We asked readers what they would change to improve the Iowa men’s basketball program. The Hawkeyes started the season in promising fashion before losing seven of their last eight.
First of all, let me say as an Iowa grad, I have been a lifelong fan. The biggest change I would make is to start (juco transfer) Trey Dickerson instead of Mike Gesell and use Anthony Clemmons more. At least Clemmons can play some defense. Given Gesell’s inability in the clutch in big games (blowing the ISU game at the line, to going 0-for-14 the last two games), I think this is where a change is sorely needed. Hopefully Dickerson is as good as I have read, although expect some transition in the early games with a new team and new level of players, instead of playing against juco teams. Iowa just does not seem to have a player who can take a game over late and make the clutch winning shot. Maybe Dickerson can be that guy (let’s hope).
I don’t know why Melsahn Basabe totally disappeared, but that is one key reason for their late swoon as well as Aaron White not getting enough shots. As for Zach McCabe, he never showed any consistency and neither has Josh Oglesby. I think Jarrod Utoff and Peter Jok should have played more this year, and let’s hope that Adam Woodbury might finally arrive like he did in the last game (can’t believe he was recruited by North Carolina).
— Dave Hillis, Tucson, Ariz.
Contrast Iowa State’s chemistry, unity and competitiveness to Iowa with a lack of or low amounts of all three. If you play the way Iowa does — try to outscore your opponents — you need super talent. A team like Iowa can score but has to make key defensive stops and rebound. They don’t do that very often. Devyn Marble was a mystery — he can be a great player now and then, but he seems to hold back or thinks he has to hold back to fit into what the coaches want or his teammates want or what the state of Iowa wants. He acts like he doesn’t want to stand out too often.
— Dave Adkins, Des Moines
Like most Hawkeye fans, I have spent lots of thought trying to understand why things turned so sour in such a short time. Sports editor Chad Leistikow is right: There are no obvious explanations for all of us on the outside looking in.
But nothing that happened this year changes my opinion that Fran McCaffery is a very talented and terrific coach. I have listened to him carefully and he is clearly a hard worker, passionate about his task and extremely skilled. So what went wrong?
I did not see signs of problems with team chemistry or locker-room issues. Not having been inside, I cannot be sure but the players’ demeanor always seemed to convey a mutual liking and respect amongst the players and with their coaches. I did not sense panic on the coaches’ part and, hence, do not believe panic filtered to the players from above.
There are two explanations that seem likely. The first has to do with team and individual psychological factors. Anyone who plays or has played sports knows how important self-belief is. When a few players start to lose that self belief, it can spread. My guess is that there was a combination of fatigue and self-doubt that begin to affect the team after the losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota. It just seems to have spread. In competition, when the opponent senses that self-doubt, his confidence grows, which seemed to happen to our opposition as they began shooting with amazing proficiency and confidence.
The second factor has to do with how our team is built. Most big teams are rugged and have attitude. We have oodles of talent on our team but we seem to lack that rugged, aggressive attitude, on the whole. For example, those who are veteran fans like me will remember Jeff Moe and Bill Jones. More recently, we had Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner. Another example was Brody Boyd. These players had an attitude and knew the ball was going in if they shot it.
During coach McCaffery’s time as head coach, it has seemed that he has constantly searched for the player to take that last shot. Devyn Marble was terrific and was not afraid. But he was not that player with attitude and grit who was going to score, no matter what. It is not a matter of skill. The player I remember best exemplifying those attributes was Scott Skiles of Michigan State. He was extraordinary. If the game came down to one shot he was going to be the one taking it and more likely than not, making it.
My hope is that coach McCaffery is searching for players of Skiles’ ilk. I really feel that is what we need to complete the puzzle and get us through these tough stretches.
— Dr. Craig Nadler, Kfar Saba, Israel
In a nutshell, Fran McCaffery has his work cut out for him, mainly because Devyn Marble was the glue that held the team together. Can new recruits solve some of the deficiencies? Maybe. But solutions will need to come from within the guys we have now.
Step up or step out: Is there one player who has not stepped up in big games this year? Missing foul shots against ISU, poor shooting down the stretch, not finishing (poor decision-making drives to the basket), dumb fouls. Iowa would be better off with Anthony Clemmons at point guard and developing the incoming transfer or JC player.
