IOWA CITY, Iowa – The news from Monday’s Iowa men’s basketball press conference wasn’t supposed to be news.
Somebody apparently forgot to tell redshirt freshman forward Nicholas Baer that the players-only meeting that Iowa held this past Saturday was off limits to the media.
In fairness to Baer, he didn’t volunteer the information. He was asked by a reporter if they had held a players-only meeting because senior guard Anthony Clemmons apparently said after the loss to Penn State last Wednesday that it was a possibility.
“We did have one,” Baer said before practice on Monday. “The seniors led it and that was really productive for us.”
Baer then was asked who spoke at the meeting.
“It was mostly the seniors and that’s to be expected,” Baer said. “They just did a really nice job of trying to refocus us and trying to get us back on track.”
My first reaction, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, was to think this could be a nice story heading into Wednesday’s game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But I also knew that some fans would perceive a players’ only meeting as a sign of trouble.
What I didn’t expect was the reaction from senior forward Jarrod Uthoff and senior center Adam Woodbury. They both made it obvious that they were less than pleased with Baer for talking about the meeting.
“What happens in the lockeroom stays in the lockeroom,” Uthoff said.
When pressed on the subject, Uthoff didn’t budge or smile.
“I don’t want to get into our team meeting,” he said.
When reminded that a players’ only meeting often creates a negative perception, Uthoff said:
“We’re fine. We’re absolutely fine. We’re looking forward to Wednesday and getting out there and competing.”
Woodbury’s reaction wasn’t as stern as Uthoff’s carefully worded response. Woodbury actually joked about what happened at the meeting when asked what he had hoped to get out of it.
“I don’t know, a couple guys danced, a couple guys sang; it was kind of a talent show, honestly,” Woodbury said. “I got to see some of the guys’ talents and what they’re able to do.”
Asked if any of his teammates surprised him, Woodbury said:
“Yeah. Obviously, Baer because he ratted on us. He was the winner of it, I guess. We’ll be talking to him shortly.”
The seniors either failed to tell Baer that the players’ only meeting was to stay private, or Baer forgot that it was to stay private or he spoke out of line.
Whatever the case, it really isn’t a big deal.
Teams have players’ only meetings all the time. And they usually occur during tough times.
It probably is no coincidence that Iowa held its players’ only meeting after a stretch in which it lost two of three games, including a 79-75 loss at lowly Penn State last Wednesday.
But the Iowa players also had a rare weekend off during the Big Ten grind. So why not gather without the coaches and do some soul searching and player bonding?
What is the harm in that?
If I’m an Iowa fan, I like that the four senior starters took it upon themselves to hold a players’ only meeting during a break in the schedule.
It was a chance to regroup before the stretch drive, to make sure that everybody is on the same page and in the right frame of mind to play four of the biggest conference games in the history of the Iowa program.
It’s late February and Iowa, with records of 20-6 overall and 11-3 in the Big Ten, still controls its own destiny with regard to winning the Big Ten regular-season title. Win out and the Hawkeyes would capture the title outright for the first time since 1970.
If it takes having a players’ only meeting to achieve that goal, then so be it.
Baer might have spoken to reporters when he shouldn’t have on Monday. But as far as distractions go, the media being told about a players’ only meeting seems pretty harmless.