Is McCaffery Extension a Good Idea?

On Tuesday, Iowa announced that it had struck a new deal with Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. It’s a seven year contract that has several salary escalators and will bring his base salary in line with the middle of the pack as far as Big Ten basketball coaches salaries.

You can learn more details of McCaffery’s contract here and here, but the minimum average he will earn is $1.66 million over the life of the deal. McCaffery’s best chance to earn more money more quickly is for Iowa to make the NCAA’s next year. If they do that, he’ll jump from $1.3 million to $1.7 million. If Iowa doesn’t make the NCAA’s next year, his salary will move from $1.3 million to $1.5 million.

Some may wonder why Iowa would work a new contract with a coach who has been on the job for two years and has yet to make an NCAA tournament.

First, McCaffery’s first contract called for a review and reevaluation after two years, so Iowa was going to take a look at it at this time, regardless.

Next, McCaffery has taken a moribund program and created as much excitement as fans have seen in seven years or so. Attendance has gone up considerably the past two years under McCaffery’s watch. While year one was a tough patch (Iowa was coming off its worst record in school history), year two produced a record of 18-17, the first above .500 record since the year before Todd Lickliter was hired.

Not only that, but Iowa beat four ranked teams last year, which was as many games as Iowa had won against ranked teams in the previous five seasons combined. McCaffery has beaten five ranked teams in two years, Iowa won at least eight regular season conference games for the first time since 2006-2007, which was their last winning season. Iowa won a game in the Big Ten tournament for the first time in five attempts with the win coming against Illinois, a team that had beaten them seven-straight times.

This past season was a lot about busting up ugly streaks and establishing positive momentum. Iowa won a post season game for the first time since beating Iowa State in the 2003 NIT.

If you want to say someone can be due for a raise two years into a six year deal, McCaffery’s performance provided much data and a strong argument that he was worthy.

In essense, the new seven-year deal is a raise in pay and a three-year extension. The first deal was for six years and two years have transpired, leaving four more years on that first deal. This new deal is for seven, and seven minus four is three…see how quickly I work here?

A three-year extension provides both McCaffery and Iowa more security, which is more security for a program that is on the rise.

Just how much that program will rise in the coming years remains to be seen, but if Iowa basketball were a stock right now, there is still the chance to buy relatively low.

McCaffery said he does not view the Iowa job as a stepping stone for another position and hopes to coach beyond the seven years the contract affords. He’s 53-years old right now and will be 60 when this deal expires. If he keeps raising the bar these next two years, there may be some programs who make a run at him. Some, but perhaps not many as 55-year old coaches don’t typically have scores of programs beating down their doors.

Then again, the college basketball community knows how far the Iowa program had fallen and if McCaffery can get the Hawkeyes back to the NCAA tournament in year three (unlikely) or four (more likely), that is going to turn some heads.

Iowa feels it has the right man at the top of its program and made a proactive move to establish security.

In my opinion, this is a win for all sides.

  • dipeopleknowme

    Why is it exactly that Iowa is unlikely to be back in the NCAA Tournament this year? That is a pretty big conclusion with no supporting claims…

    • HNStaff

      It’s an opinion. I think it’s unlikely that they will be back in the NCAA’s. When I look at the Big Ten, here is who I would put ahead of Iowa right now:

      Michigan State
      Ohio State

      Wisconsin is debatable. All of these teams were in Andy Katz’s early Top 25. Iowa plays Indiana twice (the possible preseason #1), Ohio State twice, Minnesota twice and Wisconsin twice. How likely is a sweep over Wisconsin AND Minnesota again this year?

      At best, I see Iowa’s best finish in the Big Ten at 6th place. Last year, the 6th place team was 10-8. Iowa went 8-10. They lose their best outside shooter and their leading scorer. Yes, there is talent on this team and I am not saying this is going to be a down year, not at all. But the loss of Gatens will be felt. How much? How much improvement will everyone else make? Can Oglesby hit shots other than just when games are out of reach? Will Basabe come back closer to his freshman form than sophomore form? Will White make strides? How will the team function with a true freshman point guard? What will Olaseni be like in a non-PTL setting? So many questions and most of them need to be answered in the affirmative for the program to approach an NCAA bid…

      All the while, other teams are getting better, too.

      So no, I don’t know that I consider an NCAA bid this year as being likely, which means I think it’s unlikely. I’ll be rooting for the bid, however.

      • dipeopleknowme

         Assuming Iowa schedules 14 non-conference games again this year, I find it difficult to believe with how drastically improved the team was from it’s 2011-12 non-conference play to its conference play, that Iowa isn’t significantly better in the W-L dept. heading into the B1G schedule than a year ago. I also find it difficult to believe there are more than 4 losses in that schedule. That’s 10-4. Plus you’re predicted 10-8 and we have 20-12. Add in what is likely a 1st-round win against the 11 seed, and it’s 21-12.

        You win 10 games in this B1G conference, there is just so little chance the committee keeps Iowa out.

        And here are some other things to consider in your list of things that need to go right:

        1. Gesell (true freshman) at point guard. He is a demonstrably better decision-maker than Cartwright, and his outside shot is much quicker and more effective than the PGs we’ve had in years past. Any struggles that are too much for him to stay in the lineup and we fall all the way to… Devyn Marble. In that scenario, we know what we have, and it’s very effective.

        2. Loss of Gatens (offensively). No, we don’t have a sharpshooter to replace him. But, let’s say that Gesell is good (enough) at PG to play. That moves Marble to the 2, and still keeps Oglesby as the off-the-bench, around-screens 3pt specialist. Marble may not bring 3 balls like Gatens, but he’ll get to the foul line a great deal more, and shoot a serviceable %. Plus he takes smart shots, which is important for the replacement of Iowa’s leading scorer. This of course is discounting the fact that McCabe demonstrated significant ability in knocking down the 3, which I would say (conservatively) he repeats this year, and might say (aggressively) that he knocks down more (but takes more, and doesn’t necessarily improve %).

