"To me, he was a reincarnation of Pete Maravich."

Franisdaman

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Really nice story on Fran from the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Fran McCaffery, returning to the NCAA Tournament with Iowa, was nicknamed ‘White Magic’ in his Sonny Hill League days

McCaffery, a Philly native who played at La Salle College High and Penn, earned the nickname playing alongside Gene Banks and Lewis "Black Magic" Lloyd in the Sonny Hill League.

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Fran McCaffery (23), whose game revolved around slick ballhandling and passing, earned the nickname "White Magic" playing alongside Lewis "Black Magic" Lloyd in the Sonny Hill League. Courtesy of Penn Athletics




By Joe Juliano, For The Philadelphia Inquirer
March 15, 2022

Fran McCaffery admits he never was a great shooter on the basketball court.

It all started across the street from his West Oak Lane home at Pennypacker School, where the schoolyard had two somewhat bent rims and no nets. As he explained, if you swished a jump shot, chances are the basketball would roll to the other end of the yard.

“My game reflected where I grew up,” McCaffery, now the head basketball coach at Iowa, said last week. “If you grew up in the suburbs, you’re shooting jump shots in the driveway. We didn’t have a driveway. There were all rowhouses in that neighborhood.”

As the neighborhood transitioned from predominantly white to predominantly Black, he worked on other aspects of the game – passing, ballhandling, finding teammates in the tightest windows – eventually growing to become a 6-foot-4 point guard who could flip the occasional behind-the-back pass leading to an alley-oop slam.

And that’s when the legend of “White Magic” was born.

“We coined the phrase ‘White Magic,’” said Gene Banks, one of the greatest high school players in Philadelphia history and a teammate of McCaffery’s on Sonny Hill League All-Star teams. “I was amazed by him. To me, he was a reincarnation of Pete Maravich. I loved playing with him. He was an amazing ballhandler and ballplayer.”

McCaffery, who will be taking the Hawkeyes into the NCAA Tournament this week for the sixth time in his 12 seasons, played his high school ball at La Salle College and attended Wake Forest for one season before returning to his hometown and spending three seasons at Penn.


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After his exploits at the Sonny Hill League, Fran McCaffery went on to play a season at Wake Forest before returning to Philly and playing three years at Penn. Courtesy of Penn Athletics.




However, he became well-known in city basketball circles well before that. Sam Rines, who organized a travel team in Abington as a forerunner to AAU basketball, heard about McCaffery in fourth grade and recruited him for his team. The young player would compete in citywide tournaments and engage in tougher competitions as he grew older, starting with the Philadelphia Youth Athletic Association team.

“He took me to try out for the Philadelphia team against New York,” McCaffery recalled in a phone interview. “At that time, they never had a white player play for that team, but I made the team and we had a great team. Then we were 12, 13, and 14 at that time and he said, ‘Now we’re going to try out for the Sonny Hill League.’

“He would take me to places and say, ‘It’s going to be really hard but that’s how you’re going to get better.’ The first workout he took me to, I got my shot blocked for the first time. He said it was part of the growth process and that I’d have to experience this kind of stuff. Then I played in the Sonny Hill League and played for the Sonny Hill League All-Stars.”

The All-Stars were led by Banks and Lewis Lloyd, who had earned the nickname “Black Magic” because he was “poetry in motion, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on a basketball court,” McCaffery said. It was then that Philadelphia Bulletin sportswriter Julius Thompson came up with a name.

“Because we had ‘Black Magic,’ Julius said, ‘Well, now we have ‘White Magic,’” he said

“It was a perfect team for me to play with because of my style of play. I was not a shooter. I was a ballhandling, passing player, and I had great players to pass to. It was the beginning stages of throwing alley-oop passes to people who could actually catch it and dunk it. I could just go behind my back and pitch it to the rim, and Gene and Lewis and Joe Garrett and Michael White – he was a national high jump champion – would finish.”

Though he played playground ball and in places like the Belfield Recreation Center with mostly Black players before he was given the nickname, often being the only white player on the court, McCaffery said the basketball community always was very welcoming to him no matter where he went.

“Not one time did I ever have any issue at all with getting along with people or being accepted or being challenged,” he said. “It’s a competitive situation, so the teams you’re playing are going to challenge you and your teammates are going to support you and your coaches are going to coach you. Those kids were my buddies. They were my teammates. They were my brothers.”

Banks said opponents would go hard after McCaffery just like they would against any other player on his team, but there was “really no down-talking to him.”


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Fran McCaffery, who has led four different schools to the NCAA Tournament, has a 242-161 record (.600) in 12 seasons at Iowa.



“He held his own all the time,” he said. “Some guys could have said, ‘What’s this white boy doing down here?’ but nobody did that. When it came to picking sides, Fran was the first one they’d probably pick. We had guards like Darryl Warwick, Jeffery Clark, Calvin Dixon. Fran had the ultimate respect from us, especially from me.

