Who would have thought the North Florida post-game presser would provide the most insightful and honest interview moment of the still-young 2014-15 season? After Iowa's 80-70 victory over the visiting Ospreys on Monday night, UNF coach Matthew Driscoll held court and offered his blunt, unvarnished assessment of the Iowa players and their collective psyche.
This video, courtesy of HawkCentral.com, is an absolute must-watch:
Here's a few thoughts on top of that.
- First and foremost, he's right. He's so right. You can see the wind go out of Iowa's sails as these opponents' runs start happening, and while it's really not Fran McCaffery popping their balloons, it is so obvious that you wonder why he's not saving these guys with timeouts more often. They're fragile. You'd hope they're not, but they are, like orchids and Ming vases. And while you'd technically be correct as an owner of an orchid or Ming vase to say that fragility is "not my problem," at some point you have to be more proactive in protecting what you've got. I don't think the evidence is there that Fran's hurting these guys' self-esteem, but I'm not sure you can point to a whole lot that says he's interested in protecting it either.
- "Thin skin" is not an easy thing to quantify, and thus we're reticent to just flatly claim Driscoll's right without backing it up. At the same time, it certainly feels right, and there's one factor we'd like to throw in there: turnovers. Yes, Iowa reacts negatively to the missed shots, but turning the ball over seems to elicit just as much of a negative reaction (especially when a run is on) and it's difficult for Iowa to respond to an emotionally charged opponent.
- Driscoll seems a little more enamored with role specialization than I think someone like McCaffery should be. Yes, you want your guys to stick to the things they're best at. Yes, you want to put your team in the best position to win. But at the same time, at a level as high as the Big Ten, versatility is crucial (especially when you don't have overwhelming athleticism or talent at the specific skills) and telling a guy like Jarrod Uthoff to either shoot threes or post up seems a little... odd. A great team with similar athleticism like Wichita State derives plenty of strength from its versatility, especially from do-everything guys like Ron Baker. Can you imagine telling him to stick to this or that? There should certainly be clarity among the Iowa players as to what they should or should not be doing, and you can argue that already exists; it's not like you see Gabriel Olaseni trying to take dudes off the dribble or Anthony Clemmons trying to keep a big man off the post. But yes, late-clock jumpers are not playing to Mike Gesell's strengths, Uthoff should not be feeling like he should do everything on offense, Aaron White should not shoot so many threes, and so on. Driscoll's specifics are all accurate.
- Does this guy want to coach Iowa? We're only slightly kidding. I realize being a head coach is better than being an assistant at a non-powerhouse, but for real—that's some serious coachin' Driscoll just did pro bono for the Hawkeyes. And it feels like a voice much needed in the day-to-day for the Hawkeyes, especially since again, this is a guy that knows Fran and his guys pretty well.
- So, okay. Call me crazy if I'm off-base on this one. But Driscoll says he's friends with McCaffery and his staff. He offers this remarkably detailed critique of the players' roles and mental approach, unprompted, right after emphasizing his friendship with McCaffery and his staff. Could it be, just maybe, that Driscoll's acting as something of a mouthpiece for some frustrations that McCaffery has voiced privately? Really, when was the last time you saw a coach (one who isn't even in the same conference as his opponent and won't see those guys more than once) talk so extensively about opposing players and what they should (or should not) be doing?
- The only guy Driscoll says exclusively nice things about is Olaseni, and sure enough, while nobody would argue Olaseni's the team's best player, he is the guy who seems to have the highest ratio of success in the plays he's involved in. Some of that is because there isn't a wide range on what Olaseni's ever asked to do, but at the same time we're not talking about Kurt Looby 2.0 here; Olaseni has serious value as a jump shooter, floor spacer, offensive rebounder, rim defender and court runner. But you never find yourself asking "why did you do that?" whenever the ball's in Olaseni's hands, and sure enough, the disasters rarely fall at his feet.