Friday’s men’s basketball game matching Iowa against Iowa State will not only be a showcase for two nationally-ranked teams, but also for two coaches with contrasting styles and similar results.
Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg have rebuilt their respective programs to where both teams are ranked heading into their annual showdown for the first time since the 1987-88 season.
They’ve done it by recruiting talented players and by putting them in a position as a group to succeed.
And they’ve done it by sticking to a blueprint for success that works for them. But that’s also where McCaffery and Hoiberg differ somewhat, along with their personalities.
McCaffery has rebuilt the Iowa program mostly by using unheralded players that he recruited directly out of high school, whereas Hoiberg has turned Ames into a place where transfers flourish. Hoiberg’s latest transfer gem is 6-foot-4 senior point guard DeAndre Kane, who played his first three seasons at Marshall.
McCaffery also has relied heavily on in-state talent to rebuild the Iowa program, with six Iowa natives currently on scholarship if you include former walk-on Darius Stokes from Cedar Rapids. Iowa State only has two Iowa native on its current roster, along with players from eight different states and two from Canada.
“They have a lot of different players that we respect,” McCaffery said. “We appreciate they respect what we’re doing. I have tremendous respect for Fred and how’s he’s built it. I consider him a friend and we’ll try to beat each other Friday night.”
Expect Kane to have a huge impact on Friday’s game at Hilton Coliseum in Ames because the ball will often be in his hands, and for good reason. Kane is stuffing the stat sheet, averaging 15.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists in seven games, all of which have been victories.
“He’s a really good player who can do a lot of things,” McCaffery said of Kane.
Also expect McCaffery to show his emotion throughout the game. Iowa’s fourth-year coach doesn’t just wear his emotion on his sleeve, he wears it on his face and everywhere else. It’s never a mystery how McCaffery feels during a game.
Hoiberg, on the other hand, is more laid-back and was the same way as a star shooting guard at Ames High School and as a player at Iowa State. It doesn’t mean that Hoiberg is less engaged during the heat of battle, just that he has a different way of expressing himself.
Hoiberg speaks softly, but what he says comes through loud and clear, as does McCaffery’s message. Part of being a coach is having the respect of your players, and that’s one thing that McCaffery and Hoiberg have in common.
How they reached this point is much different, though.
The 54-year old McCaffery did it the old fashioned way, by slowly and methodically climbing up the coaching ladder one victory at a time. Iowa is his fourth head coaching job at the Division I level and he also spent 11 seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame.
Hoiberg, 41, had no coaching background when Iowa State took a gamble on him. He was working as Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves when he accepted the challenge to rebuild his alma mater in his hometown.
You could argue that Hoiberg was hired largely because of his celebrity status as a former Cyclone star from Ames who played in the NBA. Hoiberg is so beloved in Cyclone territory that he was given the nickname the “The Mayor” after receiving several write-in votes during the 1993 Ames mayoral race.
It’s hard to argue with the results under Hoiberg, with Iowa State having played in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments and well on its way to a third consecutive bid. The quick-fix approach of taking transfers is risky because it can destroy chemistry, and yet Hoiberg has made it work.
McCaffery also has a nickname, but his days of being “White Magic” on the courts in his hometown of Philadelphia are long gone.
But like Hoiberg, McCaffery has credibility as a former elite player. McCaffery didn’t make it to the NBA but his resume as a player would compare favorably to most. He is a former high school all-American from Philadelphia who played his freshman season at Wake Forest before transferring to Penn, where he lettered three times as a point guard and led the Ivy League in steals and assists as a senior in 1981-82.
And in fairness to both coaches, perceptions don’t always tell the whole story.
Iowa State’s success with transfers overshadows the fact that Hoiberg also has recruited well from the high school ranks. In fact, Hoiberg won the recruiting battle against McCaffery for the services of 6-7 forward Georges Niang, who as a sophomore is one of Iowa State’s best players. Iowa State is also one of the favorites to sign five-star high school recruit Rashad Vaughn.
McCaffery has won his share of recruiting battles, too, most notably convincing 7-1 sophomore center Adam Woodbury from Sioux City to be a Hawkeye instead of signing with North Carolina. McCaffery also has a knack for finding hidden talent, taking players like Aaron White, who was lightly recruited out of Strongsville, Ohio, and turning him into a star at the Big Ten level.
There is so much to like about both of these teams. Iowa has tremendous depth and length, whereas Iowa State is extremely athletic. It’s a case of contrasting styles achieving positive results, much like the two coaches.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball