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Horning: From middling to great, how'd Porter Moser do it?

  • 3 min to read
NCAA Loyola Chicago Illinois Basketball

Loyola of Chicago head coach Porter Moser celebrates after a college basketball game against Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Sunday, March 21, 2021. Loyola upset Illinois won 71-58.

That Joe Castiglione’s terrific at his job is lost on nobody

Indeed, the biggest blow the Sooner athletic department might suffer wouldn’t be any one of its coaches, even Lincoln Riley, taking a hike, but their boss taking one.

Castiglione’s hires typically lead their programs to very high ceilings.

Hello Mark Williams.

Hello Patty Gasso.

Hello K.J. Kindler.

Helly Ryan Hybl

By the way, if the question is which Sooner coaches have won national championships at jobs they still have and how many total, the number is 18 and that’s the list, from Williams’ nine to Hybl’s one and if you don’t know the sports they coach, please look it up.

What Castiglione offers each of those he hires is a rather high and sturdy floor, from which those ceilings become inordinately easier to reach.

Still, if there’s one thing about him you can actually see and hear, almost feel and touch, it’s his unbridled enthusiasm, a quality he extends all the way down to the press releases his department issues.

Saturday, via one of those releases, announcing the hiring of Porter Moser, direct from Loyola-Chicago, to succeed Lon Kruger as OU’s next men’s basketball coach, Castiglione chimed in.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce and welcome Porter Moser as our next great OU head coach.”

There is something so corny about the syntax.

“Thrilled” suffices, making “absolutely” schmaltz. “Our next great OU head coach” is piling on. Yet, because you can imagine it in Castiglione’s voice, you know it’s genuine.

He hasn’t batted a thousand on hires, but he’s come reasonably close, and every time there’s a new one, what that new person might do for the crimson and cream just plain excites him. It’s probably not the reason he’s been so good at what he does, but it’s added value, at least.

Through that prism, here we are with a new hoops coach, who’s resume’s a bit of a Rorschach test.

As OU is and should be boasting, Moser’s last four seasons at Loyola, he’s gone 99-36, reached two Sweet 16s and a Final Four.

Another number Sooner fans might want to put stock in, he’s gone 56-16 in Missouri Valley Conference games those same four seasons. In that league, his program’s been dominant.

It’s a great record.

So great, it’s enough to forget everything Moser did prior to those four seasons. But Moser’s been coaching a long time.

The rest of his head coaching career includes six other seasons at Loyola, four seasons at Illinois State and three seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock. In those 13 seasons, he went 89-104 and 33-53 in three different conferences.

What’s to make of that?

Well, something happened between Moser’s being fired after four losing seasons at Illinois State in 2007 and figuring things out in time for the 2017-18 season at Loyola.

That season was not just his Final Four season but the first one a team of his posted a winning conference mark since 2002-03, when UALR went 8-6 in the SunBelt.

Did he have a personal metamorphosis? Did his energy change, changing the energy of everything around him, making everything around him greater than the sum of its parts?

Did one player change everything, the way everything changed for the OU women way back when, when Stacey Dales finally got on the same court with with Phylehsa Whaley and coach Sherri Coale’s Sooners were really good for most of the next 20 years.

Did something just click via a sudden epiphany that led to other epiphanies and, though Moser may wished them to have happened sooner, they happened when they happened and he’s that coach now?

Given how everybody seems to think OU hit a home run with the hire, it must something.

“The coaches, infrastructure and community are all championship caliber,” Moser was quoted in the same university release that captured Castiglione’s enthusiasm. “You just want to be a part of that.”

You’ve got to hand it to him.

He won moderately at Little Rock and made it a stepping stone to Illinois State where he failed (and Tim Jankovic, who replaced him, succeeded).

He was humbled.

He went back to assistant coaching, for Rick Majerus at St. Louis. The Billikens weren’t great, but they won (and the season after Moser departed, Majerus’ last, they lost).

Four years ago, already having led the Rattlers for quite a while, he found lighting in a bottle and kept it burning

How’d he do it?

Is it repeatable?

Great questions.

When he’s introduced later this week, maybe he’ll tell us.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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