Behind Enemy Lines: Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery

By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 21, 2014

After an upset win on the road against Wisconsin, the Michigan men’s basketball team looks to stay undefeated in the Big Ten as they take on No. 10 Iowa Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes (4-1 Big Ten, 15-3 overall) boast a deep lineup that could challenge the Wolverines’ (5-0, 13-4) young team.

The Daily sat down with Iowa coach Fran McCaffery at Big Ten Media Day in October to talk basketball, recruiting and to see if we could get the headman to treat us to a steak dinner.

The Michigan Daily: After finishing with 25 wins last year, the second most in school history, how do you follow that this season?

Fran McCaffery: Well, I think what you do is you take the same professional, business-like approach that we played the last part of the season and carry that over to this year and support one another and recognize the difficulty of this conference and what it’s going to take to get a win in this (conference) and how much harder it’s going to get to get a road win. So from there, you just, everyday, what are we doing to get better? What are we doing to prepare? What are we doing to reach our goal, which is to go to the NCAA Tournament?

TMD: How important will this year be to help you with recruiting in the future?

FM: You know, I don’t know that as I’m going through that I’m actually thinking about, ‘OK, how is this going to affect recruiting?’ When I’m going through the coaching and the preparing, that’s what I’m thinking about. We will benefit if we're better. You’re right, we will. But I’m not thinking about what can I do to make us better so therefore we can recruit better and get better players.

TMD: How tough do you think the Big Ten will be this year?

FM: Well fortunately, we got a lot of experience. I don’t know how much you can say or how much you can show them that will prepare them for the actuality of what they’ll end up facing. I think there’s so much value in having been through it, and I think that will help us this year particularly.

TMD: Your brother, Jack, is a sports writer. Did you used to rehearse answering questions with him?

FM: No. You know, he has been a valuable resource for me but he’s also made me more comfortable. Some guys in our business are paranoid, ‘Everybody’s out to get me.’ I never view it — if I’m talking to you like you didn’t wake up this morning and (be) like, ‘How am I going to go get him?’ You have a job to do, I have a job to do, let’s work together. Let me be respectful of you and what you’re doing and the time constraints that you’re under, and if somebody writes something that’s negative about you, it’s not personal. You didn’t do a good job coaching. And if you’re going to be in the limelight, you have to be willing to accept that. You can’t be thinned-skin.

TMD: We’re road tripping out to the Iowa road game later this year. Any suggestions for good places to grab some food around campus?

FM: Alright, let’s see, a great place to go is the Wig and Pen. It’s right down the hill. They have phenomenal pizza, but they also great other food: salads, burgers, stuff like that — assuming you’re more along those lines, then Joseph’s Steakhouse downtown is a great place to go, but that’s going to be a high ticket.

TMD: Not unless you’re taking us out …

FM: (Laughs)