The Rosster: On fatherhood


DAYTON, OHIO — It was a sobering moment standing in the Iowa locker room following the squad’s 79-65 loss to Tennessee on March 19. Just about every player was despondent, red eyes and tears drying on the faces of guys who just played 45 minutes of basketball, most still wearing their uniforms. Amid the despair of that locker room sat Devyn Marble, head held high atop a mountain of athletic tape, sweaty socks, and gym bags.

The senior sat relaxed, with a prideful, albeit disappointed look on his face. He hardly spoke basketball at all but mostly of his journey over the course of four years as an Iowa Hawkeye.

“I’m going to remember a lot,” Marble said in the front of the locker room, sitting down in a folding chair. “It was a lot of fun. This wasn’t the storytelling ending, which is OK. I have been able to help these guys show them what it takes. Me, Mel, and Zach showed them how hard it is to do.”

In the hallway, outside the locker room, was a similar scene. Iowa’s assistant coaches hung around with their sport coats off, hands on their head walking around in circles to nowhere in the tight hallway. Sherman Dilliard kicked a Powerade cooler, then used it as a seat.

“I thought we had that one,” he said in a deflated tone, to no one in particular, as he settled into the makeshift chair, burying his face in his palms. 

And in the locker room, next to the one his team wallowed in, stood Fran McCaffery alone. His chin up and posture confident, the fourth-year head coach spoke with the dignity and inflection of one who didn’t just lose an NCAA Tournament game. He certainly didn’t show any signs of a distressed father, whose 14-year-old son underwent throat surgery literally hours before the biggest game Iowa basketball has played in since 2006. McCaffery didn’t have the look of someone who flew to Iowa City to be a father the night before, then returned to Dayton to coach hours prior to tipoff.

The head coach in McCaffery answered questions with gusto and didn’t point fingers in the wake of the loss. He hardly spoke basketball at all, but mostly discussed his journey that day as a father and a coach. If he was upset about the outcome, it didn’t show.

“We came out ready to play; defensively and offensively we had it going. We only turned it over six times.”

The body language of Iowa’s two leaders, the coach in McCaffery and the player-captain in Marble, was too similar to be coincidence. The confident aura in the wake of a loss in their demeanor begs to be talked about. Marble, likely on the way to the NBA, has more basketball to look forward to in his career. McCaffery will coach for a long time, be it at Iowa or elsewhere. He has more basketball to look forward to in his career, too.

The father in McCaffery praised Iowa’s seniors and pointed to how they brought the program to where he was now, and how guys like them will continue to elevate Iowa to beyond national relevance. He told stories, such as how Melsahn Basabe followed him from his previous coaching job at Siena all the way to Iowa City. What stood out most though, was how McCaffery described how he more or less assembled this team out of thin air, brought them to the sport’s biggest stage, and shared with them the agony of defeat.

“I broke down, too. I don’t know if you can put into words the feeling when a player puts his career in your hands,” McCaffery said. “… I told them I loved them, and appreciated how hard they worked. They wanted it for me. They fought for us. They left it all out there.

“When you come into the locker room and you’re just absolutely, completely, physically exhausted, then you don’t have anything to apologize for.”

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