Closers (lack of): You can play 10 or 11 players, but in critical parts of the game the guys on the floor need to be closers. Iowa had one closer, Devyn Marble, and he’s gone. Peter Jok may be the best closer we have. We need others.
Toughness (lack of): You cannot win consistently with a bunch of finesse/role players. Hopefully we have recruits coming in that are hard-nosed and tough mentally and physically. Adam Woodbury is becoming that type of guy.
Defensive rotation (lack of): Collectively: Josh Oglesby, Gabe Olaseni, Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell and Aaron White = the worst team defense in the league (and in any of the power conferences.) Woodbury is the best defender we have.
— Gary Brown, Urbandale
I feel the majority of the blame goes on the coach. He is the person who sets the tone for the team. When he got that suspension and followed up not too many games later with another technical, the season was over for the team. Every referee in the country knew about Fran McCaffery’s suspension and his temper. Every referee in the country knew that they could call any kind of foul against the Hawkeyes that they wanted and there would be no repercussions. Or if there was, they could call a T on McCaffery also without any repercussions.
In the last few games that I watched, most of the nonsense fouls were called on Iowa. The players were all looking at the refs and to the bench and shrugging. The other teams were going to the line with rapidity. I really felt that the players sensed this change as well, therefore, the collapse in defense.
In Big Ten basketball, which is a combination of football, wrestling, rugby and kick boxing with some basketball thrown in, the players need to know that the coach has their back as far as making the referees’ foul calling somewhat equal for both teams. With McCaffery’s many strikes against him, the players were on their own. The other Big Ten coaches are constantly in the refs’ faces but do it mostly on a one-on-one basis, which is accepted behavior by the refs. McCaffery’s outbursts are embarrassing to all since the whole arean is aware of the tirade. Not to say that the other coaches always being in the refs’ ears is acceptable because, in my opinion, it is not.
I always wonder what the practice sessions with McCaffery are like. Does he lose his temper in those as well? And is McCaffery being required to take an anger management course and working with a specialist in anger management? I have always felt that Bob Knight needed to be banished from college basketball for his antics. Bullying and anger seem to be things that we accept in our sports when they never need be.
— Frank Copple, Sun City West, Ariz.
1) Stick with a tough switching man-for-man defense, instead of switching back and forth from zone to man-for-man defense. Too confusing for the players; as a result, they don’t guard anyone. 2) The coach is substituting too many players too often. He doesn’t keep them in long enough to get in a rhythm. If they aren’t in shape enough to play longer, the coach needs to get them in shape. 3) When the coach brings in the new five players, they should use the full press continuously as strong as possible to wear the opposing team down. His so-called trapping doesn’t amount to anything. 4) Suggestions to improve a few players: Aaron White needs to work on a head fake and develop 10- to 12-foot jump shot. Adam Woodbury needs to beef up and work on a hook shot with both hands.
— Art Trebon, Beverly Hills, Fla.
After watching the Hawkeyes and many other teams this season, I have a couple of ideas why they faded in the last part of the season. First of all is their lack of fire. They would hit a great shot and no one celebrates or says “Great shot!” They just unexpressively go back down and defend. They look like they aren’t enjoying the battle. They need someone to fire them up. The effort is there but the joy is not.
Also, Devyn Marble is a great player, but he should have been the team leader. He is one of the most unexpressive of the bunch. He needed to be talking to the other players, giving them a lift.
Rebounding was the same thing. Maybe they are too nice. It seemed as if when they went up for a rebound they let the opposing player have it. They should go after a rebound like it’s theirs.
Another complaint I have is the rotating of all the players. When someone is hot, please leave them in. Well-conditioned young men should not be seated because they worked up a sweat.
— Susan Wickemeyer, West Des Moines
Please do not take this so much as a knock on our players, but Tom Izzo, John Beilein and Bo Ryan seem to recruit not only tall players, but physically strong players. Gene Keady used to have them. We lost a tough, physical player last year in Eric May. Devyn Marble is a good player, but not someone who will bang the boards. Aaron White and Adam Woodbury are not physical players who bang hard around the hoops. Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok are not physical. Our student-athletes will need to spend a great deal of time in the weight room. Basketball is a contact, if not a collision, sport. You have to be strong to get position under the boards. May was very strong on the perimeter defensively. This year’s team missed him and I hope we muscle up next year.
— Jim Carstensen, Raymond, Miss. (and an Iowa alum)
First, I would like to point out that, despite a vocal minority, the majority of fans recognize the accomplishments Fran McCaffery has been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as they face the challenges of a serious family illness.
From my perspective, the challenge with the basketball team is going to reside with tweaking the little things as opposed to wholesale changes. This team was so close, so many times, but it was the little nuances of the game that ultimately led to the late-season slide.
An on-court leader must step forward. The most glaring common denominator during the latter part of the season was a lack of leadership: almost no on-court huddles, little player encouragement, poor communication, etc. Simply put, this team had no coach on the floor. This deficiency, perhaps more than any other, may explain the inability to close out games, lack of composure at key moments, missed free throws at crunch times, and lack of mental toughness. It’s an intangible that has a wide domino effect.
While they deserve our utmost respect and gratitude for their careers, none of our three seniors, from which you would generally expect that direction, demonstrated a willingness to embrace that role. From a coaching standpoint, developing leadership is tricky, as a lot of those traits are inborn, but they must identify those players who have that potential and reinforce and nurture it heading into next season.
Secondly, develop strength, both physical and mental. For as deep and talented as last season’s roster was, it lacked a physical presence down low, and the perimeter players weren’t consistently “strong” with the ball or with on-ball defense. In most conferences, you can be successful with a roster composed primarily of finesse versatile swing players, but not in the B1G, and not in the NCAA tourney. It’s not just about bulking up in the off-season, it’s about attitude, and includes being strong on the perimeter by not allowing dribble penetration or giving up open shots as the shot clock is expiring.
Lastly, take advantage of our strengths. Even with losing our three seniors, this is still a “long” roster. Coach McCaffery does a nice job utilizing this advantage in the press, but we rarely see the players taking advantage of the length in half-court sets, even when fronted by significantly smaller players. We need to isolate players like Jarrod Uhtoff, Aaron White and Peter Jok, and develop an effective lob-feed game. Good opponents will rotate the defense immediately, but that can be countered by quick passes to the weak-side cutters to take advantage of the rotation. If used properly, our length could give opposing coaches fits.
Obviously, other factors, such as recruiting, perimeter shooting, etc., are key as well, but I would start with the above as we look forward to a comeback season in 2014-15!
— Scott Palmer, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Hire a new player development coach. None of the current players have improved in their time at Iowa, but for maybe Gabe Olaseni. BIG NEED in developing inside strength/power, like maybe dunking instead of kissing the ball off the glass.
— Keith Pick, Omaha
As an ISU fan and a Hawkeye fan when they aren’t playing each other, I think your readers should be offended by the Register trying to second-guess Fran McCaffery and his assistants for their collapse late in the year, now especially when Fran and his family are dealing with son Patrick’s cancer diagnosis.
I’m sure as time goes on, Fran and his coaches will be reviewing all that has happened this season and don’t need the so-called opinions of the “experts.” We should let the coaches deal with this and not continue to create the fish bowl dilemma that Lute Olson felt he was in before he bolted to Arizona and lead that school to a national championship.
Just because one ESPN employee says Iowa is a Final Four team, why do we have to get our hopes up in the clouds? Leave well enough alone while Fran and his family deal with their son’s sickness and be ready to cheer the team on next year. Which looks quite promising.
— Bill Menster, Sigourney
1. Need a point guard who can create shots in the paint and score from anywhere. Mike Gesell is a good role player, but can’t create in close games down the stretch.
2. Adam Woodbury needs to get stronger, learn not to foul so much, improve footwork down low and be a offensive threat more. See Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin. He hardly played his first two years and look what he has done for Badgers this year.
3. Send coaches up to Wisconsin and learn how to play TEAM defense. Hawks have as much talent as anyone in Big Ten, but can’t figure out TEAM defense when it is crunch time.
4. Coaches say they are a good 3-point shooting team. They obviously are all good practice players, but I for one would like to see some consistent 3-point shooting in games.
5. Have current roster players quit playing in Prime Time league in the summer and start working on more individual skill development. That league devlops nothing but bad habits for some of those players.
