Hlas column: Technically speaking, Fran McCaffery is dominating the Big Ten

Mike Hlas
Published: February 28 2011 | 3:53 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 12:17 pm in
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Recruiting, preparation for games, in-game management — those are obvious gauges to decide if a coach has what it takes to revive a college basketball program.

But let’s look at another statistic that sort of persuades me Iowa’s dog days of men’s hoops won’t last forever: Technical fouls.

Iowa’s Fran McCaffery has seven this season. I’m guessing that is an all-time Hawkeyes record. It may approach a Big Ten record, if such a record is kept by the league office. Let’s assume it isn’t.

Before you say “Bob Knight,” know that Knight didn’t get many technicals in the second half of his career at Indiana. He had his occasional rages, sure, but he picked his spots as well as anyone, and probably sat stoically more than any coach in the Big Ten during his final decade at Indiana.

Maybe he simply had the officials fully bullied by then, who knows.

Now, some of you will say seven technicals is nothing to glorify, that it reflects poorly on the team and the university. Fair enough. The rest of us will proceed forward.

The difference between being fiery and being a maniac in coaching (or life) is that passionate winners are fiery and passionate losers are maniacs. It’s like how rich kooks are called eccentric, and poor kooks are called, well, kooky.

McCaffery has said all of his technicals have been intentional. On Jan. 28, he said this:

“I have stopped and taken a step back and thought to myself  ‘OK, am I being unreasonable here?’ And I don’t think I have been.”

I see seven technicals from a first-year coach with a last-place team, and I think here is a guy who is not going to be content to slowly build a program and endure more years of beatings. The fact he’s won titles in three different leagues tends to advance that theory.

Of course, I also draw that conclusion from the fact McCaffery flew to California last week to see standout high school point guard Cezar Guerrero, and has two good recruits secured for next year in shooting guard Josh Oglesby of Cedar Rapids and 6-8 forward Aaron White of Ohio. Guerrero was scheduled to visit Iowa this weekend, but changed his plans. We'll see if he reschedules. If not, someone else will.

Also, you could add to the glass-half-full view by suggesting McCaffery is laying a foundation with Big Ten referees, that he won’t let his team accept any short end of the officiating stick. That isn’t to say a zero-technical coach (Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg) will quietly keep riding along in last place in his conference.

We’re not putting technical fouls on the same plane as recruiting here, fans, and Hoiberg will have a roster-overhaul next season that includes three players who have transferred in from Big Ten programs.

But back to the ‘T’s. Iowa has seven bench technicals. Through Sunday’s games, only two teams among the 345 others in Division I have more. They are Texas State and Howard, with nine. To see a list of the leaders, click here.

Tied with Iowa for second with seven are Houston Baptist, Mercer and Wagner. It appears officials are quicker to call technicals on coaches at smaller D-I schools. Maybe it’s because coaches are easier to hear in smaller gyms.

The Big Ten? Illinois is second behind Iowa with two bench technicals. Four teams have one apiece, and the other five have none. To recap, Iowa has seven, the rest of the conference six.

It appears Hawkeye basketball’s “Let’s Get Mad Again” marketing campaign was based on reality.

The statute of limitations is just about up for using that as a cheap wisecrack, so I had to do it now. If you want to ‘T’ me up for it, feel free.
 

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