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What surprises Fran McCaffery about on-court behavior

[ 0 ] February 10, 2014 |

Fan behavior is back under the microscope in the wake of the Marcus Smart shoving controversy, and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday he’s surprised there haven’t been more incidents.

Oklahoma State's Markel Brown (22) and Phil Forte (13) hold Marcus Smart (33) after Smart shoved a fan during their Saturday game at Texas Tech. (Tori Eichberger/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown (22) and Phil Forte (13) hold Marcus Smart (33) after Smart shoved a fan during their Saturday game at Texas Tech. (Tori Eichberger/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

“I’ve been around a while, and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I’m shocked this is the first time that something like this has happened,” McCaffery said during the Big Ten teleconference. “Well, it’s not the first time, but this one seems a little bit different in the sense that certainly in basketball, the fans are right on top of you. It’s not quite the same in football.

“So they might be right behind the bench. They might be right behind the basket or right on the floor. For a player to go after a guy, from what I’ve heard, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more.”

Smart, a star sophomore guard for Oklahoma State, has been suspended for three games for shoving Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr with two hands in the closing seconds of Saturday’s loss in Lubbock, Texas. Smart and Orr have since issued apologies for their behavior.

Orr was seated behind the basket in which Smart tried to block a dunk attempt from behind. Smart stumbled out of bounds behind the basket. As Smart was being helped up, he and Orr exchanged words and then Smart pushed him.

McCaffery was asked Monday if he’s ever had to address his teams about fan behavior and how to deal with it.

“I have been thinking a lot about that in the last day, and I am trying to remember. … I don’t remember anything specifically other than generally try to control your emotions,” said McCaffery, whose current team is 18-6 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten heading into Saturday’s game at Penn State. “OK, this particular game is going to be one where that type of thing is possible, so let’s not let it affect us.

“A lot of times it’s rivalry games where you get there early and their fans are there early and they are personal. They know your girlfriend’s name or family members. We will address it ahead of time, so hopefully, something like this doesn’t happen.”

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo thinks the rise of social media, particularly Twitter over the last three years, has created more hostility between players and fans. Izzo tells his players to ignore the criticism on Twitter, but he knows it’s not that easy.

“Telling a kid not to read it is telling them not to breathe,” Izzo said. “So I think that’s created a whole new problem.”

First-year Northwestern coach Chris Collins spent 17 years as a member of the Duke program, first as a player and then as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. Duke plays its home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium in front of a raucous student section called the “Cameron Crazies.”

Collins said Krzyzewski on numerous occasions had to warn the students to stop saying derogatory things.

The players at Duke also are told repeatedly to ignore the fans.

“We would always talk to our players about no matter what is said, no matter what is done you have to walk away and you have to be bigger than that,” Collins said. “And it’s tough. These guys are kids, and a lot of times the lines are crossed.”

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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