Being a Hawk fan living in Wisconsin and knowing they have as much talent as the Badgers is frustrating. They need to learn to play as a team more defensively and learn how to win their share of close games. Hawks need one or two actual playmakers when it counts the most, the end of the game.
Pretty simple concept, on paper! Harder to do in reality I guess.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. GO HAWKS!!!
— Gary Hintch, Belleville, Wis.
My suggestion to fix Iowa basketball would be to replace the assistant Iowa coaches with Jeff Horner and Dean Oliver. That would make for better recruiting and better player-coaching communications.
— Bob Vandenbosch, Mason City
There’s never one thing. But in the last game I saw things that reminded me of issues that hurt us throughout the year:
1) We played too much zone, giving up too many open threes and offensive boards. Use the depth we have to keep the pressure on teams. Force teams to put it on the floor and use that size in the front court to help out.
2) When we get the opponent in the bonus/double bonus, attack the rim. We shot way too many threes and fall away twos when our legs were tired. It takes will power to attack when you’re tired. Find that will power!
3) Identify the hot hand. Peter Jok had the stroke against Tennessee, but only got 16 minutes.
4) “You’re soft!” seemed to become a self-fulling prophecy.
5) Most importantly, compete on every possession and have fun! Everything else will take care of itself.
— Dave Conrads, Coralville
1) Shorten the rotation. Had great press on the long rotation early then poof — did not help or matter.
2) Play the best players not coach’s favorites.
3) Work on final 2-minute drills — end of half, end of game.
4) Only those who have proven they can make clutch free throws get to play end of games.
— Mike Wilson, Ankeny
Losing seven of the final eight games of a season can do a world of hurt to the morale of a fan base, but also to the players. From 19-6 to 20-13 with the only win coming against the worst team in the B1G is disappointing.
It is hard to pin down what exactly is responsible for the Hawkeyes’ slide. Sure their defense got worse and they got outrebounded, but more pertinently they played with less energy, less desire, less passion. This is surprising for a team hungry for a taste of the coveted NCAA tourney, so what caused the Hawks to lose?
Assuredly the jam-packed tail-end of the season can be partly responsible for a decrease in play, yet that is not the only thing responsible. This was a very talented Iowa team, but they lacked something: leadership. Yes Devyn Marble is great player, however, he does not ignite fire in his teammates. The team recognized that Marble was the best player and deferred leadership on to him, but Marble just isn’t the type of leader that this Iowa team needed him to be. Nobody on the team stepped up and took control of the team. There was not an Iowa player that ledd the team through the tough times.
Because Iowa did not have a leader on their team, like Matt Gatens and Eric May of previous seasons, they didn’t have the toughness to pull through the daunting Big Ten. Once the team got on a slide and lost a few, nobody stepped up and rallied the team. Talent is great, but will beats talent any and every day. Hopefully next year somebody like Aaron White steps up and takes control of the team, because in the uber-tough B1G toughness is essential for survival and a leader gives the team that toughness to persevere.
— Zach Weigel, U of I student
There is little doubt that defense must show a marked improvement in the 2014-15 Hawkeye team if they are to turn the corner and become a national power. The coaching staff has to re-evaluate the plays they diagram in the final five minutes of close games.
I’m not a big fan of having a player dribble the ball out front for 28 of the 35 seconds of the shot clock and then have the player take off for the lane to take a very contested layup shot or shoot an off-balance shot because the clock is running out.
The Hawkeye half-court offense by design usually takes most of the shot clock to get a player free for a high-percentage shot. The coaching staff needs to come up with some quick-hitting plays that involve the whole team on the floor and then have the faith that whichever player gets open will hit the shot. If not, he shouldn’t be on the floor. Unlikely heroes just need the chance to become a hero.
— Ken Meeks, Ames
First I would fire Fran McCaffery. Second, I would seek out the best strength and conditioning coach available. Iowa players seem physically underdeveloped compared to teams such as Michigan State. A team like Wichita State looks like they would manhandle the Hawkeyes. Third I would hire the top available candidate whose experience is not primarily limited to mid-major work and has experienced significant success at the power conference level.
— Jerry Stych, Lansing, Mich.
