By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Grab hold of something and hang on because this column goes all over the place, starting with Fran McCaffery's search for a new assistant coach.
One person, and one person only, continues to be mentioned as the most likely candidate to replace Andrew Francis as the new Iowa men's basketball assistant coach.
And that person is Courtney Eldridge, who for the past three seasons has been Iowa’s video coordinator.
Eldridge also played point guard for Fran McCaffery at North Carolina-Greensboro, so there already is a comfort level between them.
I wrote a few weeks ago that McCaffery should consider hiring a former Iowa basketball player, someone like Dean Oliver or Jeff Horner, but that seems to have gained little traction, or McCaffery is great at keeping a secret.
McCaffery has shown that he likes working with people that he knows and trusts. He brought Francis with him from Siena in 2010, and he hired Eldridge.
There is always the chance that McCaffery will hire somebody else, but the rumor mill has produced nothing besides the growing assumption that Eldridge will be promoted.
Eldridge has reportedly been out on the recruiting trail, but that isn't necessarily proof that he will be promoted because the NCAA allows staff members to help with recruiting after an assistant coach leaves the program.
Somebody close to the program recently told me that Eldridge was hired three years ago with the understanding that he would be promoted to an assistant coach once a position became available.
A false narrative: From a selfish standpoint, I hope that the Iowa men’s basketball team will be better next season without both Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss.
But I’ll believe it when I see it.
The addition-by-subtraction narrative that has surfaced since Moss announced that he would transfer from Iowa as a fifth-year graduate student makes no sense.
It seems to be a defensive reaction to feeling betrayed.
Iowa is losing its leading scorer and rebounder in the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Cook, and its best scorer in transition and a proven 3-point shooter in the 6-5, 200-pound Moss, and yet, according to the addition-by-subtraction crowd, the team will be better without them next season.
It could happen because even with the loss of Cook, Moss and guard Maishe Dailey, Iowa still returns a lot of talent and experience.
Senior point guard Jordan Bohannon, junior center Luke Garza and sophomore small forward Joe Wieskamp are a potent triumvirate for Iowa, and they compare favorably to just about any returning threesome in the Big Ten.
Forward Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl also have experience and are proven at this level, as is 6-11 sophomore Jack Nunge, who was redshirted last season after playing in all 33 games as a freshman.
So there hardly is reason to panic over the loss of Cook and Moss, but to assume that Iowa will be better without them is just silly and disrespectful.
Cook supposedly didn’t fit into McCaffery’s system, while Moss was too inconsistent according to the addition-by-subtraction believers.
My response to that is that Cook fit well enough to lead Iowa in scoring and rebounding in each of the past two seasons, while Moss, despite his inconsistency, was the best on the team at creating his own shot in transition and in a half-court set.
Fran McCaffery told reporters at the Cancer Gala in West Des Moiens that Moss wants to play a bigger role and feels that transferring to a different school is the best way to have that opportunity.
Moss is transferring for the same reason that most players do, which is to have a bigger role.
But what is strange about Moss' decision is that he was on course to be a three-year starter at Iowa, and was fourth on the team in minutes played last season, and one of the three players ahead of him is no longer on the team in Tyler Cook.
And yet, Moss still is leaving, so it makes you wonder if maybe part of the reason is because Moss just didn't want to deal with the family dynamic at Iowa anymore with two of Fran McCaffery's sons set to compete for playing time next season.
Connor McCaffery played a key role as the backup point guard last season, and his playing time often came at the expense of Moss, who sometimes would sit for long stretches.
This isn't to say that Fran McCaffery treated Moss unfairly because Moss averaged over 24 minutes of playing time per game, and he was wildly inconsistent.
But there has to be a some awkwardness to competing against the head coach's son for playing time.
Moss also would've competed with Jordan Bohannon for playing time at shooting guard, and Iowa can't afford to have Bohannon on the bench for long stretches because he is too valuable as a three-point shooter.
