Rarely does a coach thank the team that beats him.
But Wednesday’s NCAA tournament First Four game between Tennessee and Iowa presented a rare situation, a tough one that was handled with grace.
Before Tennessee beat Iowa 78-65 in overtime at UD Arena to advance as the No. 11 seed in the Midwest region, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s teenage son, Patrick, underwent surgery for a thyroid tumor. McCaffery flew from Dayton to Iowa City for the operation before returning in time to coach.
“He’s getting prepped for surgery on his neck to remove a tumor and you’re talking about potential malignancy and things of that nature and you’re saying to ourself, ‘Wow, it puts wins and losses in perspective,’” McCaffery said after the Vols ended the Hawkeyes’ season.
He then thanked Tennessee men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin for something that went largely unnoticed – the hugs UT players gave him after the game.
“I want to congratulate Tennessee on a great season, a great game,” McCaffery said. “And Cuonzo has exhibited an unbelievable amount of class. I know him, not that well, but the way he responded to my personal situation and then after the game to have the Tennessee players hug me and tell me that they’re thinking about me. You know, most kids they just want to run and jump on top of each other in the locker room. I was really impressed with those guys and the program Cuonzo has built there.”