Letter: Watch out, Fran, you’ll sucker-punch yourself
Op-Ed · January 24, 2014

For the media, another letter of “advice” prompted by Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s two-foul boot from the arena.

One of Iowa’s most successful coaches of many year past, Forest Evashevski, whose team won a mythical national championship and both Rose Bowls they played in, made an uncomfortably exaggerated but mostly true comment on attitude within a competitive environment; Evy observed, “Nice guys finish last.”

There is a fine balance in being aggressive enough to beat the other guys and outwardly calm enough to appear acceptably civil to those not in the fray. Fran McCaffery finds himself in that arena and has, as we all do in life, just stumbled a bit and is trying to right himself without fogging his head into a sucker punch of his own making.

In short, he cannot lose his edge in directing his team to get in other people’s faces by losing his own confrontational edge by becoming namby-pamby. Lest be forgot words of President Teddy Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

The truth to be lived as a coach is that if you are Liberace you got to coach as Liberace and if you are Frankenstein you got to coach as Frankenstein. And in both or any case, if you are going to be able to stay in the arena you have to successfully slug it out while being at heart a real sportsman.

Anyone who can do that better than Fran would have already been Iowa’s most successful basketball coach and also as world beloved as Mother Teresa — oh oh ... scratch that Mother Teresa thing — the dear sister could at times have a very in-your-face attitude.

Advice to Fran: maybe talk to Gable, and find and read an old “Psychology Today” article on how John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood,” won 10 NCAA national championships in a 12-year period via positive reinforcement that had his kids flying around the court at Mach speed — but above all else, be your best self.

Sam Osborne, West Branch

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