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Fran McCaffery Iowa Basketball Media Day Recap

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Lineups! Schedules! NCAA snitching! And more!

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Indiana Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa men’s basketball team hosted its annual Media Day yesterday, which means IOWA BASKETBALL IS BACK, BABY!

And of course, as he does every media day, Fran got in front of the media to answer all of their questions. It seems like it was a pretty wide-ranging conversation! He also included (what looks like) a personally signed letter to each member of the media that was given to them before the presser:

You can check out the whole transcript here, and it’s worth your time if you’re into reading about player development and the like, which I don’t deal much with here. My thoughts on what I’ve deemed the most important areas are below. All bolded emphasis is mine, and some sections are edited so you don’t have to read this forever. There’s a lot to break down, so buckle up.

By the time we came back, I felt like we were a veteran club, and I think that was the plan, at least that was the hope, that we would get to that point. We had a lot of players play really well individually, and quite frankly they should have. We were superior to the teams we played against, but we did what we should have done to teams that we were better than.

Fran saying that he feels like the team is already a veteran ball club is exactly what I want to hear going into this season. Yes, it’s partially coach-speak, because, by default, he is bringing back one of the most veteran teams he’s ever had. It’s possible that I’m overthinking the fact that he’s saying this, but the more team chemistry this squad can have, the better, because there will be a lot of talent vying for not a lot of minutes when the season kicks off later this month.

Speaking of depth...

Q. You've got 13 players that could potentially see long minutes. What is the challenge in finding a balance with so much depth?

FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, it's not going to be easy. There's no question about that. So you know, you just try to institute a sense of fairness the best way that you can. You try to identify who have been the guys that have elevated themselves to the point where you consider them to be starters, and where do you want to go from there. A lot of times you need size coming off the bench, you need guards, whatever. But sometimes you want offense. Sometimes you want to go defense off the bench. I think we have the ability when we go to the bench to go either way. We have size, we have depth in the backcourt, we have length, and we have guys that can score coming off the bench. And that's typically the biggest problem you have. When you go to your bench you don't have guys that can consistently score the ball, and your team goes down when those guys come in. And that's not the case at all with our team. We are equally good with whoever we bring off the bench, and I think that's exciting. I have complete confidence in those guys, and they know that I'm going to try to do the best job I can to distribute playing time accordingly.

Iowa’s depth this year, after only losing Peter Jok (and I, like BoilerHawk say ‘only losing’ in the best possible way) has been well-touted, both on this blog and elsewhere. In fact, I just did so above! There’s a lot of possibilities with this team, and the fact that McCaffery has confidence that they are equally good with the starting lineup and bench is scary to think about.

Now for the question we’re all wondering about:

Q. Speaking of your rotation, what's your sense for your starting point for that right now? Do you have a lineup set?

FRAN McCAFFERY: No, no. Do I have something in mind? Probably. But I think we're only two weeks in. I think we have to give everybody a chance to kind of establish themselves. We'll identify who the five are, and then six, seven, eight is typically where you go from there, and then nine, 10, 11. But even with this team, that could change. We saw that a little bit last year. We only had really one senior in Pete. I think you saw us have great runs against really good teams with varying lineups on the floor. Oftentimes it was not our starting five or it was a combination of players, and I think that's what good teams have, and so hopefully we can do that.

And:

Q. Is there a rotation... set this early in the season?

FRAN McCAFFERY: No, I think we've got some work to do with the rotation. I mean, obviously we have three starters back, so you pretty much start from there. I don't see those guys losing their starting spots. Baer, we talked about him, does he start, do we keep him in the sixth-man role, that means we'd have another starter, and who's the other starter after that. And then Baer would be sixth if he doesn't start, and we'll go from there. But we've got a lot of guys who can play, and that's the most important thing.

