Q-and-A with Andrew Francis

April 13, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Andrew Francis, a member of the coaching staff at Sienna University the last three seasons, was added to the coaching staff at the University of Iowa earlier this month by new UI head coach Fran McCaffery. Earlier today he visited with members of the media about the transition, the opportunity to coach at the UI and in the Big Ten, and more.

What do you sell to a player when you’re not totally familiar with your new surroundings?
“I think the thing that is important, and what I try to get across to people that I talk to now is who we are as people, Coach McCaffery’s system, all the resources that we’re going to have available, the unbelievable community, the Hawkeye tradition and things that I could put my hands on. I think those are the easiest things to sell. Obviously, having a chance to play in the Big Ten and at an institution that has so much support, you’re talking about pretty much the whole state of Iowa. I really try and make sure that I bring those points to the forefront to a young person, their family and their coaches, and highlight those things.”

What has it been like since you’ve been hired?
“It’s been a whirlwind, but that’s OK. I try to always be as even keel as possible and everyone has been so welcoming, helpful and has extended themselves to what we need. I think the transition, although it’s a lot of work, it’s been a pretty smooth transition. The guys on the team are great guys as I’m getting to know them. They’ve been really warm to us and accepting of what we’re trying to do. I think that’s made everything a little easier. It’s not easy to say because there’s a ton of work and a lot of people that you need to speak to, but everyone that I’ve reached out to has been very receptive. That’s something that we want to continue to extend to everyone who’s willing to be involved with the program. This is going to take, obviously, the efforts of a lot of people to continue to grow and to bring Iowa basketball back to where it belongs and hopefully to exceed where it’s been before. We have a lot of goals and a lot of things we want to accomplish as a staff with Coach McCaffery. He is going to instill his personality to the program and to the guys and I think he’s going to be very successful.”

Have you reached out to AAU/high school coaches yet and what’s that reception been like?
“I’ve reached out to a number of AAU coaches and I’m continuing to reach out to a number of high school coaches and everyone has been really receptive and very helpful. Some guys I haven’t been able to get yet and I’ll continue to try and get them. It’s a work in progress because you can’t get everything done in a matter of a couple days and I’ve only been here for five days. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished over the period that I’ve been here and I know coach is not stopping what he has going on. Everyone has been really receptive, what I’ve been trying to do is make sure we extend ourselves to all of the coaches and have them see what we’re trying to do. Really lay out what our vision is and hopefully we can continue to grow the relationships with everyone in the surrounding areas as well as branching out nationally. The most important thing is that Coach McCaffery wanted to get done is make sure we take care of home, to make sure we have those relationships with the coaches in our immediate area in the state of Iowa and the surrounding areas.”

What is realistic in terms of signings for the spring season and your goals?
“The main thing that we’re looking at is to make sure we get the best players possible who want to be a part of Iowa basketball. Right now, we’re still going over our roster and getting a good feel on where our guys are, what they can do, how they can be successful and what we’re trying to do, so I don’t want to jump the gun with any concrete expectations or exactly what we are going to try and sign realistically in the spring session. It’s a work in progress, but we’re communicating with some really talented individuals. We’re going to continue to evaluate, meet people and look at kids. We’re going to try to get the best players possible. Not only the best players that fit the system, but also the best young people. One of the biggest reasons for our success before coming to Iowa was the quality of student athletes that we brought into our system. That’s a very important thing because this is not just basketball. We’ve had very close-knit teams. The continuity on the teams worked because our guys respected on another and they genuinely liked one another. That’s something that’s important to Coach McCaffery and it’s important to the direction we want our program to go now.”

What can you tell us about Coach McCaffery that we may not know?
“With coach, what you see is what you get. I think that’s one of the things that I really respect about him as a person. He’s very knowledgeable as a coach. That’s something that comes through all in itself. I think that as people get to know him and get to see how he works and operates, they will see the knowledge that he has and how he gets it across to the players. I think he does a great job of teaching guys. He’s not one of these coaches that play a ton of head games. It’s all about, `This is exactly what I want you to do and this is how we’re going to try and do it. How can we make that happen?’ He’s very direct and upfront and that’s something you have to respect. There’s not a lot that I could say as far as what you guys may not have seen yet or what you don’t know yet. I think he’s a quality individual. When I had a chance to initially meet him, before I got the job at Siena, we sat down, we had lunch and talked. He’s just a regular guy. A regular guy who’s passionate about basketball, passionate about trying to be successful and preparing to be successful and teaching these guys the way to be successful; not only in basketball, but in life. I think that’s something you’re going to see and will be very evident, as well as him being a big time family guy that loves his family.”

