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FRAN SPEAKS: Week 4

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Hey, there’s an important basketball game tonight!

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now on Day 3 of #DolphGate, and Fran McCaffery added some additional insight, if not fuel to the fire, yesterday afternoon when he met with the media at Carver-Hawkeye Arena ahead of tonight’s matchup against the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers, of course, are fresh off a comeback win against NC State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but the focus for the first half of this press conference, was of course, Gary Dolphin’s suspension for his comments on a hot mic about Maishe Dailey.

Let’s get right into it, shall we? Check out the full press conference transcript here.

Q. What’s your reaction after hearing the comments made by Gary Dolphin?

COACH MCCAFFERY: Really disappointing. I was disappointed in those comments. I think when one of our own attacks one of our players the way he did, it’s inexcusable. And it’s over. We dealt with it. And we’re moving on. Getting ready for Wisconsin.

“One of our own.” Yes, Gary Dolphin is paid to be a cheerleader for Iowa sports, but he’s not a member of the team, or the athletic department in any way. Interesting word choice there by Fran.

Q. The player whose name was mentioned, did you talk to him specifically?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I did. It was incredibly unfair. He has played extremely well for us. He plays hard. He’s a good person. He didn’t deserve it. But he’s also a young guy with tremendous character. So I’ve been really impressed with him and how he’s handled everything.

I do feel bad for Maishe Dailey. Getting singled out like that can’t feel great. To me though, this was not an attack on character, it was a critique of how he was playing after a half where nobody was playing well defensively. Did he redeem himself in the second half? Yes. I hope it’s something that he can move past because let’s be real, we shouldn’t still be talking about this, and yet here we are.

The questions then shifted to Wisconsin for a bit (we’ll get there) before getting to the real meat of it all:

Q. One more question about Gary. The statement by Gary Barta, he mentioned “ongoing tensions.” It kind of leaves open conjecture and speculation that there’s problems between you and Gary. I’m not saying there is, but do you see why fans would think that and how do you address that?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I think it’s fairly well known we’ve had some issues. But we’ve gotten along fine. I’m disappointed in him.

Q. Did Gary Dolphin talk to the team?

COACH MCCAFFERY: No.

Ok then! Props to the Iowa media member who asked the question there. It’s Iowa sports, obviously I don’t think we’ll hear much more about this from the coaches. But will people be parsing over every word exchanged between Dolph and Fran for the immediate future upon his return? You bet.

Ok, let’s talk Pitt and Wisconsin:

Q. What sort of unique challenges has Ethan Happ present?

COACH MCCAFFERY: Really unique challenges. You’re right. He’s one of the best ball-handling bigs that you’ll see. Playing with great confidence right now. He’s a senior. He’s an All-American. Tremendous versatility going right and left. You’ve seen him bringing in a lot more off the rebound, put it on the deck. Take it coast to coast.

But he pretty much can score from pretty much anywhere. I mean, he’s not a 3-point shooter, but he kind of gets where he wants to get to. And he creates challenges for the defense -- are you doubling, are you not doubling? Who do you put on him? Where is he on the floor? Those kinds of things. That’s what we’ve been working on.

I’m guessing a lot of Cook and Garza personally?

Q. Wisconsin is a team that likes to play slower. How do you keep your team from getting frustrated if they start to dictate the pace?

COACH MCCAFFERY: Every game’s different ... You play a team like Wisconsin -- they’re playing a little faster maybe than their reputation. They’ve got really good players. But at times they will move it, wait and use the whole clock.

But they’ll come down and shoot it quick. They’ll come down on a break. Like I said, Happ will take it off the rim and push it himself and go. So you just have to get ready to play that style.

Q. Do you think they’re going to want to slow it down --

COACH MCCAFFERY: I don’t think that will be their game plan. They play at their pace. And sometimes they go fast and sometimes they go slow. I don’t think they’re coming out and saying, we’re deliberately going to try to keep the game in the 50s. I don’t think they’re that way. Because they might shoot 24 3s and they might not. They might just hammer it inside. Depends on how the game goes and the flow of the game.

Q. Do you feel comfortable your team can play multiple tempo styles?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I do. I think we can. You prepare for the next opponent and how they play. And so we’ve played Wisconsin before. A lot of these guys are back. They’re a different team. You’ve got not only Trice but Kobe King, some guys that were hurt last year that impacted them. But what happens sometimes, other guys get a chance.

Reuvers and Davison, they got -- Iverson got thrown into it. And consequently they’re better and they’re more confident this year. I think you’re seeing that. You go on the road. You beat Xavier, you beat Stanford and NC State. They’ve got some really good wins.

So Fran is basically saying that playing Wisconsin is familiar, but also...not too familiar. Ok! Wisconsin, like Iowa, looks like they have definitely improved early in the season. Seeing which team can hold up and win will be very interesting.

Q. How confident were you taking the court for that second half that your message got through, that it would be different than a year ago?

COACH MCCAFFERY: I felt really confident. This team has great character. They have an expectation for themselves. Sometimes through the course of the game you have to adjust. Pitt was really quick. Pitt played small. Pitt was aggressive.

And we talked about that before the game. But sometimes you have to go through it. And, okay, they’re going to double. Now you actually have to deal with the double.

And the first couple of times Luka got it, he had two assists, because the whole world came on him. Those are the kinds of plays you have to make.

But in the second half I thought defensively holding them to 22 points was pretty impressive. And that’s the kind of thing that I challenged them to do. I knew the offense would take care of itself. And even still we missed some shots coming down the stretch we would normally make, I thought. But we did enough to win because we got the stops we needed.

I thought after the first half, and then again multiple times throughout the second half, that Iowa would lose this game. I was shocked and very pleased when they didn’t, particularly at the end. That’s a big sign of maturity to me.

And last but not least, with the Cordell Pemsl news earlier this week, as well as the redshirt of Jack Nunge, we’re going to see a lot of Ryan Kriener for the rest of the season. What does Fran expect?

Q. What kind of effort do you need from Ryan Kriener now?

COACH MCCAFFERY: Ryan Kriener is a critical part of our team moving forward. He’s a versatile guy. He’s got length. He’s got experience now. He’s a really confident young man. But anytime you’ve got another 6’10” guy that can stretch the floor and make 3s but also has post moves go off either shoulder. He can rim protect with his 7’3” wing span and block some shots. Valuable person to have. I trust him out there pretty much at any point in the game.