Fran McCaffery should make a least one change to avoid a repeat of this season

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Fran McCaffery

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – In addition to making defense more of a priority, Fran McCaffery should seriously consider banning his players from Twitter because it seems to be a major distraction for some of them.

McCaffery should at least ban it during the season.

It has been suggested that the negativity on Twitter caused what was supposed to be a promising season to unravel.

And the players are the ones who have suggested it.

Sophomore point guard Jordan Bohannon said in early February that he was sick and tired of all the negativity and outside noise. He was offended by talk that he wasn’t a true point guard and he didn’t understand why so-called fans would turn on him and the team.

Unfortunately, that’s the world we now live in with social media.

Twitter is very helpful in spreading news and gaining exposure and attention. But there is also a bad side to Twitter, a side in which there is no accountability or reason to use restraint. It’s like the Wild West where people take shots because they know they can get away with it.

In the old days, fans would either have to call a radio show or write a letter to a newspaper to voice their dissatisfaction.

Now they just have to hit the tweet or send button, and can do so under an alias with no fear of consequences.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was criticized for being too controlling and rigid when he banned his players from Twitter about a decade ago.

But now his decision makes sense because Ferentz was shielding his players from distractions and from the temptation of lashing out at the trolls.

McCaffery should do the same because he can’t afford a repeat of this season. Some of his players seem overly sensitive and pre-occupied with what is being said on Twitter. 

McCaffery has to get the ship steered back in the right direction, and if that means banning Twitter, then so be it. The players already have enough distractions without worrying about whether they're being ripped on Twitter.

As for sophomore forward Tyler Cook, he has to figure out what is best for him and pursue that option.

Iowa’s leading scorer caused a stir after Thursday’s 77-71 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament by saying he isn’t sure if he would return to Iowa next season.

That helped to fuel a long-standing rumor that Cook, a native of St. Louis, would transfer to Missouri after the spring semester. But then Cook denied the rumor on Friday by announcing on Twitter that it never was his plan to transfer to Missouri.

The 6-foot-9 Cook has every right to explore his options and to see where he stands with regard to playing professional basketball. He is obviously a special talent with enormous potential.

I just wished he would’ve said that when reporters asked about his future after Thursday’s game instead of being evasive because that leads to rumors and speculation.

Cook apparently has a tough decision to make about his future. My only hope is that he makes the right decision for himself, and does so in a somewhat timely fashion because his teammates and coaches need to know where he stands so they can start building for next season.

Cook, Bohannon and freshman center Luka Garza give McCaffery a solid nucleus to build around, assuming they all return.

All three were spectacular at times this season, and yet Iowa still lost 19 games and wasn’t even competitive in some games.

So something has to change in a hurry.

Bohannon is on track to break Iowa’s career record for 3-point baskets and for assists midway through his career. The former Linn-Mar star is the greatest shooter I’ve seen in over 25 years of covering the Iowa basketball team. He also has developed into a solid passer and floor general.

But you could still make a strong case that Iowa needs help at point guard without being critical of Bohannon. Some fans and media members get upset or defensive when anybody suggests that Bohannon has certain flaws as a point guard.

But it was clear from watching Iowa this season that a lack of perimeter quickness was a problem on both ends of the floor, but especially on defense where the inability top stop the ball in transition often caused the defense to break down. 

The addition of an athletic, pass-first point guard would help to address that problem, and would give Bohannon some much-needed relief and more freedom and space to do what he does best, which is shoot from 3-point range.

Iowa doesn’t have any scholarships available at this time, but that could change because rosters are always fluid.

McCaffery has to figure ways to get more open looks for Bohannon because Iowa is at its best when Bohannon is in rhythm and shooting from the perimeter

The addition of a healthy Connor McCaffery would certainly help because Fran McCaffery's son is a gifted passer with a point guard mentality.

Fran McCaffery seems content with keeping his coaching staff intact for a ninth season and that is his prerogative as head coach. He knows more than anybody if his assistants are pulling their weight.

But on the other hand, Iowa’s performance this season speaks for itself. The situation has to improve because this season was unacceptable.

Regardless of his buyout, it’s silly to suggest that McCaffery should be fired because the good still outweighs the bad under his watch. The program was in shambles when McCaffery replaced Todd Lickliter as head coach in 2010.

This season marks the first time since McCaffery’s first season that Iowa has failed to advance to a postseason tournament.

It’s easy to become a prisoner of the moment and to over-react in a negative way during a season like the one Iowa just struggled through.

It also is easy to lash out at the players on Twitter and that won’t change between now and the start of next season.

So in that case, it’s time for Fran McCaffery to consider some changes in order to limit distractions because next season is huge for him and for the program.