“He’s just a regular guy. A regular guy who’s passionate about basketball, passionate about trying to be successful and preparing to be successful and teaching these guys the way to be successful; not only in basketball, but in life. I think that’s something you’re going to see and will be very evident, as well as him being a big time family guy that loves his family.”
UI Assistant Coach Andrew Francis on Fran McCaffery

How much did you know about the Iowa program before the position opened up?
“As a college basketball fan, I knew of the Iowa tradition with Jess Settles and a few of the players from when I was in college. I knew it was a big time program as far as always competing in the Big Ten. On the national stage they were someone you had to reckon with. Obviously, being an East Coast guy, we don’t get a lot of Iowa basketball games, so I’m not going to sit here and act like I know everything there is to know. You have to respect Iowa as a big time program in the Big Ten that was always up there competing. That’s something that I’m obviously learning more about now as I am part of the iowa basketball family. I’m proud to be a part of it. I was excited when he told me, it was a surprise because I didn’t know what was going on. Then he told me that he accepted an offer that he had gotten from Iowa and I was already excited. I think people nationally know Iowa basketball. Over the last couple of years, it’s slipped a little bit and its our job to make sure it needs to be in that national spotlight.”

What is it about yourself that you want incoming players and the Hawkeye community to know about you?
“I think the biggest thing about myself is that I’m just a guy that’s a regular guy. A humble guy who really wants to work hard to be successful. The thing that players and people in the community will find out about me is that I do work. I try to get after it. I try to be a person that teaches more than just basketball. It’s something that I take very serious. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is have a great basketball program, win a lot of games, have guys be successful academically and also help guys prepare to be successful in life. That’s something that’s important to Coach McCaffery and it’s very important to me. I’ve always been that way, even before I started coaching. Even when I worked for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club as a young man. It’s about mentoring these young people and paying it forward a little bit because people have helped me in my life to get where I’m at today. Growing up in the neighborhood that I did as a young person, I think it’s important that we continue to grow and help the next generation because people have helped us along the way. What kind of future do you want for your own kids? That’s very important. I try to have that ideal in my approach when I talk to the young guys and when I’m out there on the court. We’ll talk about basketball and we’ll work hard at the basketball side of it, but when the small stops bouncing, what time of man are you going to be? What time of husband or father are you going to be? That’s something that’s very important.”

Are you in a situation where you’ll just recruit to get the best player possible as opposed to fitting a specific position?
“I think you definitely want to continue to build your talent base. Without not having a strong idea of where guys fit right now and not having a chance to have gotten out on the floor with the guys yet as we’re taking caring of everything, you can watch a guy on film and get one view. When you get them out on the court, you can get them doing things you plan to do and get another view. When you watch the team last year, you’re going to see them running a system that is completely different than what we’re trying to do. I wanted to hold any real judgement on what our guys can do until we get them out there and see how well they pick up on what we’re doing. I have very little doubt in my mind that our guys are committed to what we’re trying to do. They can be successful, now we just need to continue to grow our talent base and fill in the spots we feel like we need to get filled in to keep advancing this program. As time goes on, we’re going to get a much better feel on who we really need to go after. Right now, obviously the safest thing to do is go after the most talented guys and move forward from there. It changes and it’s going to change. We want make sure we do things the right way and respect the guys that are here in this program. They’ve put in a lot of work and they’re great young men, and we’re going to try and build around what we have.”

