Fran McCaffery relishing opportunity to coach team at historic Palestra

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IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KCRG) - The #23 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes resume conference play on Saturday as the team travels to Pennsylvania to take on #21 Penn State. Instead of being played at State College, the game's venue is the historic Palestra Arena in Philadelphia.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery watches from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa won 84-68. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The trip marks the first time Iowa will visit the Palestra since 1961. Head Coach Fran McCaffery played inside the Palestra from 1980-1982 while playing for Penn.

"I have a lot of family and friends there, grew up with that place being a big part of my life." McCaffery said in Thursday's press conference.

"I had an opportunity -- that was our home arena. My college coach is going to be there. A lot of those types of things. But I'm pretty good at kind of separating that from the task at hand. It's a big game on our schedule. It's a ranked opponent, a team I have a lot of respect for. They're playing extremely well. My responsibility is just to make sure we go there and play well."

McCaffery has taken his family to visit his hometown, which included tours of the historic building. Connor, his oldest son and a redshirt-sophomore guard on the team, is excited to play in the building he has heard so much about.

"I mean his (Fran) picture is up on the wall from those really good Penn teams, my uncle covered a million games there, my grand-pop used to be a security guard there." McCaffery said.

"I've heard stories about pretty much everything, like how they used to sneak into games, where the secret doors are. I've heard it all, so you know, having that kind of knowledge about the arena and then getting to go and actually play in it and seeing it firsthand, actually being on the court is something that will be definitely something to remember."