Moss is expected to visit Arkansas this weekend, according to Jon Rothstein from CBS Sports, and Moss also told Rothstein that Illinois, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Louisville, Arizona State and Iowa State have shown interest.
That is an impressive list of suitors, and it shows the level of respect for Moss.
And just imagine how strange it would be to see Moss wearing an Iowa State uniform.
It was strange enough when Adam Haluska transferred from Iowa State to Iowa, but Haluska only played one season for the Cyclones, whereas Moss was in the Iowa program for four years, including a redshirt season as a true freshman.
Hellerball: Rick Heller’s success as the Iowa baseball coach proves that anything is possible if the right person is hired for the job.
Heller is clearly the right person to coach the Iowa baseball team, and it was evident from the very beginning.
Iowa is on the verge of winning at least 30 games in six consecutive seasons under Heller, and is also in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Should Iowa make the NCAA Tournament, that would be three appearances in six seasons under Heller for a program that had made just three NCAA Tournament appearances before Heller arrived.
Heller certainly knows the game inside-and-out, but he also knows that a coach is only as good as his players, and his players are pretty good.
Heller always seems to have at least two reliable starting pitchers, solid middle relief and a dependable closer, to go along with a steady offense.
His teams, including the current one, rarely beat themselves and have shown the ability to overcome late deficits and key injuries.
Iowa is without two of its top pitchers with starter Jack Dreyer and reliever Ben Probst both out for the season with arm injuries.
The 55-year old Heller often talks about sticking to the process and trusting the culture. That is Heller’s way of reminding his players to trust him and trust what he teaches, something often referred to as Hellerball.
That trust was put to a test after Iowa was swept at Indiana in the Big Ten opening series by a combined score of 23-4 over three games.
Iowa is 11-4 in conference play since then and has won six consecutive series heading into this weekend's home series finale against Michigan State at Banks Field
Thanks to Heller, Iowa baseball is relevant again because Iowa finally hired the right person to get the job done.
It takes a group effort to rebuild any college sports team, but it starts with hiring the right person to oversee the construction.
Get me a beer: Add Illinois to the growing list of Big Ten schools that will sell beer to the general public at football games next season.
“We are continually looking for ways to improve fan engagement and augment our in-game fan experience,” Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a release. “The opportunity to purchase beer at our events was the number one request in a postseason survey of our football ticket holders. Fans indicated beer sales would encourage their use of purchased tickets and would increase the length of time they stayed in the stands.”
Many Iowa fans have said the same thing, and that’s why it is only a matter of time before Iowa joins the party.
My prediction is that Iowa will start selling beer to the general public by the 2020 season.
A good choice: Kirk Ferentz's decision to hire Jay Niemann as his 10th assistant coach just feels right.
Niemann grew up in Avoca and brings a wealth of experience and familarity with the state of Iowa to the job.
He played linebacker for Iowa State from 1979-82 and was an assistant coach for both Drake and Northern Iowa. He was also the head coach for Simpson College in Indianola from 2002-07.
So Niemann knows the lay of the land and he should have numerous recruiting connections from within the state. And that is crucial as Iowa moves on without Reese Morgan, who recently retired after having spent the previous 19 seasons on the Iowa staff. Morgan led Iowa's instate recruiting efforts and he had a knack for identifying overlooked talent.
Niemann will serve as Iowa’s assistant defensive line coach and assistant recruiting coordinator. Niemann was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Rutgers University the past three seasons and joins the Hawkeyes after being named linebackers coach at Wyoming earlier this spring.
Niemann is also the father of current Iowa linebacker Nick Niemann and former Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann, who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We had an excellent pool of coaching candidates, but one clearly stood out and that was Jay Niemann. Few coaches in college football today have Jay’s extensive defensive experience,” Ferentz said in a release. “I’ve had the good fortune to know Jay for years – first as a coach and then as a parent when we recruited both of his sons. In every instance, I’ve always been impressed with him. He will be a valuable addition to our staff and program.”