What are some of your areas of expertise?
“I study the game and player development. I’m not pigeon-held to coaching just the forwards or the centers. At Siena, Coach McCaffery really gave me a lot of freedom to work with just the players, so I’m a person that really likes to sit back and watch each individual player and formulate things in my head that can help their game improve. I don’t think it’s going to change once we get here. Now, if coach wants me to work more with the forwards or the guards, that’s fine. It’s going to come down to what he needs me to do, but I’ve always been open to working with the guards, the forwards, the centers because basketball is basketball and when you study the game itself and each individual player, it’s all about helping the individual. You don’t want to be generic without trying to help the players improve. Each player is going to have different things that they’re good at. They may need different things to help their personal game to improve, which will improve the whole team in the bigger picture.”

How quickly were you approached about coming to Iowa and what was your reaction?
“After the shock of finding out it was Iowa, because it was never really out there, I was really excited. He initially told me Sunday, the day he got it and from then on he extended the invitation. He let me know that he was really thinking having me come with him and that it was something he wanted me to pursue. I was very flattered. I was excited. As far as the process after that, I was brought in last Wednesday to start the interview process and everyone was great to me and very helpful. I think everything went well and I got to meet some great people. Ever since then, everything’s been fast-tracked. As soon as the offer was extended, I accepted and I was off and running. There were calls to be made, people to talk to and people to see. I haven’t really had much time to let it sink in yet. It’ll sink in once we kind of cool down a little bit, but right now we have so much work that we want to accomplish, there’s no real time to think about that.”

You’re thoughts on some open scholarships..
“I think when you have change, you have to expect a level of change because there’s so much uncertainty when you have players who are at an institution who are used to one coach. Now you have a change and a new coach. Now there’s the questions, `Can I fit his system’, `I know I’m not one of his guys, will I play?’; there’s a lot of questions that these young men will have. You have to expect a certain level of change from the players standpoint. I think some of what’s been happening is to be expected, but when you’re building something you need a foundation and we’re trying to lay that foundation down. I don’t think it’s out of the norm that Aaron [Fuller], who I really only met a couple times, and from all indications was a really quality young man. He just felt like he needed to transfer for his own personal reasons. You have to respect that. As far as the other guys, everyone else has been great. It seems like everyone else is on board. We want to continue to extend ourselves to our players and to our recruits. Get them to want to know us as soon as possible because you want to have a level of trust and that’s important in recruiting. That relationship is a big key, so we’ll continue to grow relationships, forge new ones and we’ll get this thing rolling.”

About advantages/disadvantages of forging relations in just a couple weeks when recruiting?
“When you look at it, it can be somewhat of a disadvantage in some ways. Only because solid relationships are built over time, like you said, and that’s important. Obviously, when you have such a time constraint, you have to have a leap of faith in some sense. You have to trust your instincts and that’s the position that we’re kind of in right now. The feeling or the vibe you get from people you speak to and get to know over a short period of time. If they give you a good feeling, you go with your gut. Some guys you can just tell by being around them. It’s hard to pin point the feeling that they give you, but they give you a feeling that you want that young man in your program. Obviously, when you watch them play you evaluate their skill and talent. When you get to see them as people, as young people, the personalities that they display, you just have to go with your gut on some things. Right now, that’s what we’re doing; getting to know as much about all of the guys as possible. Get to know about their families, what they want, what direction they want their careers to go and how they see themselves fitting into Iowa basketball with the change, our system and what we’re trying to do moving forward. You just want guys who want to be here and that’s a big key.”

Are you looking forward to the rest of the staff being filled out at this point?
“Yeah, I mean, in a couple ways because you want to know who you’re working with. You want to start forging that relationships and want to know that you can count on the person next to you. That’s something that we had a Siena and I think our staff at Siena was unbelievable. Guys worked really well together and had a really nice cohesion. Fran trusted that we would get our job done and that we would really work hard to make sure that the program was moving forward in the right way. I think that’s something that’s going to be important to him here. Obviously, it’s on a bigger scale and we feel like we could do some special things here. It’s going to start with a good staff of guys who believe in what Coach McCaffery is trying to do and that believe in the players. We want to work together to try and get that done. It’d be nice to share the work with some people, but I don’t mind it. It’s great that I get to reach out to so many guys and meet these young guys personally myself because I want those relationships to grow. Anything I can do to help coach Iowa basketball, that’s what I’m willing to do.”