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Harty: My mother has about had it with McCaffery’s temper. Why she (and fans) should give him another chance

[ 0 ] January 7, 2014 |

By Pat Harty
Hawk Central

My 84-year old mother can put up with a lot, including my father for the past 62 years, but she like the Big Ten Conference believes that Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery crossed the line with his meltdown on Sunday at Wisconsin.

She was disappointed and disgusted to the point that she quit watching the game on television after McCaffery was ejected about midway through the second half with Iowa leading the undefeated Badgers 41-39 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

I told her while I agree that McCaffery crossed the line, he still deserves her support and her respect. I told her that McCaffery will learn from this latest punishment for a massive meltdown, which is his third as the Iowa coach to go along with being tossed at Northern Iowa in 2011 and with tossing a chair at Michigan State in 2012.

I told her that McCaffery is too smart and too hungry for success to let his temper derail him. He had to be embarrassed watching himself on television — assuming he has reviewed the tape — because regardless of the moment or the magnitude of the event, it still doesn’t justify doing your best Bobby Knight impersonation at the expense of the officials and your team.

The Big Ten Conference did the right thing by suspending McCaffery for Thursday’s game against Northwestern and fining the University of Iowa $10,000 because there is no denying that McCaffery violated the Big Ten’s policy on sportsmanship. If Sunday’s meltdown had been McCaffery’s first as the Iowa coach, he probably would’ve just been reprimanded.

But it wasn’t. It was strike three and you’re out for one game. It was a stern warning that his outbursts are unacceptable and embarrrassing to the university and to the Big Ten Conference.

“I want to again apologize to the University of Iowa, my players, staff and the tremendous Hawkeye fans for my emotional reaction during Sunday’s game,” McCaffery said today in a statement released by the school. “I regret my actions and accept the Big Ten Conference’s decision. I am ready to move on.”

Part of moving on included meeting with the media Tuesday afternoon at one of McCaffery’s previously scheduled press conferences at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta also attended the press conference and voiced his support for McCaffery.

“I think the world of Fran and I love him as a coach, I love him as a person and I’m glad he’s our head basketball coach,” Barta said. “Clearly, in the heat of competition he made a mistake. And when you’re  basketball coach or a football coach or a high-profile coach, you make a mistake and it’s there for all the world to see. He’s remorseful. He clearly wishes that he wouldn’t have made that mistake, but he did and he’s accepting and we’re accepting the penalty.”

McCaffery began his press conference by saying that his passion and energy come from a good place and that he will continue to fight for his players. But he also acknowledged that he lost his cool and shouldn’t do that because it sets a bad example for his players.

“We don’t want them to do that, so I can’t do that,” McCaffery said of his players. “I never want to put them in a position where it affects them anyway negatively or anything to affect negatively on the institution. That’s certainly not my desire. But it’s a competitive game and that was a competitive game and we’re going to fight. And beyond this statement, I’ll let my other statement stand and let’s move forward.”

It’s probably fair to say that Sunday’s game against Wisconsin lacked consistency in how fouls were called, but why let that turn into rage?
Why let it keep you from doing in a key conference game what you’re paid some so handsomely to do?
Why let it taint an otherwise sparkling resume?

McCaffery, in his fourth season as head coach, has lifted the Iowa program from shambles with his passion being a big part of his success.

Hopefully, for his sake, the next time Mount McCaffery starts to rumble, he’ll realize before it’s too late that it isn’t fair to his players to give the other team so many free opportunities to score points, especially a team like Wisconsin that thrives on making open shots and free throws to compensate for other weaknesses.

But more so than that, McCaffery will realize that a protest should only go so far in a civilized society. He has no choice but to realize it now because his leash is much shorter. He also has to consider the influence of social media and realize that more eyes are watching him these days as opposed to when he started coaching in the 1980s.

This isn’t to say that McCaffery has no right to question or protest calls during the heat of the moment because that goes with the territory. McCaffery’s passion was just what the Iowa program needed when he took over for Todd Lickliter, who rarely showed emotion during games other than burying his face in his hands.

It’s unreasonable to think that McCaffery could change his personality overnight or that he’ll never be whistled for another technical foul. He’ll still wear his emotion on his sleeve and on his face, but now he has to show some constraint, like getting just one technical instead of two, or risk the consequences.

McCaffery’s tirade didn’t lose Sunday’s game at Wisconsin, but certainly helped pave the way for a loss.

It was the kind of loss that has become painfully familiar under McCaffery, his team coming close against an elite opponent on the road, only to stumble at the end.

I still say that Iowa’s inability to shoot hurt it more than McCaffery’s inability to control his temper did. But together they were lethal.

McCaffery now has to prove that he can deal with one questionable call at a time because there certainly is more coming from the officials. He has the support of Barta and I’m predicting that my mother will give McCaffery another chance because the good in him still far outweighs the bad.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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