As he cradled the ball with five seconds left and his team ahead by 11, Iowa forward Nicholas Baer assumed Tuesday night’s game against North Dakota was basically over.
In reality, the drama was only beginning.
North Dakota senior guard Corey Baldwin first needlessly stripped the ball from Baer. One of Baldwin’s teammates then attempted to beat the buzzer with a layup. At that moment, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery erupted in anger on the sideline, storming off the court without shaking hands with the opposing team and motioning for his players and staff to follow.
North Dakota, down 11, tried to beat the buzzer.
Fran McCaffery wasn't a fan, so he had Iowa walk off the court. https://t.co/PLkItzgxq0
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 21, 2016
Baldwin’s steal was the last in a series of final-minute plays that left McCaffery seething. First, there was a deadball technical foul whistled on Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon after he tangled with a North Dakota player with 37 seconds to go. One possession later, North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker delivered a hard foul on Peter Jok rather than let the clock expire.
“I was not pleased with how the game ended and the things that happened,” McCaffery told reporters in Iowa City after his team’s 84-73 victory. “I will say this, I have a lot of respect for (North Dakota coach) Brian (Jones) and certainly (assistant) Jeff Horner. I don’t think they teach that type of stuff. But I wasn’t having it. That’s not the way to play.
“We don’t need Pete getting knocked to the floor. We don’t need guys getting up in Jordan’s face. We don’t need Nicholas Baer’s head getting chopped off. We don’t need it. The game’s over. Move on.”
While McCaffery has a right to be upset about Baldwin’s gratuitous steal and the plays that preceded it, this was not his lesson to teach. McCaffery should have trusted that Jones and his staff would help Baldwin and his teammates understand the difference between fighting to the final whistle and acting gracelessly in defeat.
Hot-headed behavior from McCaffery comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his Iowa tenure. McCaffery’s intensity has fueled the Hawkeyes’ reemergence from the depths of the Todd Lickliter era, however, his temper has also landed him in the spotlight for the wrong reasons on occasion.
He once grabbed his players’ attention in 2012 by hurling an unsuspecting folding chair to the ground in the middle of the huddle. Two years later, he received a one-game suspension for bumping a referee in the middle of a tirade over a no-call. He also is known for being especially hard on clipboards, whether it’s slapping one out of the hands of an assistant or kicking one off the scorer’s table.
Blowing off the handshake line at the end of the North Dakota game was an example of the best and worst of McCaffery all in one.
It was admirable that the Iowa coach was standing up for his players and keeping them safe, but it was also telling that none of them seemed especially upset with Baldwin’s steal before his tirade, let alone furious enough to beat a hasty exit to the locker room.
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