While writing a paper in graduate school at Michigan State University in the 1960s, I found in my research that too much weight lifting can be detrimental to certain minor phases of athletics and especially in the area of basketball shooting. I coached at a lower level than the Big Ten but it was big to me and my middle school teams and found out several times that this was really a factor. I would also include passing as a fundamental that can be affected. I have great respect for the University of Iowa and especially their staff.
— Ron Mescall, Cedar Rapids
It’s the job of any high-level leader to create and sustain culture in those they are leading. This is true in all leadership positions from the board room to the basketball court and everywhere in between. But as most leaders know, creating and sustaining a culture is not all that easy. It takes patience, wisdom and a commitment or “buy in” from those you are leading.
When coach Fran McCaffery arrived at Iowa, he inherited a culture of losing. Anyone who knows sports knows that when you’ve lost that much for that long, it’s impossible NOT to have a losing mindset. In addition to the habitual losing, coach McCaffery inherited a group of players that in all likelihood didn’t belong on the roster of a Big Ten team. If you study Hawkeye history, you will note that when coach Kirk Ferentz took over the football team, his situation was remarkably similar so I’ll use his example to explain what I would change.
If you look into how coach Ferentz was able to take us from national laughingstock to a BCS Bowl game in a few short years, there were many factors. But the one factor I personally believe turned the tide is actually a person: Bob Sanders.
Sanders was the embodiment of everything coach Ferentz wanted the football program to be about. He was lightly recruited, undersized, and played for a lousy (at the time) team yet he transformed himself (with great coaching) into an all-American. Bob had an attitude, he played with a chip on his shoulder, he played with passion, and he was the kind of guy his teammates didn’t want to let down. Coach Ferentz recognized that Bob could be the sort of person who would set AND maintain the tone, and that tone can still be heard today, many years after Bob’s graduation.
That being said, the Hawkeye basketball team needs a “tone-setter.” We need a player who leads through his play AND through his attitude, his passion, and his words (on and off the court). We need the kind of player who plays a bit angry, who doesn’t back down/wither in the face of pressure, who WANTS the ball in his hands with the clock winding down, etc. We need the sort of player who commands the respect of his teammates to the point that they can’t IMAGINE playing with anything less than max effort. Where do we find this player? Do we already have him (Peter Jok) waiting in the wings? Those are the things that remain to be seen.
— Josh Goodman, Des Moines
If I were going to make one change, I would focus on the entry pass to the 5-player. We depend on ball reversals or curls off screens to get 3-point attempts. I would like to see us go inside-out at times. It is a lot easier to shoot a three if you can get the defense to contract and you can feed a shooter who is in a position to catch and shoot.
— Bob Schantz, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Given that Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe have used up their eligibility, I would change the starting lineup to: PG Trey Dickerson, SG Peter Jok, SF Jarrod Uthoff, PF Aaron White, C Gabe Olaseni.
A point guard who goes 0-for-14 in two crucial games is a liability. So I’m giving the nod to Dickerson to beat out Mike Gesell this fall. Going with Jok because he may be the best shooter and I’m hoping his “D” improves. Finally, going with Olaseni at center because he gives us more athleticism underneath and runs the floor better.
— Rich Braune, San Antonio
It was a frustrating end to the season for Iowa, but a good start to the season meant I saw more of Iowa’s games on TV this year than in previous years. Certainly fun to get to see your team play more often.
As far as the collapse, we should start with the likelihood that the team was not quite as good as we thought after the Ohio State game. They improved in a number of ways from last season, but not so much to make the big leap necessary to be a high-quality NCAA Tournament team.
Yes, the defense was very poor at the end of the season, but a team that hangs its hat on its offense shot worse toward the end of the season. What’s worse, because they shot well early on, they fell in love with the 3-point shot and their interior offense atrophied.
As far as defense, Iowa didn’t really have the wing athletes necessary to force turnovers to feed their transition game. Yet they tried to play that way (usually by trying to trap the dribbler in a pick and roll), and combined with very poor defensive communication, were regularly out of position and frequently burned for it.
Thus, the coaches failed to make some necessary adjustments. And when they began to regress to the mean after the Michigan game (and having to play four games in eight days), the team was not cohesive enough to right itself. Maybe there was a rift or maybe there was just a weak bond among the players. There was certainly no evidence on the court that they enjoyed playing with each other.
