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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Ben Frederickson

DAYTON, Ohio -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."

Martin said he and McCaffery spoke briefly before the game.

"He said I want to thank you for the words you said," Martin said. "It was just an emotional day, not just for him but his players. Because, again, as players you take on your coach's identity. Coach going through something, it's a family. Tough thing to deal with. And those guys came out, you saw the adrenaline and emotion they played with in the first half."

"First and foremost, you're a father, and this is what you do for a living," Martin added. "So it's got to be very, very tough for him. I said prayers. I prayed for him last night and even before the game."

 Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery reacts to a call in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Indianapolis. Northwestern won 67-62. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


March 20, 2014




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