Fran McCaffery To Lead Iowa Basketball, But Will It Work?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IMarch 28, 2010

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 22: Head coach Fran McCaffery of the Siena Saints looks on from the sidelines during a game against the Louisville Cardinals during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 22, 2009 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's official, Fran McCaffrey is a Hawkeye. 

The former Notre Dame assistant and the five-year coach of the Siena Saints is heading to Iowa to take over a struggling basketball program that won ten games last season.

Now at first glance, this may not have been the sexy hire Hawkeye fans had hoped for.  After all, Todd Lickliter was also an emerging mid-major coach who seemed to be a sure-fire candidate to turn things around.  Instead, Iowa fell farther and farther back in the Big Ten pack.

However, Fran McCaffery has some impressive credentials, enough to prove that he can be the guy to restore Iowa basketball.

McCaffery knows a thing or two about creating a turnaround.  He orchestrated the fifth best turnaround in college basketball history by taking a team that had won six games the season before he arrived to four straight 20-win seasons and three straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Lickliter, by comparison, inherited a Butler program that had gone to the NCAA tournament four out of the past five years.  He certainly helped maintain the program with some Sweet Sixteen experiences, but his inexperience building up a crestfallen fanbase and team proved to be his downfall.

Of course, McCaffery is not just content with playing the big boys, he knows how to win. 

His first marquee victory at Siena came over the Stanford Cardinal.  When the Saints knocked out the Lopez brothers, it marked the first win for Siena over a ranked opponent since 1989.

Last season, Siena busted brackets throughout the land when they took out the Ohio State Buckeyes in double overtime.  Considering that the game was in Ohio makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.

The fact that almost everyone had Siena beating Purdue in the first round this March, injuries or not, shows the respect people have for the program that McCaffery built.

He knows how to develop mentally tough players and if he can win against Big Ten foes at Siena, he can do the same thing at Iowa.

Most importantly, McCaffery finds success the right way.  He has recruited the student athletes that most schools talk about but few actually find among the blue chippers and early exit superstars.

At Siena, McCaffery had a 100% graduation rate, something that an alumnus can be proud of and his results did not suffer.

At just 49-years-old, McCaffery has the drive, the experience, and the attitude to turn things around for Iowa.  Sure, he may not be Bruce Pearl, but Hawkeye fans have to believe he will not be Todd Lickliter either. 

McCaffery is a long-term solution, someone who can fit into the culture at Iowa and produce a team everyone can be proud of.  His teams overachieve, they play to the whistle and they win with strong defense and smart plays.

In the end, Iowa fans do not care if McCaffery was the exciting pick or the trendy pick. They can rest easy at night knowing that it was the right pick.