(One final note: Iowa turned it around for their NCAA Tournament game and would have won against many teams. However, Tennessee has developed into a very good team and was a terrible matchup for Iowa. As I write this, they look like they have Elite Eight potential.)
All in all, although you’d like to see your team overcome the kind of adversity that Iowa faced this year, Fran McCaffery has re-established Iowa as a winning program. It’s fun to see them relevant again.
— Michael Hansen, Charlotte, N.C. (formerly of Forest City)
It seems to me that coach Fran McCaffery substitutes when he shouldn’t. He should not be substituting just to give players playing time. When certain players on the floor have the hot hand, he should leave them in the game until they cool off. When he substitutes just to be substituting he disrupts the flow and momentum of the game that has been established by certain hot shooters. Peter Jok and Adam Woodbury were two good examples of players with the hot hand in their last game who were taken out of the game when they should have stayed in. Good coaches leave their best players on the floor as long as they are productive.
— Eldon Nolte, Waterloo
There is a tremendous amount of pressure on these players that just a few years ago were playing at the high school level. The pressure to perform and win will always be there. What needs to change is how the players react to the pressure. The only thing I would change is the addition of a mental focus course, and the instructor of this course to be included as an assistant coach. This person needs to be a part of the players lives 365 days a year and during time-outs.
— Tracy Gruetzmacher, Fairbank
The first change I would make is to gather the troops and start over from square one. That would include evaluating the talent and being open to playing whomever I thought would give Iowa the best chance to win and develop some much-needed chemistry.
Why didn’t the staff tinker with a less-than-effective starting lineup and a system where the players seemed to lose track of their roles, perhaps due to playing too many players?
So, yes, I would start next season with a completely open mind.
— Dean Renaud, Sully
I would recruit someone at least as tall and heavy as Reggie Evans. The Hawks need a beast in the paint who can’t be pushed around and who will attack the boards with a vengeance.
— David Leonard, Waukee
Fran should hire an assistant coach who is good at teaching defense. Hawkeye opponents made too many 3-point shots that beat the Hawkeyes.
— Dennis A. Benda, Toledo
Our tall guys need to get stronger and be more aggressive under the basket. Since when does rebounding consist of standing there, arms at sides, watching the other guy grab it off the rim?
— Cynde Clingan, W.D.M.
Have the returning members of next year’s Hawkeye men’s basketball team be visited by a sports psychologist to help them with issues of performance late in ball games.
— Kris Hoffman, Centerville
More minutes to your top player/less minutes for breaks, better end-of-game coaching, recruit the bigger JC player instead of a bench holder, weight lifting, teach the boys how to have fun when playing. Maybe even a smile or high five. Less berserk coach during game.
— Jeff D Klingenberg, Spencer
Hire a big man coach to develop Adam Woodbury’s skills, and pay him whatever he requires. This is a talent that could help take the Hawkeyes beyond the Sweet16 if he’s been properly coached up.
But why stop there? Here are a few other things I would change:
1) Scrap the 11-man rotation and go to an eight-man rotation, just like all the really good teams do.
2) Never, ever use that 2-3 zone again where the frontcourt players position themselves as up high as the free throw line. It’s an invitation to come in behind the defense and Tennessee accepted that invitation.
3) Stop rotating Gabe Olaseni at center and move him to his natural position of power forward and let him drive the baseline (and set baseline traps on D).
4) Make it clear to the team that I expect them to play with passion.
5. Make Mike Gesell understand that he has to LEAD this team. They have played this entire season without a discernible leader who is acknowledged by his teammates as their leader. Not once this entire season did I see Gesell or anyone else call his team to huddle up and give them instructions or what to do or just pick them up. Not once. That has to change.
— Jim Somers, San Carlos, Calif.
There are many things that need to change, one is not coach Fran McCaffery.
These two things that need to change to help the offense: Find a guard who can deliver the ball to the low block and run the offense for Aaron White in the low block. Take advantage of mismatches, keep him off the wing. Have him develop his 15-foot shot also, we don’t need him to shoot 3s.
— Brian Robertson, Maplewood, Minn. (formerly of Davenport)
In order to enjoy sustained success in football and basketball, I think Iowa needs to substantially raise the bar in its commitment to having THE best facilities in the conference, perhaps the Midwest.
