Fran McCaffery has been a college basketball head coach long enough to know that surviving in the sport is all about making adjustments as the nature of the offseason changes.
It could be seen in Iowa’s offseason under the new NCAA rule that players can transfer without sitting out a season.
The transfer portal, clogged with more than 1,600 names during the offseason, took and gave back to the Hawkeyes since the end of the season. McCaffery, Iowa’s head coach, says that’s how it is going to be in the coming years.
“I coached before we had a (shot) clock and a 3-point line,” McCaffery said during his Thursday media availability. “We adjust on the court, you adjust in recruiting.
“There’s been changes throughout the years that we’ve all dealt with. So we adapt.”
Iowa’s roster had plenty of shuffling since the March 22 loss to Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
McCaffery lost guard CJ Fredrick to Kentucky. Fredrick started all 27 games he played in last season, averaging 7.5 points while leading the Hawkeyes in 3-point percentage at .474. Guard Jordan Bohannon, Iowa’s all-time leader in assists and 3-point goals, decided to take advantage of an NCAA rule giving players an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so he’ll be back to take Fredrick’s spot.
Iowa lost senior center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year and the program’s all-time leading scorer. The Hawkeyes then picked up Filip Rebraca, a 6-foot-9 forward from North Dakota who averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds.
That sort of roster change is going to happen more and more, McCaffery said.
“For years, we’ve always built programs,” McCaffery said. “You bring in young kids, you work with them and you help them get better and you make sure they graduate. You’re mentors, you’re counselors, and then they graduate. You have a relationship with them for a long time. I expect a lot of players will be like that. But some will not. Some will chase shots, chase minutes, chase more money. And so that will change how you put your roster together, clearly. And so we have to adjust.”
Whether that high number of players in the portal continues in coming seasons is unclear. But as the battle continues over players being compensated under a name-image-likeness (NIL) proposal the NCAA is considering — some states have already adopted their own NIL laws — the roster shifting could continue.
“Assuming, and we don’t know this, that NIL goes through (the NCAA) in July, that will further change the landscape of how we do business,” McCaffery said.
“It’s been completely different, when you have 1,600-plus names that are essentially free agents, We really don’t know — will that number be a consistent number every year? Will it go up? Will it go down? Will NIL become something that triggers even more transfers? That’s a possibility. NIL is not supposed to become part of the recruiting process, but I think you and I are reasonably intelligent people, and it will be. So we’ll have to deal with that.
“Again, we’re dealing with stuff we haven’t had to deal with before. So we’re all kind of going through this at the same time, dealing with the changes as they come. And I suspect that coaches in my position, some of us will handle it the same way, some of us will handle it differently. But it’s going to be different moving forward as it relates how you put your team together, essentially.”
Maintaining a foundation of players within a program will be important, McCaffery said.
“I would hope my roster would remain consistent somewhat from year to year,” he said. “But I’ve had conversations with some coaches who expect to turn their roster over at least 50 percent each year. So that’s possible, in any given year.
“It’s really interesting moving forward seeing how this is all going to end up. It will work out. We won’t have any trouble getting people interesting in coming to the University of Iowa, and play in the Big Ten, I can tell you that. We’ll have plenty of people who want to come and put that jersey on. You may have a few more guys that leave here, anywhere else. You sign somebody else.”