Wine Online: Fran Similar to Ralph - Hawkeye Sports Official Athletic Site
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Wine Online: Fran Similar to Ralph
New Hawekeye coach appears a lot like very successful Miller
McCaffery is ready to embrace fans of the Hawkeyes one at a time, if necessary.
McCaffery is ready to embrace fans of the Hawkeyes one at a time, if necessary.
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April 5, 2010

Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Official Sports Report, a free e-newsletter delivered daily to fans of the Hawkeyes. To learn more about the Hawkeyes' OSR, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When Ralph Miller became Iowa's basketball coach in 1964 the program was going south. The Hawkeyes had finished near the bottom of the Big Ten the previous two seasons, attendance was embarrassingly low and apathy had set in. Sound familiar?

Miller was part coach, part salesman and part showman, and he was very good at all three. Before he ever coached a game at Iowa, he issued a promise and a warning to Hawkeye supporters.


He promised that his Iowa teams would be entertaining and exciting. And he warned that those who did not have season tickets should buy them, because there would soon be none available.

He was right on both counts.

Hawkeye fans embraced Miller's teams that featured a high-octane offense and a defense with full court pressure. Iowa immediately became competitive in the Big Ten, finishing in the first division in each of Miller`s first three seasons. Tickets for basketball games at the Fieldhouse became scarce.

After Iowa won a Big Ten championship in Miller's fourth season there was a season-ticket waiting list. By 1970, when the Hawkeyes blew through the league undefeated while averaging 103 points a game, the demand for Iowa basketball tickets was suffocating.

Now our new men's basketball coach is Fran McCaffery, and he faces the same scenario that Miller did 46 years ago. After three straight losing seasons, attendance is painfully down at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and apathy has crept in.

And McCaffery's message to fans is much like Miller's. He says his teams will be competitive and exciting, improvement will be immediate, and he'll have the home court rockin' again. His teams will also feature a similar style of play, with an up-tempo offense and pressing defense.





Now our new men's basketball coach is Fran McCaffery, and he faces the same scenario that Miller did 46 years ago. After three straight losing seasons, attendance is painfully down at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and apathy has crept in. And McCaffery's message to fans is much like Miller's. He says his teams will be competitive and exciting, improvement will be immediate, and he'll have the home court rockin' again. His teams will also feature a similar style of play, with an up-tempo offense and pressing defense.


Miller and McCaffery came to Iowa from different directions. Miller had been the highly-successful head coach at Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference, then one of the best leagues in college basketball. His only other coaching experience had been at the high school level.

McCaffery comes to Iowa from the east and has a more rounded resume. It includes successful head-coaching stops at Lehigh, UNC-Greensboro and Siena. It should be noted that each of those schools were in the doldrums before he turned them around and took them all to the NCAA tournament. He also served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame for 11 years when the Fighting Irish had very good teams.

McCaffery's background is similar to that of Tom Davis. Both landed their first head coaching job at Lehigh, and Davis also had two other stops (Boston College and Stanford) before coming to Iowa, where he became the school's winningest basketball coach.

You could also compare McCaffery's resume to that of Hayden Fry, who was an assistant football coach at Arkansas before turning programs in the right direction at SMU, North Texas and Iowa, where he became the school's winningest football coach.

McCaffery gave a lengthy, thoughtful and impressive opening statement at his introductory press conference March 29. He clearly has done his homework and understands the task he faces at Iowa. He seems eager to build a strong relationship with the fans, alumni, faculty and news media. He also wants a strong connection with former Hawkeye players, and promised one will be a member of his coaching staff.

This new coach has a strong resume plus an understanding of what his job entails. He wants to bring energy, excitement and enthusiasm back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He has developed winners at his three previous stops. There's good reason to believe he will do the same at Iowa.

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