Crean, McCaffery share connection away from the game

On the day Fran McCaffery received the news, on the drive to the hospital and an uncertain future, the Iowa coach received a phone call he isn’t soon to forget.

McCaffery had just gotten off the phone with his son Patrick’s doctor in the middle of last March, learning the 14-year-old had been diagnosed with a malignant form of thyroid cancer.

After he woke his son and started the drive to the doctor, McCaffery answered one of the many phone calls placed by his colleagues in the coaching business. On the other end of this particular call was Tom Crean, a coach calling not only out of concern for one of his peers, but for a fellow father and husband.

According to this story from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Crean and McCaffery shared a moment over the phone — separated by hundreds of miles — making a connection that went far beyond the game they share.

“I can remember the day that we had to wake Patrick up and tell him he had cancer,” McCaffery said. “We’re driving to see the surgeon and the phone rings and it’s Tom Crean from Indiana. He said ‘How are you doing?’ I said ‘We’re doing OK.’ He said ‘Let’s pray.’ So we prayed together over the phone.”

With Tuesday’s game against Iowa marking the first time Crean and McCaffery have met on the court since last March, the IU coach was asked about that phone call during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Fran, a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Crean said. “When something like that happens, your heart goes out to him in many different areas, but certainly first and foremost as a father and a husband and the guy that’s gotta be the leader and spiritual leader of his home. To me, that was the biggest thing to me.”

Patrick McCaffery, who had his tumor removed on March 19, is now cancer free.

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