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Penn State game means McCaffery-DeChellis reunion

[ 2 ] January 25, 2011 |

Ed DeChellis, in his eighth season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach. (AP file photo)

Ed DeChellis was going to make sure his friend, Fran McCaffery, didn’t lose that loving feeling.

McCaffery, then an assistant basketball coach at Notre Dame and days removed from his July 4, 1997 wedding to Margaret Nowlin, was in Las Vegas, Nev., chasing recruit Troy Murphy. Margaret went along, gym to gym, writing thank you notes.

“I’d write, and he would watch,’’ Margaret recalled.

DeChellis, then a Penn State assistant, eventually shamed McCaffery into taking his wife to a Las Vegas show.

“Franny needed to do that,’ ’’ DeChellis said.

The McCafferys caught a Righteous Brothers show at Caesars Palace.

“Got the last two tickets,’’ McCaffery said. “Worst two seats in the house.’’

Wednesday, McCaffery and DeChellis will be reunited at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa., when Penn State 10-8, 3-4 Big Ten) hosts Iowa (8-11, 1-6).

“It’s amazing how things come full circle,’’ said DeChellis, in his eighth season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach.

This coaching bond started as two assistsnts on the recruiting trail, and continued in the Southern Conference. DeChellis was at East Tennessee State before taking the Penn State job in the spring of 2003. McCaffery was at North Carolina-Greensboro during DeChellis’s final four seasons at East Tennessee State.

“We had some hellacious games,’’ McCaffery said.

Their teams split the first three seasons.

“We had a lot of battles,’’ DeChellis said.

Greensboro made the NCAA Tournament in 2001. East Tennessee State made it in 2003, when DeChellis won both meetings with McCaffery to finish with a 3-5 edge on his friend.

“We los

t at the buzzer in overtime on ESPN,’’ McCaffery said of 2003. “Then we lost by two and the last shot went in-and-out.’’

McCaffery consulted with DeChellis before pursuing the Greensboro job.

“I can still remember the day,’’ DeChellis said. “I was recruiting in Alabama, around Birmingham, when he called me on my cell phone and said, “Hey, this job at North Carolina-Greensboro opened up, what do you think if it?’ ’’ DeChellis said. “I told him what I thought the positives were. Next thing you know he was involved, he was able to get it and he did a great job.’’

That wasn’t the first time McCaffery listened to DeChellis’s advice. He did the same back in Las Vegas in 1997.

“Eddie was giving you a hard time, remember?’ ’’ Margaret reminded her husband. “He said, “Will you take her somewhere?’ ’’

The Righteous Brothers it was. Bad seats and all.

“That was OK,’’ Margaret said. “We had a good time.’’

McCaffery eventually got his man, too. Murphy signed with the Irish.

“The Righteous Brothers, and Troy Murphy said yes,’’ McCaffery said.

======  WEDNESDAY'S GAME  ======

WHO: Iowa (8-11, 1-6 Big Ten) at Penn State (10-8, 3-4)

WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, Pa.

TIPOFF: 5:30 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network.

RADIO: Hawkeye Network including WHO-AM (1040), D.M.

STATISTICAL LEADERS: For Iowa — Matt Gatens 13.2 ppg, Melsahn Basabe 7.0 rpg, Bryce Cartwright 4.8 apg ; for Penn State — Talor Battle 20.2 ppg, Jeff Brooks 8.0 rpg, Tim Frazier 4.5 apg.

ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Gatens ranks ninth nationally in free-throw percentage at .906.

ABOUT THE NITTANY LIONS: Battle ranks second in the Big Ten and 19th nationally in scoring.

WHAT TO WATCH: Iowa has had 10 or more steals in five of 19 games this season. The Hawkeyes recorded 10 or more steals just twice over the previous three seasons (96 games).

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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