time 40 years ago in Philadelphia during Iowa's march to the NCAA Final Four.

So, as you may imagine, the college basketball scene in Iowa was already well-known to McCaffery. In this article, we will go through how did the Hawkeyes evolve under the leadership of Fran McCaffery. 

Early years

Francis John McCaffery, an American collegiate basketball coach, was born on May 23, 1959. He now serves as the men's basketball head coach at the University of Iowa. Four Division I teams, including the Iowa Hawkeyes, who advanced to the 2013 National Invitation Tournament championship, have been led by him to playoff competitions.

Prior to this, he led Siena, UNC Greensboro, and Lehigh University as their head coach. While playing on its inner-city courts and playgrounds, he learned the game while growing up on the north side. Later, he spent three seasons as a member of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and attended home games at the Palestra.

Before moving to Penn, McCaffery spent one season playing college basketball at Wake Forest. He earned the moniker "White Magic" while he was playing.

With a brief stint as an assistant coach at Penn, he launched his coaching career in colleges. In 1983, McCaffery was hired as Lehigh's assistant coach. When he was given the opportunity to become the head coach in 1985, he was the youngest in Division I.

McCaffery worked as an assistant at Notre Dame for 11 years following his time at Lehigh. His appointment as the UNC Greensboro Spartans' head coach came in 1999. Over the course of six seasons, McCaffery's record was 90-87. He guided the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament and the Southern Conference Championship in 2001.

Iowa Hawkeyes Coach

On March 28, 2010, the University of Iowa hired McCaffery to take Todd Lickliter's place. On March 29, 2010, he was introduced at a news conference and a public event in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Although McCaffery suffered his first defeat against South Dakota State on November 16, 2010, McCaffery has guided the Iowa Hawkeyes to victories over top-tier opposition.

As a matter of fact, in the AP preseason poll, McCaffery's Hawkeyes were ranked as the #5 team heading into the 2020–21 basketball season. Every starter from the team that went 20-11 during the COVID-shortened 2019–20 season returned, including Luka Garza, a favorite for the Naismith Player of the Year award. 

Garza went on to win the Big Ten Player of the Year award for the second year in a row and was also selected as a consensus All-American. The NCAA Tournament seeding of Iowa at #2 is one of the highest ever in school history.

Those who cashed in on Iowa basketball bets during McCaffery’s tenure know it hasn’t always been easy or pretty. But he’s managed to get the job done more often than not, and that’s why the fans and the players respect him so much.

McCaffery has also been quite vocal about his love and respect from his players. He wants to be a part of the program for years to come, as he let be known after he led the team to the Big-10 Tournament:

“I think it's a great feeling as a coach to have your players recognized on a national level in such a prestigious league. You look at the list of players; there are so many good players, and to have our guys recognized, certainly, it's well-deserved,” the coach said

“I think as coaches, we know how hard they work and prepare, and you want to know that at the end of it all, there's some recognition when you accomplish some things that those guys did. To have so many guys recognized is also a great feeling,” he added.

McCaffery Career Accomplishments and Awards

NCAA Tournament Appearances:  11  (1988, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021, 2022)

NIT Appearances:  4  (2002, 2012, 2013, 2017)

MAAC Regular Season Champion:  3  (2008, 2009, 2010)

SoCon Regular Season Champion:  1  (2002)

Big Ten Tournament Champion:  1  (2022)

MAAC Tournament Champion:  3  (2008, 2009, 2010)

SoCon Tournament Champion:  1  (2001)

East Coast Tournament Champion:  1  (1988)

MAAC Coach of the Year:  1  (2009)

Cover Credits: Markus Spiske (Freepik)

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