“His parents would bring him down to play against guys in the city, not just in the Sonny Hill League. Here’s a white guy going into the Black community, man, and he’s out there balling without no fear. And his parents were awesome. You welcomed seeing them.”

Philadelphia basketball legend Sonny Hill said McCaffery created “some magic with some consistency” on the court in his league, which he noted was about 70% Black and 30% white when he played thanks to his efforts to attract players from the Philadelphia suburbs and throughout Pennsylvania.

“He fit in extremely well because he adapted to what the system was all about, what the culture was all about, and he became a big part of the Sonny Hill League culture at the time,” he said. “He was an all-league performer.”

McCaffery credits the Sonny Hill League for attracting college recruiters to one central location before the practice transitioned to following high school players on the AAU circuit.

“A lot of recruiting scouting service guys would come to McGonigle Hall and watch us all play, rather than go to a high school to see this kid play at this high school,” he said. “They would come to the Sonny Hill League and see all of us.”

The basketball road for McCaffery eventually led him to coaching. This is his 26th season as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Lehigh, North Carolina at Greensboro and Siena, and now Iowa, where he has won 242 games. The Hawkeyes’ 26 victories this season are the most since he’s been there.

And the “White Magic” moniker follows him, especially when he’s around Philadelphia people.

“My wife and my kids get a kick out of it,” he said. “We’re at the Final Four and all the Philly guys see me and go, ‘Hey, what’s up, Magic?’ They don’t call me Fran. It’s funny. It’s one of those names that’s stuck.”

Published March 15, 2022.


 
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JerseyCityHawki

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Really nice story on Fran from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fran McCaffery, returning to the NCAA Tournament with Iowa, was nicknamed ‘White Magic’ in his Sonny Hill League days

by Joe Juliano, For The Inquirer
Updated March 15, 2022

Fran McCaffery admits he never was a great shooter on the basketball court.

It all started across the street from his West Oak Lane home at Pennypacker School, where the schoolyard had two somewhat bent rims and no nets. As he explained, if you swished a jump shot, chances are the basketball would roll to the other end of the yard.

“My game reflected where I grew up,” McCaffery, now the head basketball coach at Iowa, said last week. “If you grew up in the suburbs, you’re shooting jump shots in the driveway. We didn’t have a driveway. There were all rowhouses in that neighborhood.”

As the neighborhood transitioned from predominantly white to predominantly Black, he worked on other aspects of the game – passing, ballhandling, finding teammates in the tightest windows – eventually growing to become a 6-foot-4 point guard who could flip the occasional behind-the-back pass leading to an alley-oop slam.

And that’s when the legend of “White Magic” was born.

“We coined the phrase ‘White Magic,’” said Gene Banks, one of the greatest high school players in Philadelphia history and a teammate of McCaffery’s on Sonny Hill League All-Star teams. “I was amazed by him. To me, he was a reincarnation of Pete Maravich. I loved playing with him. He was an amazing ballhandler and ballplayer.”

McCaffery, who will be taking the Hawkeyes into the NCAA Tournament this week for the sixth time in his 12 seasons, played his high school ball at La Salle College and attended Wake Forest for one season before returning to his hometown and spending three seasons at Penn.

However, he became well-known in city basketball circles well before that. Sam Rines, who organized a travel team in Abington as a forerunner to AAU basketball, heard about McCaffery in fourth grade and recruited him for his team. The young player would compete in citywide tournaments and engage in tougher competitions as he grew older, starting with the Philadelphia Youth Athletic Association team.

“He took me to try out for the Philadelphia team against New York,” McCaffery recalled in a phone interview. “At that time, they never had a white player play for that team, but I made the team and we had a great team. Then we were 12, 13, and 14 at that time and he said, ‘Now we’re going to try out for the Sonny Hill League.’

“He would take me to places and say, ‘It’s going to be really hard but that’s how you’re going to get better.’ The first workout he took me to, I got my shot blocked for the first time. He said it was part of the growth process and that I’d have to experience this kind of stuff. Then I played in the Sonny Hill League and played for the Sonny Hill League All-Stars.”

The All-Stars were led by Banks and Lewis Lloyd, who had earned the nickname “Black Magic” because he was “poetry in motion, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on a basketball court,” McCaffery said. It was then that Philadelphia Bulletin sportswriter Julius Thompson came up with a name.

“Because we had ‘Black Magic,’ Julius said, ‘Well, now we have ‘White Magic,’” he said

“It was a perfect team for me to play with because of my style of play. I was not a shooter. I was a ballhandling, passing player, and I had great players to pass to. It was the beginning stages of throwing alley-oop passes to people who could actually catch it and dunk it. I could just go behind my back and pitch it to the rim, and Gene and Lewis and Joe Garrett and Michael White – he was a national high jump champion – would finish.”

Though he played playground ball and in places like the Belfield Recreation Center with mostly Black players before he was given the nickname, often being the only white player on the court, McCaffery said the basketball community always was very welcoming to him no matter where he went.