We can’t control the fact that Iowa City is small and boring (on a relative basis), that the city tries to arrest every kid who has been out for a drink, that the weather is considered by many to be too extreme, etc. But in theory, we can control the investment in facilities. If Iowa were to develop incredible facilities (from playing venues to living quarters), it will have improved the one controllable aspect that truly drives recruits’ perceptions.
— Jeff Peters, Bettendorf
They need to take the student section and put them all down at courtside, ringing the entire floor. Carver is a very good home court, but that would be a MAJOR improvement in the home court advantage for the Hawkeyes.
This would also be a great way to clean up some classless behavior that has gone on for a while. Just before you move them there, you also let them know if they ever holler “SUCKS!!!” again in unison when opposing players are introduced, they can have standing-room-only passes on the concourse for the remainder of the season.
— James Putman, Iowa City
I have nothing against recruiting in Iowa or around Iowa, but they need to come up with a recruiting plan that will attract blue-chip, high-caliber players to come to Iowa and play.
— Steve Lacher, Round Rock, Texas
First thing I would do if I was Fran McCaffery would be to get every one of the Hawks into the weight room and keep them there all year.
Then I would take Aaron White (who I feel could be the best player in the Big Ten) and I would have him shoot 100 3-point shots every day. Same with Mike Gesell and the other guards. Then every player would shoot 100 free throws every day. Now after that they would study.
— Steve Davis, Galesburg, Ill.
If I could change one thing about the Iowa men’s basketball program, it would be the illogical, unrealistic, unsupportive fan base that typically overreacts, underappreciates and generally smothers what could end up being a nationally recognized program for the foreseeable future.
Let’s get real, people. We aren’t North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky or Kansas, but we could be…
The first step to fixing this would be getting rid of anonymous message boards and all the trash it perpetuates.
—Tony Schuster, Atlanta (formerly of Dubuque)
Get rid of the motion offense and run dribble drive and pick and roll with Aaron White since he won’t shoot jump shots.
— Shannon McCuskey, Dallas, Texas
Fire athletic director Gary Barta. He writes poor contracts. Hire Danny Manning (curb appeal/high emotional IQ) in one swift move. Danny has accomplished in two years what took McCaffery four years to do. Danny is a proven champion as a player and coach. McCaffery is not. Danny knows how to coach bigs and is developing his coaching career in the footsteps of Bill Self. He has great relationships and pro experience (like Fred Hoiberg) and understanding of what it takes to work through injuries/personal setbacks makes him likable. He is a player’s coach.
Why did Darius Stokes deserve a full scholarship this year? Would Iowa be going further had we used the scholarship on a juco player? Why didn’t Peter Jok play more minutes? He proved himself in the last game. Why did Adam Woodbury continue to start, especially in the last six games of the season? Why can’t Mike Gesell score? Would Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff and Jok benefit from more set plays and pick and rolls so everyone knows where the guys are going to be?
In addition McCaffery likes to let the point (or Devyn Marble) create in the last seconds of the game, and it has resulted in Iowa losing multiple times. Call the time out and manage the substitutions to maximize the chances of winning.
Zach McCabe is not a 3-point shooter. His strength is offensive rebounding on the weak side and going up strong. McCabe will have a chance to reflect on his career in the next 30 years and I wonder what people will remember about his legacy. Will it be his points, rebounds and tough inside play or will it be what he told the fans to do?
— John Gyorog, Sun Prairie, Wis.
My suggested change starts with a question: “Where’s the beef?” I know that Fran McCaffery likes big guys who can run the floor, but the Hawkeyes need an anchor — an anvil, even — on the front line. All those tall, skinny guys tend to get pushed around down low. Iowa needs an immovable object to take up space in the paint, get rebounds and occasionally tip in a miss. On the other end, that same anchor needs to be the enforcer, discouraging drives to the bucket and collecting rebounds like a hoops black hole (all without fouling, of course). And while we’re dreaming, why not give him a great outside shot to amaze and demoralize the opposition, and win Dan Dakich’s approval.
So there you go. It’s so easy! All Fran has to do is go out and find a wunderkind like that and all will be well! By the way, it wouldn’t hurt if this gentleman was also so supremely confident, that it would be contagious and spread to his too-often-shaky teammates.
