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Fran Speaks: The Big Ten Tourney

Fran has some thoughts on officiating

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

We’re one day away from Iowa taking the court against the winner of Minnesota-Northwestern, and so Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery met with the media to talk about his team’s outlook in Indianapolis, the Coronavirus, and horseshit officiating.

But before all that, we have Connor McCaffery being a WARRIOR:

Q. Where did you first start noticing [Connor’s] competitive instincts?

It was pretty young. He started young competing. And to be truthful, at that time, you just want the kid to have fun. You’re not stressing the importance of wins and losses. It’s not that important when you’re in early elementary school. It’s have fun, learn how to be part of a team, have some fun with your friends. But for him it was evident early on that if we’re going to be in some type of competition, then winning is critical and I want to be the winning team and I’ll do what I need to do to help our team win.

It sort of never went away. I had teachers that at his elementary school say he has to slow it down here a little bit. And I guess at some level he sort of lives with that because of my job. Whenever we would go to games when he was younger, like after the game we’re driving in the car we’re going to go get something to eat, or if I was talking to him about a game that I didn’t attend it, I would never say, Okay, did you win and how many points did you get? I would never ask him those questions. I would always try to ask if he had fun. And it became evident early on I guess it was only fun if you’re on the left-hand side, I guess.

Fran doesn’t seem like the type of person who cares only about both teams trying hard and having fun.

Furthermore, Fran is coaching his players up against the Coronavirus:

Q. With the heightened awareness going on regarding the coronavirus, certain tournaments are being shut down, recommendations to shut down entire arenas. How much communication have you having both with your team and team officials and then with the university and with the Big Ten about that now?

I’m sure there is communication going on, but I haven’t had any. It’s business as usual as far as I’m concerned.

I liked a lot of what coach had to say in this presser, but my favorite anecdote is probably in regards to him scouting GRIT when he’s on the recruiting trail.

Q. Your team this year has shown, with a few exceptions, a high level of grit, especially in close

I would like to think that part of the recruiting process is you recruit guys that would innately have that in them, so you wouldn’t have to figure it out, you wouldn’t have to address it, you wouldn’t have to try to bring it out of somebody. Recruiting a guy who has never been in a fight, he’s probably not going to be the guy you need on that Sunday at 6 p.m. It’s that simple.

If you play basketball growing up you’re going to be in an altercation multiple times. Can you maintain your composure when that happens. You have to hold your ground but you’ve got to be able to maintain your composure, you still got to be able to think. And I think this team has that because individually our guys have it. I don’t know that I can take credit for it, other than maybe I saw it or my staff saw it in the recruiting process. Like this guy’s not going to back down. When you go to Rupp Arena and you watch CJ Fredrick drop 33 in the state championship game, okay, I think he’s ready. So people say, were you surprised he did so well as a freshman, and he’s done well, considering he’s had three different injuries. No, you’re not, because I’ve seen it and I knew it was coming. And you always hope to be right in recruiting and we all know we’re not always right, sometimes you get it wrong. But hopefully you can have enough guys that can understand that, especially in this league.

I still did enjoy the facetiousness he used when broached with some questions about the officiating in recent games, and the guarding tendencies of opposing players when they guard CJ Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp.

Still, I’m not convinced how genuine the dubbed-in laughter is.

Q. How would you say guys are guarding Joe Wieskamp this last stretch of games?

Is that what you want to call it? (laughter) Maybe you’re better than me at phrasing what it is. I’ll let you come up with the proper terminology. (laughter)

Q. Is there a way to counter that?

Yeah, I guess. It’s just not like it was when I was playing, there was an easy way to counter it in those days. (laughter) Now they’ll be talking about it for three weeks on TV, so there’s other ways.

Q. Is it the same with CJ?

Pretty much the same. Yeah.

Q. What do you tell those guys, Fran?

Tell them to keep grinding, keep moving. You got to tell the guys that are delivering the ball to be a little more patient, because it’s easy to look and say, okay, he’s not open. Well he might be open later, a second later, two seconds later. We might rescreen for him, screen, rescreen, because they’re attached to him. There are ways to handle that. You got to go one way and then go another way, and at some point, if their hands are on you, you got to get their hands off you. We have so many guys that are particularly good at that.

Q. Is that unique to them or is this, you see stuff happening more of this in the game today?

It’s across the board. And it has to stop.


Q. Do you think next week you’ll have officials from different conferences in your game. Do you think they will call the game differently?

Probably. I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s a very difficult job and our league is incredibly physical, tremendously big, strong athletic guys. And there’s a fine line between letting guys play and calling what needs to be called. It isn’t easy and we have some of the best in the business. So you just got to, you got to plow forward.

Part of me is glad that Iowa will be facing some non-B1G officials soon, but I’m also scared the physicality of the league will catch up with us and we’ll be whistled 11 times in 10 minutes.

Wash your hands, kiddos.