Before Fran McCaffery stepped in as the featured speaker at Wednesday's Clinton County I-Club Spring Banquet, he caught up with Times college basketball reporter Aaron Brenner for five good minutes.
McCaffery dished on how he spent his 53rd birthday, what he plans to do with the open scholarship, and how the fans have treated him since the end of the season.
What did you do for your birthday?
Uhhh … We had meetings today. We had head coaches meetings, staff meetings.
Do anything fun?
That’s the life, right?
Were spring practices a success?
They were very good. What you look for in a situation like that is certain guys taking the next step – like Gabe Olaseni was really good. Guy didn’t play as much as a freshman, just started really coming into his own midway through the season, and had a phenomenal spring.
How will you handle all the bigs?
It will work itself out. The best players will rise to the top. If we have a lot of good ones, we’ll play them.
How do you handle the hype machine with the program?
I handle it this way: I don’t ever get too high or too low. When we’re really struggling, I didn’t panic. Just keep working. When the hype is there, just keep working.
How has Mel been different?
His leadership this spring has been phenomenal. His work ethic, his leadership, he’s maturing. He’s been able to sort of figure out, okay, some things went well for him, some things didn’t go well for him. He’s putting it together so he can have a great junior and senior year.
Did you have an opportunity to take a breather and reflect on the season? Take any time off?
Very little. When I do that, it’s with family. I don’t really reflect – I slow down and spend time with family and separate completely.
We went to Arizona and Philadelphia – visited some family out there.
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You’re holding on to the one open scholarship. At this point, will it be tabled?
It doesn’t look like we’re going to use it this year. You never know, but doesn’t look like it.
You’ll get a second one when senior Eric May graduates. Can that help to have not one, but not two to offer?
It’s nice to have two. Because if you only have one, you’re hesitant to offer some guys you might normally offer. You won’t typically offer two guys and get those two guys.
How much does spring dictate what might happen into next season?
Well, it’s going to dictate a lot. Because I think everybody’s optimistic. We have to recognize just how good the league is. The league’s tremendous, and none of those teams plan on taking a dip. We’ve got a great class coming in, but so does everybody else.
When will your freshmen get a chance to get on campus, and what do you plan for them?
They will, in a couple weeks. We’ll work them out, they’ll take two classes, hit the weight room, get on the floor a little bit, play in the Prime Time League. (Patrick) Ingram’s not coming, and if Adam makes the USA team, he won’t come.
What has the fan reaction been like since the end of the season?
It’s been wonderful. Hawk fans are the best. It’s been terrific. I’ve really enjoyed it. I make time for them … They really connected with this team. They did. Even when we were losing, they saw that we competed, we played hard, we were getting better, we had some talent, and they were fun to watch. We played a style that they wanted to watch.