Iowa Hires McCaffery as Coach
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Growing up in Philadelphia, Fran McCaffery acquired the nickname of "White Magic" because of his talent as a basketball player.
Iowa fans now hope that McCaffery can work some black and gold magic in his attempt to rebuild the men's basketball program, which is coming off three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the early 1930s.
McCaffery, 50, will be introduced at Monday morning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the new Iowa coach.
McCaffery and his family landed Sunday evening at the Eastern Iowa Airport and were taken by car to the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.
Iowa players arrived at Hall of Fame shortly after to meet McCaffery, who spent the previous five seasons as the coach at Siena, which is in Loudonville, N.Y.
Iowa point guard Cully Payne said earlier in the day that the players were told not to speak to the media.
McCaffery also wasn't made available for comment Sunday.
Siena Director of Athletics John D'Argenio made the following statement about McCaffery being hired at Iowa: "On behalf of the Siena community, I would like to congratulate Fran on being named the head coach at Iowa. I thank him for his dedication and commitment to Siena basketball the past five years and for his commitment to the values and traditions of Siena College.
"When Fran accepted the opportunity to coach at Siena, we knew that he was a skilled coach, recruiter and mentor and that he could help us bring success back to Siena basketball. His accomplishments brought national recognition to Siena and instilled pride in the campus and Capital District community."
McCaffery will replace Todd Lickliter, who was fired as the Iowa coach March 15 after just three seasons.
McCaffery led Siena to the NCAA tournament in each of the past three seasons. The Saints finished 27-7 this season, losing to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Former Iowa player Kenyon Murray said Sunday he was surprised that Iowa picked McCaffery because there wasn't much mentioned about McCaffery during the nearly two-week coaching search. More attention was focused on Dayton coach Brian Gregory, Utah coach Jim Boylen and Tennessee assistant coach Steve Forbes among others.
"The reason I'm surprised is he's coming from the East Coast and most of the coaches we focused on had Midwestern-type ties," Murray said. "I know familiarity with the landscape and the conference are big things.
"So for me, I have to be honest and say it was a surprise."
Murray, who played at Iowa from 1992-96, said he will attend today's news conference to show his support as a former player. He also was trying to contact other former players to encourage them to attend.
"I think we need to be there to show our support, and we need to show the coaching staff coming that we're here to be allies and help in anyway we can," Murray said. "I think there is more of a motivation of myself and some of the other guys to become more involved with the university and the basketball program.
"And I think it'll be important for a number of us to be there (Monday)."
Murray said he met McCaffery for the first time when McCaffery was trying to recruit him to play for Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. McCaffery spent 10 seasons as a Notre Dame assistant coach before becoming a coach.
McCaffery also was a standout point guard in high school and on the AAU circuit. He starred in an AAU league that had mostly black players, which earned him the nickname of "White Magic," bestowed on him by a local sportswriter.
McCaffery played his freshman season at Wake Forest before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania.
This will be McCaffery's fourth head coaching job at a Division I school, but his first at a BCS program. He also was the coach at Lehigh and North Carolina-Greensboro before taking over at Siena in 2005.
In 1985, McCaffery became the youngest coach in America when Lehigh hired him at the age of 26.
Mike Gatens, the father of Iowa player Matt Gatens, said his family hosted McCaffery when Lehigh played in Iowa's tournament several years ago.
"He's a really nice guy, and he's done really well at Siena," Mike Gatens said.
Recruiting analyst Van Coleman said McCaffery's time as a Notre Dame assistant coach should help him recruit at Iowa.
Coleman said McCaffery's biggest challenge at Iowa will be to establish recruiting ties in a different region of the country.
"The big thing that Fran has is that he has recruited high major, he spent 10years at Notre Dame," Coleman said. "The staff has a good, solid base of that.
"Now the big thing is they're going to have to now reaffirm that and reconnect and re-network because when you're recruiting mid-major guys and most of their recruiting was done in the east, they're going to have work hard to re-establish connections. It may be important to see who else is on the staff before you know."
Siena averaged at least 77 points per game in each of the past three seasons under McCaffery.
Playing style was an issue during Lickliter's time at Iowa because his teams rarely scored more than70 points in a game and fans eventually became frustrated with the slower pace.
"I think the other thing that Iowa fans are going to love," Coleman said of McCaffery's coaching style. "They run. They're athletic. They'll press. So those are all things that are positives. It's going to be that reconnection and re-establishing that I think is going to be the real key."
McCaffery and his wife, Margaret, have three sons and a daughter. The McCafferys met while they were assistant coaches at Notre Dame.
Margaret McCaffery, formerly Margaret Nowlin, was a standout player at Notre Dame. She scored 1,312 points during her Notre Dame career.