Schwartz: McCaffery and Unprofessional Behavior

February 28, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

This is obvious but worth discussing: The Hawkeyes win when they hit their three-point attempts and lose when they don’t.

The Hawkeyes, who have just three regular-season games remaining until the Big Ten Tournament, are shooting 39 percent as a team from three-point range in their 21 wins. In their seven losses, they’re at 31.5 percent – and that drops down to 28.2 percent when you take out that weird loss to Minnesota when they Hawkeyes hit 10 three-pointers but decided playing defense was optional.

Wins = 39.5 percent long-distance shooting. Losses = 28.2 percent.

These figures aligned as the centerpiece of this column immediately following Tuesday night’s loss at Ohio State, a column that was supposed to look ahead to the Big Ten Tournament and Iowa’s chances of finally going deep into the weekend.

Then Man-Baby returned. In a postgame rage, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery accused the officials of cheating, and apparently, they were so good at it that Iowa lost by 20. So there’s some good news, Hawkeye fans: Tuesday’s loss wasn’t their fault. It was the officials.

On Wednesday, Iowa handed McCaffery the two-game suspension that he so obviously earned.

So let’s bring this back around to the Big Ten Tournament. This is the time in the season when a team should be rounding into shape, when what they show us on the court now resembles what they’ll show us in the postseason, whether it’s the B1G or the NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes hold a 1-5 record over their last five Big Ten Tournament games, so let’s table the NCAA Tournament talk for now and focus just on the conference title. They need to string together a couple of Big Ten Tourney wins. They just do. It’s time for McCaffery (‘s assistants) and the players to figure this thing out so Hawkeye fans who make the trip to Chicago don’t have to spend all weekend watching the other 13 B1G teams play.

Despite Tuesday’s result (every team lays a couple of eggs at some point during the season) there was every reason to think Iowa had positioned itself to be a player in Chicago. They might not win the tournament, but it’s reasonable to imagine them playing on Saturday. They’re 10-4 over their last 14 games. Twelve of those games have been decided by 10 points or less; Iowa has won 10 of those 12.

Playing in close games and winning – that’s what we want to see.

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But now McCaffery has lost his cool, again, and has become the story, again. College sports are set up so that coaches, not players, are a program’s most important figure. They set the tone.

Quite the tone from McCaffery, a person who already had a well-earned reputation for stressing himself and everyone else out. The man needs to relax. He needs perspective. Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton once excused himself from a press conference to take his son out of the room. The Utah Jazz had lost, and Stockton’s son was brooding, pouting, generally being a poor sport, and Stockton knew that was the time to teach him about sportsmanship. Stockton’s son was a child at the time. Can Gary Barta fly Stockton to Iowa City to pull McCaffery aside for the same lesson?

Last month I asked a question: After a decade with the Hawkeyes, what is McCaffery’s legacy? I wrote that it was still a mystery. But I may have been wrong. This season’s turnaround from last year has been remarkable, worthy of praise. McCaffery deserves all the back slaps in the world.

Except here’s the thing. When we think of Fran McCaffery, we don’t think of how he rescued the program from Todd Lickliter or the occasional NCAA Tournament appearance.

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We think of his temper tantrums.

That’s his legacy.

Fran McCaffery might be a good person who knows how to coach basketball and win games and stand behind his players, but Fran McCaffery is also a big giant baby with an anger problem.

And let’s face it, he’s embarrassing.

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I’m far from perfect. I’ve lost my temper. So yes, to some degree this is the pot calling the kettle black.

Yet ask yourself: In what other professional role at the University of Iowa would McCaffery’s public behavior be acceptable?

Could he smash chairs on the ground, scream until he’s red in the face, and stalk those he disagrees with if he crunched numbers in accounting? Or managed human resources? Or taught in the College of Medicine?

Of course not.

Because that’s not how professionals behave when they want to keep their jobs.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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