Thanks for the opportunity to throw in my two-cents worth, which is probably twice its true value.
— Tom Baker, Waverly
I got hooked on Hawkeye basketball on bitter winter evenings in the late 1940s, listening to the play-by-play of Pops Harrison’s teams amid the static crackling from our kitchen radio while Dad worked on business paperwork. Bucky O’Connor was coaching in ’57 when I first watched the Hawkeyes in person. He was followed by Sharm, Ralph, Dick, Lute, George, Dr. Tom, Steve, Todd and now Fran — I’ve seem them all, and have been a season ticket-holder since ’77.
Reflecting on nearly seven decades of Iowa basketball, I can recall seasons when a team overachieved beyond all expectations (’61, ’68, ’70, ’87) and some years when the Hawkeyes fell short (’89). Ralph Miller was one fantastic coach. Ditto for Lute Olson. During the Tom Davis era there were many spectacular victories but also a few losses to inferior opponents.
However, nothing compares to the near-total collapse of the Hawkeyes in the final third of the 2013-14 season that ended with Iowa being put out of its misery by feisty, hustling but clearly inferior Illinois and Northwestern teams and then falling to a tough Tennessee outfit.
How did it happen and why?
Although we fans (and sports writers/broadcasters) are asking those questions, I have a hunch that coach Fran McCaffery and his experienced staff probably saw this basketball tsunami coming long before it became apparent to the rest of us.
There was talent and skill on the 2013-14 Hawkeye team, but perhaps not as much as we fans hoped (nor as much as coach McCaffery led us to believe). The terrific NIT run a year ago should have warned us of this team’s talent/skill shortcomings, but we were wearing our “fan blinders” and assumed the missing parts would be added over the summer through hard work, maturity and the addition of new recruits. For whatever reason, there was insufficient improvement from last year to this. We got some hints of this in the first half of the season with those narrow losses to good teams.
Then the bottom fell out. Defense lost its intensity and crispness. Too often, a Hawkeye was confused or too slow or out of place and the result was an opponent’s open three-pointer or lay-up. Iowa had trouble defending the dribble-drive all season, and once into the meat of the Big Ten season every opposing team had that figured out.
On offense it was obvious that Iowa wanted to run the break and get a shot before the defense could set up. The problem was that when the opponent scores, it’s more difficult to make that fast break work. And in the final third of the season, Iowa’s opponents were scoring. A lot. To complicate matters, the Hawkeye half-court offense got much worse in the Big Ten season. Open shots were harder to come by, three-point shooting was inconsistent, and drivers had trouble finishing.
One of the problem areas that should have been a great strength — and actually was, in the early part of the season — was rebounding. Too often it seemed that our rebounders were standing around, failing to anticipate the path of the ball or failing to block out an opponent. This is directly linked to hustle — in the latter part of the season Iowa routinely was outhustled for 50/50 balls and rebounds. It was apparent to anyone seeing the games.
We fans, watching at home on our big-screen, HD televisions or on the edge of our seats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, were stunned at what was happening before our eyes. From the beginning, this year’s Hawkeyes showed little of the confidence and toughness that oozed from teams like Villanova, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, etc. But as the season progressed, Iowa brought less and less enthusiasm, confidence, spirit and crispness to the court. Sometimes (see Illinois, Northwestern) the Hawkeyes were clearly not ready to play. Was I the only fan who wondered if having a never-say-die “Aaron Craft clone” on the team would have made a difference?
Early in the season I recall thinking that this team would be fun to watch because the players were clearly having fun. But somewhere along the line it was apparent that the players obviously stopped having fun. Everything was a struggle.
I began this e-mail by suggesting that the coaches probably have things figured out. Today there was a hint that the players — one player, at least — has things figured out as well. In the Cedar Rapids Gazette the player was quoted as saying he failed to work hard enough to improve his game in the off-season, was not sharp and prepared heading into last fall, and did not have a peak performance. One wonders if other players would have similar admissions.
In the final analysis, it falls on the coaching staff to recruit talented players to the Iowa program, build a system that can be successful and coach the players to maximize their abilities in a team concept. Let’s see what happens next season.
— Tom Bauer, Iowa City
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball