After two Hawkeye assistants departed earlier this season, Fran McCaffery was faced with a task of backfilling two longtime assistants. He tapped someone else who was on the bench - well floor - during those first seasons to replace the retired Kirk Speraw: Matt Gatens.
Gatens’ loyalty to Iowa is arguably unrivaled: he committed to one coach, played two seasons for another, and then closed out his career with two under Fran. If there’s a player who’s been to hell and back without facing a career ending injury, it probably looks a lot like what Gatens went through at Iowa.
He is on the leaderboard of a number of statistics from his time at Iowa, most notably points (10th with 1635) and 3-pointers (3rd with 239). His most dazzling stretch was where he made 11 straight threes across two games - ranked wins against Indiana and Wisconsin. The highlights of the Hawkeyes-Badgers game still absolutely slaps:
My favorite moment was when Gatens breaks his stone-face after getting his head knocked into a chair after drilling another three.
Gatens’ experience fills the void left by Speraw as the likely lead on in-state recruiting, working with guards, and resident “shot doctor.” It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to replicate the incredibly detailed scouting reports Speraw wrote up, according to a recent Connor & Patrick podcast.
He’s the obvious greenhorn on the staff, with just two years prior assistant experience at Drake. Prior to that he served as director of basketball operations there and on Auburn’s staff.
A quick perusal through the Twitter replies on his announcement give this one 100% approval rating and there’s certainly discussion about how this figures into the long-term. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Fran is over the moon, as he’s wont to do, saying:
We are excited to have Matt Gatens rejoin our program as an assistant coach. Matt was a respected leader on my first two teams as Iowa’s head coach. I could tell right away that he exhibited all the necessary attributes to be a successful coach. Since transitioning to the coaching profession, Matt has gained valuable experience working on the staffs at Auburn and Drake. He will have an immediate impact on our program.
Gatens remarks hit the key notes in his return to “a place that I call home,” saying it’s a privilege to “work for my former coach and someone who I have looked up to since he started here 12 years ago.”