The perils of a very successful college coaching staff

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When coach Porter Moser leads Loyola into the Missouri Valley Conference this November, he will do so with three new assistant coaches.

Is the exodus of three assistants an ideal situation? No. The Ramblers would have preferred to have a little more stability with the coaching staff heading from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley.

But this is the life of a mid-major coaching staff — IF the head coach is hiring the right people and grooming them properly as coaches. That’s exactly what Moser has done, which has led to the departure of Rick Malnati, Jason Gardner and Armon Gates.

These coaching moves can actually be viewed as a positive. The other alternative is having a staff working for you that no head coach wants or has their eye on. But coaches in high-major conferences see prepared, thorough, organized and well-rounded assistants under Moser.

It also says something about a mid-major program when assistant coaches are being courted by high majors, top 25 programs and the Big Ten Conference. It’s a reflection of the job Moser has done in filling out his staff.

It shows Loyola basketball is heading in the right direction in the building process. Loyola improved from a 7-23 record two years ago to a 15-16 mark this past season, which included seven one-possession losses with some young talent on the floor.

Fortunately for Moser, his track record of hiring quality assistants is rock solid.

Talking with Moser earlier this week, following the moves of Gates to Northwestern and Gardner to Memphis, it was clearly evident how happy he was for all of his coaches. Moser will go to bat for and support his coaches if good, solid opportunities arise.

“They are all great coaches who all had great opportunities presented to them,” says Moser. “I want all my coaches to succeed, to have good situations for them and their families.”

College basketball programs are always in search of top players. But head coaches are also in search of quality assistants.

What should and will attract assistant coaches to Loyola is plentiful: new basketball facilities, a move to the Missouri Valley Conference, solid academics to sell to recruits, a Chicago address. But what should also stand out is the fact Moser has churned out his share of top-notch assistants over the years as a head coach at Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola.

After working with Moser at Illinois State, Chris Jans is a rising assistant and now the associate head coach at Wichita State, a program fresh off a Final Four.

Steve Shields was Moser’s top assistant before becoming the head coach at Arkansas-Little Rock, where he has spent the last 10 years. Shields is the all-time winningest coach in UALR history.

As the associate head coach for the late Rick Majerus at Saint Louis, Moser was largely responsible for the hiring of the assistants. While there, Moser had the vision and plucked Chris Harriman out of the Division II ranks and he’s swiftly moved up the coaching ranks since, now as one of Tim Miles’ top assistants at Nebraska.

Now Gates, an assistant who was on the fast-track and in the mix for several high-major jobs this spring, is heading to the Big Ten as an assistant for Chris Collins after being groomed under Moser for the past two years.

Moser took an inexperienced Gardner — the former University of Arizona All-American was a high school basketball assistant coach before Moser added Gardner to his staff — and prepped him for his next step as a coach. Now Gardner joins Josh Pastner’s staff at Memphis, a program that has averaged 27 wins the past three years and made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

As any prepared head coach does, Moser has a plan going forward. It’s expected that Daniyal Robinson, a polished, high-level assistant with experience, will join the Loyola staff officially very soon. Robinson worked with Moser at Illinois State, so there will be familiarity and a comfort level. The Rock Island native has been at Houston the past three years and was at Iowa State for two seasons.

Also, look for Moser to officially promote current Director of Basketball Operations Matt Gordon to assistant coach. Gordon is a Chicago native, a graduate of St. Rita and has spent nine years working under Moser in different capacities.

That will leave Moser with one of the three assistant coaching positions still to fill. With the track record Moser has had, it should be a coveted spot among college assistants.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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