        3. Loss of Gatens (defensively). Again, Marble will be the replacement here. He showed plenty of defensive ability. He’s not as strong as Gatens, but he covers more vertical space and has as good of a knack for steals with quick hands as Gatens. Add in that our other freshman backups are better athletes regarded for defense (Ingram and Clemmons), and our perimeter D may lack the individual lock-down ability, but as a team will be high-pressure with probably minor drop-off (if any).

        4. Basabe “return to freshman form”. This is almost irrelevant. He was hardly present last year, but his backups (Archie, Brommer and Olaseni) were significantly worse than this year. Nobody would even think that Meyer and Woodbury aren’t already better than those two departed bigs. Olaseni, regardless of PTL vs. real games, is obviously improved to the point of minutes-worthy. Even if Basabe is only a 9-5 guy, we’re better equipped to handle that lack of productivity. I think he probably returns to form, but even discounting that, Iowa is in better position than last year in the front court.

        5. White’s development. White has given no indication that his mentality isn’t much better equipped to handle his frosh success than did Basabe. Also, don’t forget that Basabe had to go through the whole body weight transformation and re-transformation. That can probably be looked at as the main reason for his disappearance last season. The mental toll that can take is undeniably significant. I’m not at all saying you’ve discounted this, but I think it’s reason to see that White isn’t going to be subject to that kind of concern. If anything, he’s looked leaner, stronger (not greatly, but some) and more explosive this offseason.

        6. My number one reason for thinking that 21 wins prior to the NCAAs is more than a 50-50 chance: Iowa gets to the rim, and to the line. That gets refs to give Iowa the benefit of the doubt when attacking the basket (we saw that last year); it gives Iowa the advantage on stopped-clock scoring opportunities; it puts opponents’ players into foul situations and forces coaching decisions. And the other reason this is huge: our incoming freshman are all attackers of the basket (in comparison to the players who are being replaced) and will increase that strength.

        • HNStaff

          I didn’t predict 10-8. I showed you what the 6th place team in 2012 was
          Jon Miller

          (from my iPhone)

          • dipeopleknowme

             Fair enough. but that’s a pretty safe bet for 6th place, which Iowa should be capable of.

            For the sake of providing my prediction, I’m going to say we win 11 big ten games, and finish 4th or 5th (ahead of Minnesota, probably in a tie for 4th), winning 23 overall (before B1G tourney). I just think the aggressive style and real strong team bond carries us to a really solid season.

        • Jethro1hawkfan

          Jon, you can’t win on this argument! LOL Dipeopleknowme, you want to start your
          own column?

          • dipeopleknowme

             I just think putting that much negative emphasis on the loss of Gatens is short-sighted. None of the other leaving seniors don’t have someone filling their roster spot who isn’t already better than they were.

          • HNStaff

            If that is short sighted, then betting on every possible good outcoming actually happening must be your form of realism 😉

          • dipeopleknowme

             How so? I already spelled out my realism. Pessimism would be that guys who get more minutes in place of the minutes Gatens played don’t produce and that none of the freshman are that good.

            On the curve the guys are on, realism says 4-5 more wins (especially non-conference).

            Optimism and everything going superb would suggest more like 26-27 wins (b/c of the potential of Woodbury, Gesell, Ingram as freshman, McCabe, Basabe, Marble as juniors, White and Olaseni as sophomores). I see as many as 4 potential NBA players on Iowa’s roster right now. (the two highly touted frosh, Marble and White).

            Anytime you have that much talent and you play that aggressively, a good regular season is probable. A great one, I would say is unlikely. A bad one is a repeat of last year.

          • Actually dipeopleknowme, you’re coming off as a kool-aid chugging homer who’s offended that not everyone see’s the sky as full of black-n-gold unicorns.  In my opinion, it is unlikely Iowa makes the tournament this year…even though I hope they do. 

          • dipeopleknowme

             Offended? No. Disagree? Yes. I honestly believe that things would have to go poorly to repeat last year’s output. A reasonable expectation is just a couple more wins. Our nonconference is going to be cake, and our guys are really battle tested.

            Everything I’ve seen of them in PTL is that they are in much better physical shape than 1 year ago. Expectations go up a little from last year. 22 wins is perfectly reasonable prior to postseason. Optimism or on the “Kool-aid” chugging homer would say we only lose 2-4 B1G games and wipe the nonconference slate unscathed, approach 28 wins and a 2 or 3 seed. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying we simply continue playing better at minor increases.

  • cjcoty

    I believe it had to be done and is really low risk long term signing.  Fran has demonstrated that he can build winners on every level… save the Big Ten level until now. 

    Coach McCaffery  has already shown he can recruit.  He re-recruited Marble and McCabe and brought in Mel the first year as a Freshman Big Ten of the year 1st Team.

    His 2nd year of recruits have included Aaron White, another 1st Team freshman and a couple of others with tremendous upside.. Josh O (will take a run at all time 3 point shooter) and the Big O who when all is said and done could be a guy that wows us all with tremendous blocks, rebounds and dunks.

    The third year has Iowa in the top twenty to thirty (it’s gonna be dirty) recruiting class that he went head to head with UNC’s Roy Williams and got his man.

    Coach Fran’s style, philosophy and coaching MAY become the perfect fit for Iowa, all time… and the future.

    Year One was better than expected..  Year Two was even better with plus 500 and post season play… Year Three?

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