Sounds like, at least for now, the lineup will be pretty malleable. McCaffery was also asked whether he saw Baer as more of a sixth-man again or as a starter because of his leadership and energy, and from my interpretation, it sounds like he’s open to both options, but wants Baer to continue being the best sixth-man in the conference, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

There’s certainly something to having a stable lineup, but if Fran is seriously considering throwing up a different lineup on any given night to best matchup against his opponent, count me in. Iowa’s depth has certainly hurt it in the past, and it’s worth keeping in mind, but depth can also be as much of an advantage as a disadvantage if 1-11 (or 12!) are able to create and score consistently.

Ok, now let’s address the elephant in the room: the FBI investigation into NCAA basketball. Of course Fran was asked about the entire situation, and how Iowa fits in, and I’ll (mostly) let him speak for himself.

Q. What does college basketball have to do or is there anything it can do to self-police itself better?

FRAN McCAFFERY: What you can do is when you know something is going on, turn that team in. Who does that? Not a lot of people do that. I do it. I've turned programs in, and I'll continue to do that when I know that there's stuff going on. But a lot of times you don't know what's going on. Can you police yourselves? Only if you know something is going on, but even then it's hard for the NCAA to do something.

Q. When you do that or have done it I should say, what are you up against when you -- for instance, when you call the NCAA?

FRAN McCAFFERY: You're not up against anything really. They're interested in getting to the bottom of it. But they can't wiretap your phone. They can't run a sting operation. They can't have insiders. So maybe this is a game changer with regard to the FBI's involvement.

Fran has turned programs in! That’s interesting. I wonder if we’ll ever hear more about that. I respect that, I believe him when he says that it’s not something a lot of other coaches do, and it’s the right thing to do.

Q. Have you ever veered away from recruits because --

FRAN McCAFFERY: Every day.

Q. Kids playing AAU ball, have you seen stuff like what we've read about in that arena?FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah.

Q. How hard is that to deal with, again, just as a father?

FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, you know, you see it. I'm in a little bit of a different position because Connor and Patrick were good, so they were invited to some events and so forth, and you hear some stuff that kids are saying. But again, I go back to, I think, they're isolated incidents. We know some of the organizations that are inclined to be that way, and we shy away from them.

But I think if you go to some of the events that my boys went to, I think a good percentage of those if not the majority are legit. There's a handful that are not. That's just the nature of the business.

Q. When you were a young assistant, did anybody shape kind of your -- the way you do things in terms of --

FRAN McCAFFERY: I've always been at institutions where it was really important. When I started at Lehigh we had four winning seasons in the previous 65 years. So really nobody paid any attention to anything that we were doing, including the people there, quite honestly.

So then I get to Notre Dame, and that's a different story. The day I was hired, Digger Phelps hired me and I met with Dick Rosenthal, our athlete director. Dick welcomed me and put his hand out and shook my hand and he said, we'll do everything we can to help you the whole time we're here, he said, just don't ever cheat. That's all he said..Digger Phelps prided himself when he was at Notre Dame, he was there 20 years, there was never one NCAA rules violation. Not one in 20 years, which is pretty impressive. So it was kind of how we lived. It wasn't like we got up and made a conscious effort, okay, today we're going to abide by the rules. It's like, this is the rules we follow, and we grind, and that's how you do it.

So I think it's very important who you have on your staff.

There's other ones that are in the trenches, as well, so I'm pretty lucky, I've got the same three guys at the top who have been around and have seen a lot, so that's been good, and then I've been friends with Al Seibert and Courtney Eldridge for a long time. Courtney played for me.

If you surround yourself with really good people that have the same outlook on things that you do and the directive comes from Gary Barta, and it was Sally Mason, Bruce Harreld, it's pretty clear. We have a very involved compliance office here. They're on top of everything. You know, that's just business as usual. Everybody seems to think that a couple weeks ago the whole college basketball landscape has been rocked. No, not for us. We do things a certain way, and that's it, and we'll just keep doing it that way.

That’s some really interesting insight right there into both the Iowa program (and Fran’s other programs, too) as well as into the mindset of Fran himself, and I appreciate what appears to be his honesty and integrity. I may complain about Fran’s coaching at times but I would always rather have a coach who runs a program with integrity than one who hurts their program long-term for short-term success.