‘It’s a big chapter of my life that’s closed’: Connor McCaffery’s Iowa men’s basketball career comes to a close in loss to Auburn

The graduate student had been on the roster since 2017 and played 166 games for the Hawkeyes.


Matt Sindt

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery embraces Iowa head coach and father Fran McCaffery after stepping off the court for the final time in his college career during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama on Thursday, March 16, 2023. The Tigers defeated the Hawkeyes, 83-75.

Chris Werner, Assistant Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM Al. — Connor McCaffery’s reputation for the last six seasons on the Iowa men’s basketball team has been one of intelligence, IQ, and understanding of the game.

However, the coach on the floor, as he’s been called on multiple occasions this season, intentionally picked up his fifth foul with 17 seconds remaining in the Hawkeyes’ 83-75 loss to Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night. 

In his last of 166 games — second in Iowa history behind Jordan Bohannon — as a Hawkeye, McCaffery essentially took himself out of the game to have one final moment with his father and Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. 

“Probably didn’t need to take that foul,” Connor McCaffery said postgame. “But I just wanted to come off the court, give my dad a hug, have a nice little end to it.”

As he exited the court in a Hawkeye jersey for the final time, Connor McCaffery embraced his father before sitting on the bench to watch the final seconds of his career tick away. 

“I broke down a little bit,” Connor McCaffery said. “A lot hit me all at once. My dad and I, we have a special relationship.”

Connor McCaffery has played for his dad in Iowa City since 2017 and has been a part of 124 wins over that span. 

During the last five seasons, in which Connor McCaffery played a more prominent role than the four games he appeared in as a freshman, Iowa went 110-56.

The Hawkeyes made it to the NCAA Tournament four out of the last five seasons and would’ve made it in 2019-20 if it hadn’t been for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“He’s the consummate winner,” Fran McCaffery said of Connor McCaffery. “He’s an unselfish person. He recognizes if we have the leading scorer in the country, the leading 3-point shooter in the nation, a guy that made more threes, than anybody in the Big Ten, he’s, he’s gonna make sure those guys get the ball … He’s that guy that brings out the best in all of his teammates. And there’s just no substitute for how valuable that is.”

Former Iowa standouts Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza were who Fran McCaffery was referencing as the three-point shooter and leading scorer. 

Connor McCaffery led the nation this season with a 3.93 assist-to-turnover ratio, and ranks first in that category all-time at Iowa.

“I tried to do whatever I could to help us win,” Connor McCaffery said of his career in Iowa City. “Every day, that was my ultimate goal. Practice, workouts, games. I was never the most athletic guy, I can’t jump really well, I’m not the fastest guy running up and down, but just, you do it as hard as you can every time is what I tried to do, and you’ll be right there with the best of the athletes. And that’s where I felt like I was.

“Always competed as hard as I could,” Connor McCaffery continued. “That was really what I prided myself on my entire career. Trying to win every day, win every game, and for a lot of my career we were pretty successful, won a lot of games. That’s something I’m proud of … Something that I hold close to my heart.”