“Not one time did I ever have any issue at all with getting along with people or being accepted or being challenged,” he said. “It’s a competitive situation, so the teams you’re playing are going to challenge you and your teammates are going to support you and your coaches are going to coach you. Those kids were my buddies. They were my teammates. They were my brothers.”

Banks said opponents would go hard after McCaffery just like they would against any other player on his team, but there was “really no down-talking to him.”

“He held his own all the time,” he said. “Some guys could have said, ‘What’s this white boy doing down here?’ but nobody did that. When it came to picking sides, Fran was the first one they’d probably pick. We had guards like Darryl Warwick, Jeffery Clark, Calvin Dixon. Fran had the ultimate respect from us, especially from me.

“His parents would bring him down to play against guys in the city, not just in the Sonny Hill League. Here’s a white guy going into the Black community, man, and he’s out there balling without no fear. And his parents were awesome. You welcomed seeing them.”

Philadelphia basketball legend Sonny Hill said McCaffery created “some magic with some consistency” on the court in his league, which he noted was about 70% Black and 30% white when he played thanks to his efforts to attract players from the Philadelphia suburbs and throughout Pennsylvania.

“He fit in extremely well because he adapted to what the system was all about, what the culture was all about, and he became a big part of the Sonny Hill League culture at the time,” he said. “He was an all-league performer.”

McCaffery credits the Sonny Hill League for attracting college recruiters to one central location before the practice transitioned to following high school players on the AAU circuit.

“A lot of recruiting scouting service guys would come to McGonigle Hall and watch us all play, rather than go to a high school to see this kid play at this high school,” he said. “They would come to the Sonny Hill League and see all of us.”

The basketball road for McCaffery eventually led him to coaching. This is his 26th season as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Lehigh, North Carolina at Greensboro and Siena, and now Iowa, where he has won 242 games. The Hawkeyes’ 26 victories this season are the most since he’s been there.

And the “White Magic” moniker follows him, especially when he’s around Philadelphia people.

“My wife and my kids get a kick out of it,” he said. “We’re at the Final Four and all the Philly guys see me and go, ‘Hey, what’s up, Magic?’ They don’t call me Fran. It’s funny. It’s one of those names that’s stuck.”

Published March 15, 2022
Thanks Franny always love your input!
 

nu2u

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Little known fact: Fran was a trail blazer in the Philly hip hop scene ... way before Eminem burst into national prominence.
 

hooper56

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Somebody really needs to make up some Black and Gold "Magic Man" T-shirts. I would buy one.
 

nu2u

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Moving forward, everyone should greet him with a ‘Hey, what’s up, Magic?’

;)
I believe it was White Magic. There is only one "Magic" and Fran looks nothing like him.

BTW, I'm a legend back in Sioux City for that one time I got called to go in to a game in junior high school.. it was the last 20 something seconds of a blow-out game and the other team had possession. So my buddy tells me that the there is not enough time to score and the only way to get my name in the newspaper is to commit a foul. The other team threw a half court pass to his teammate and I run full speed and knocked down the guy with the ball. I look at the bench and my coach is shaking his head but my teammates are going nuts. I never made the paper.
 
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Franisdaman

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Moving forward, everyone should greet him with a ‘Hey, what’s up, Magic?’

;)

I believe it was White Magic. There is only one "Magic" and Fran looks nothing like him.

BTW, I'm a legend back in Sioux City for that one time I got called to go in to a game in junior high school.. it was the last 20 something seconds of a blow-out game and the other team had possession. So my buddy tells me that the there is not enough time to score and the only way to get my name in the newspaper is to commit a foul. The other team threw a half court pass to his teammate and I run full speed and knocked down the guy with the ball. I look at the bench and my coach is shaking his head but my teammates are going nuts. I never made the paper.

Many people call him Magic. After all, this is what was in the article:

“We’re at the Final Four and all the Philly guys see me and go, ‘Hey, what’s up, Magic?’ They don’t call me Fran. It’s funny. It’s one of those names that’s stuck.”
 

natchrlman

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I believe it was White Magic. There is only one "Magic" and Fran looks nothing like him.

BTW, I'm a legend back in Sioux City for that one time I got called to go in to a game in junior high school.. it was the last 20 something seconds of a blow-out game and the other team had possession. So my buddy tells me that the there is not enough time to score and the only way to get my name in the newspaper is to commit a foul. The other team threw a half court pass to his teammate and I run full speed and knocked down the guy with the ball. I look at the bench and my coach is shaking his head but my teammates are going nuts. I never made the paper.
we need more stories like that on here ❤️
 
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AMAYS

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Not to sidetrack a thread that I really like, but the following comment from Fran helps explain the games of his children, namely their solid floor games, excellent passing abilities and questionable shooting fundamentals:


. I was not a shooter. I was a ballhandling, passing player, and I had great players to pass to.