July 6, 2010
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Editor’s Note: July 6 marks the 100th day on the job for Fran McCaffery. hawkeyesports.com visited recently with the University of Iowa’s new head men’s basketball coach and talked about the whirlwind that was those first three-plus months of work as a Hawkeye. The second in this two-part series will be available Thursday, July 8.
IOWA CITY, Iowa —Since the end of March, University of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery would glance out his office window and see the foundation being laid for the Carver-Hawkeye Arena expansion. At the same time, Hawkeye fans have been able to watch as McCaffery lays the foundation for his program.
It has been 100 days since McCaffery was hired as the 22nd coach in UI men’s basketball history. During that time there have been long days and short nights, but no shortage of highlights.
“For me it was exciting,” McCaffery said. “It was nonstop, but I felt it was critical that I get my staff right because it takes all of us to move forward to get this program where we need to get it.”
Patience was a virtue for McCaffery as he surrounded himself with top-tier assistants, including Iowans Kirk Speraw and Ryan Bowen. Speraw, a two-time Hawkeye letterman (1978-79) and Sioux City, Iowa native, spent the past 17 seasons as head coach at Central Florida, where he led the Knights to the NCAA Tournament four times.
“I started zeroing in on Kirk Speraw right off the bat because of the incredible reception I was getting at the Final Four,” McCaffery said. “I knew Kirk and I knew his reputation. He had some other head coaching opportunities he could have looked at, but he really wanted to come back home. I’m glad it all came together because I’ve been really pleased with his work ethic and his knowledge.”
“It was nonstop, but I felt it was critical that I get my staff right because it takes all of us to move forward to get this program where we need to get it.”
While McCaffery was attending the Final Four in Indianapolis in April, former Hawkeye coaching legend Lute Olson and Lon Kruger, who will begin his 25th season as a Division I head coach, both provided glowing endorsements for Speraw.
Like Speraw, McCaffery had Bowen, a native of Fort Madison, Iowa, on his radar almost immediately, thanks to calls from former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy and Jeff Bower, the general manager for the New Orleans Hornets. Bowen played 10 seasons in the NBA before retiring in November. He will be video coordinator and administrative assistant at his alma mater, where he lettered from 1995-98.
“I was getting text messages and phone calls saying Ryan Bowen was the most professional person they had ever been associated with,” McCaffery said.
The impressive resumes do not end there. McCaffery retained Andrew Francis from Siena and in the middle of May, he completed the staff by hiring longtime friend Sherman Dillard. Dillard was head coach at Indiana State and James Madison.
“There’s not a better work ethic in the country,” McCaffery said of Francis. “A lot of times you look at him and say, `Boy, what an impressive person he is. He really communicates well and connects with the players and connects with their families; he’s going to be a great recruiter’ — and he is. But he’s an excellent basketball coach and he can break a film down and he can put a scouting report together, he can teach the game on the floor and he can run a skill development session.”
Dillard, who also has extensive experience as a high-level Division I assistant coach, has known McCaffery for 30 years.
“He has an impeccable reputation,” McCaffery said. “He is somebody who can teach the game and coach the game. He can make adjustments on the bench and he is also a fabulous recruiter. There is not a finer person.”
Coming Thursday, July 8: Fran talks about the people of Iowa including two very special Hawkeyes: Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker and the UI’s head wrestling coach, Tom Brands.