May 4, 2010
- Watch: McCaffery Press Conference
- What they’re saying about Fran McCaffery
- Watch: McCaffery Discusses Iowa
- Watch: McCaffery on BTN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Advocating the need to follow good people, Kirk Speraw came to the University of Iowa in 1975 to learn and play men’s basketball under Lute Olson. Thirty-five years later — again seeking to follow `good people’ — Speraw has returned as an assistant coach for Fran McCaffery.
“It won’t be a tough adjustment and that’s because coach McCaffery is such an outstanding man and a great coach,” Speraw said Tuesday during a 26-minute teleconference from his office inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “You want to go with good people. Coach McCaffery is a great man; I can work with him and work for him. There’s a lot of things I can learn from him and obviously this is a great place that if I finish out my career here I’d be more than happy with all of that. It won’t take long to get up to speed.”
Speraw, 53, was a two-time letterwinner for the Hawkeyes in 1978 and ’79. He served as a graduate assistant for one season (1979-80) before working as an assistant coach under Floyd Theard at the University of Denver from 1980-82. Speraw moved to the state of Florida, where he has been since 1983, serving as an assistant at Florida Southern (1983-87), head coach at Pensacola Junior College (1987-90), assistant coach at the University of Florida (1990-93) and head coach at Central Florida (1993-2010)
“It was a great time at (Central Florida),” Speraw said. “You’re able to stay in one place for 17 years and raise your family and develop a program that had never had a winning season at Division I before you got there.”
Speraw is the winningest coach at Central Florida with a 279-233 record. During his tenure, 18 of his players received all-league honors, including four first-team honorees. Since the start of the 1993-94 season, 54 of Speraw’s student-athletes earned academic all-conference recognition. His tenure included four NCAA Tournament berths (1994, ’96, ’04 and `05). In 2006-07, he was recognized as Conference USA Coach of the Year after guiding the Knights to 22 victories and a second-place league finish. His most successful season at Central Florida was in 2003-04, when the Knights finished 25-6, received votes in the top 25 and won the Atlantic Sun championship, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Speraw has officially been on the job six days and has already made a trip Monday to an I-Club function in his hometown.
“It was great getting back to Sioux City and there’s probably nobody more excited about our family moving here than my mom, so she was in hog heaven last night,” Speraw said. “I saw (incoming recruit) Zach (McCabe) and his family — mom and dad — and (current Hawkeye) Brennan (Cougil’s) mom, so it was good to connect with those people.”
“It won’t be a tough adjustment and that’s because coach McCaffery is such an outstanding man and a great coach. You want to go with good people. Coach McCaffery is a great man; I can work with him and work for him. There’s a lot of things I can learn from him and obviously this is a great place that if I finish out my career here I’d be more than happy with all of that. It won’t take long to get up to speed.”
UI assistant coach
Referring to coaching as a “great profession and a bad business,” Speraw said returning to the University of Iowa was the most he and his family could hope for. His daughter Brooke is a student at the UI.
“This is the best that I could have ever hoped for and that’s why I’m so excited to be with coach McCaffery and looking forward to helping him get this thing rolling,” Speraw said.
There were two reasons Speraw attended the UI after a successful playing career at Sioux City North:
“I chose it because of its business school because that’s what I wanted to study and I chose it because of Lute Olson,” Speraw said. “There were other directions I could have gone or could have pursued and I locked in right away with coach Olson and admired what he had done in a short period of time before I came here.”
A couple times during the teleconference Speraw emphasized that Hawkeye fans need to have faith and believe in McCaffery and the students and community need to get behind the program.
“The fans can help us in some of those tight games early-on here until we can get things rolling,” Speraw said. “It’s going to be a big part of our improvement. Our fan base has to be energized to create an atmosphere in Carver-Hawkeye so other recruits want to come and play in that environment; other recruits want to come in and be part of Iowa basketball because of the tremendous support from the community and the state.”
Speraw and McCaffery have “tremendous respect for one another as coaches,” and there is an interesting twist to Speraw’s recent hiring as a Hawkeye. When Speraw was an assistant at Florida Southern, he shared and office with Rich Marshall, who became a close friend to McCaffery.
“I hadn’t seen or talked to (Rich) in probably 20 years and yet when coach got this job, he said, `Hey, you ought to hire Kirk.’ It’s kind of interesting how it evolves. I feel very, very comfortable here and look forward to working with (McCaffery).”
Speraw joins Andrew Francis as an assistant coach on the UI staff. McCaffery will hire one more assistant before designating specific job responsibilities.
“Believe me, we’re running so fast I don’t know if (McCaffery’s) had time to kind of formulate in his head specifically what he wants everybody to do,” Speraw said. “Maybe he does, but we’re running so fast recruiting-wise here and trying to complete this class…those discussions are going to come down the road.”
Iowa City has changed since Speraw last resided here; so have the basketball facilities. Not only were games played in the Field House until 1983, but now Carver-Hawkeye Arena is in the midst of a remodeling project.
“I look out my window right now and I see the renovation going on for the practice areas and the offices,” Speraw said. “I saw the plans yesterday and everything we have planned for the renovation. That’s exciting and needed…long overdue. As much as you feel comfortable with things, there’s a lot of new things happening that make it energizing and exciting.”
By challenging for a Big Ten Conference title, everything else becomes a by-product, said Speraw, who called the Big Ten “the best basketball league in the country with great players and great coaches.”
Speraw and his wife, Tracy (an Iowa City native), have two sons, Drew and Dustin, and two daughters, Brooke and Bailey.