Porter Moser’s overlooked coaching strength: recruiting

SHARE Porter Moser’s overlooked coaching strength: recruiting

Loyola’s Porter Moser talks to Lucas Williamson (1) at the Final Four. AP Photo/Eric Gay.

Everyone learned a whole lot about the Loyola basketball coach during the program’s epic run to this year’s Final Four.

Each step of the way, as the Ramblers entered the national spotlight and became a media darling, Porter Moser’s name became more familiar, both locally and nationally. Along with it, Moser’s coaching trajectory shot through the roof as it always seems to do when a team rolls through the NCAA Tournament as Cinderella.

Basketball fans and aficionados watched as Loyola impressed in winning four games in March on the sport’s biggest stage.

They saw the precision, patience and execution on offense with screening and passing. They witnessed the obvious teamwork and chemistry. They saw a team defense with defensive principles that negated more “talented” and “athletic” teams.

They listened to Moser’s program manta and use of inspirational quotes and watched as a team reached the Final Four with no NBA talent. Along with that people witnessed a love affair between player and coach.

They were able to get to know Moser on a more personal level, something that’s quite easy to do with an articulate coach full of personality and real, down-to-earth excitement in his voice. Throw a camera crew in front of him and … poof!

But one great strength all those fans, TV analysts and newspaper reporters didn’t see during those three pulsating weeks in March was Moser’s recruiting prowess.

When it comes to head coaches and recruiting, there are few like Moser. And everyone knows a huge part of being a successful college coach is recruiting.

Sure, the engaging personality goes a long way in recruiting. Moser communicates well and connects with the “basketball people,” a necessary trait for any top-notch recruiter.

Plus, it helps that Moser is so comfortable and familiar with the Chicago area. He’s built a network of relationships that he’s utilized, both from his days growing up in the Chicago area to recruiting the area and the entire state as an assistant coach and head coach. Moser has forged relationships for decades that pay dividends now.

This is a big reason why the program is littered with in-state prep prospects, including the sometimes tough-to-tap-into Chicago Public League.

Moser landed Marshall star Milton Doyle several years back and added Donte Ingram out of Simeon and Lucas Williamson from Whitney Young. He’s hit the suburbs with current Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year Cameron Krutwig of Jacobs and Christian Negron of Larkin.

There is also the fact that Moser has become so in-tune with what he’s looking for in the process of evaluating and recruiting players. He focused on winners with character who would help the culture he was building and who also happen to fit the system and style he wanted to play.

Oh, many coaches say those exact words repeatedly –– from the introductory press conference when they’re hired to the signing day press conferences announcing a recruiting class to the preseason media sessions at the start of each year. But many don’t follow it up or back it up.

However, the real difference is the hands-on approach Moser takes in all things recruiting.

“He’s relentless,” says former Moser assistant coach Daniyal Robinson, who is now an assistant at Iowa State.

Every head coach hits the evaluation trail during the live periods in April and July. There are other times coaches get out to evaluate as well, whether it be open gyms or during the season to catch a player with his high school team.

But over the last 20-plus years of the City/Suburban Hoops Report recruiting service, there have been two coaches I’ve personally seen out more than any other when it comes to recruiting the state of Illinois: Bruce Weber, when he was the head coach at Illinois, and Porter Moser.

Moser grinds and works on the recruiting trail as assistant coaches are expected to do.

In the middle of the season he rides shotgun in the car, watching film, while an assistant coach drives the two of them on a seven hour round-trip to see a prospect in Michigan.

With Northern Iowa coming to town on a Sunday in late January, Moser spent six hours in a gym at a high school shootout on Saturday, with yours truly, taking in three different high school games.

As we sat and talked and broke down so much basketball while watching those three games together, you appreciated the work he was getting done while doing so. He was not only evaluating players on that day but enhancing already established relationships, meeting and greeting, being jovial and an everyday guy with coaches and basketball people in attendance.

It’s an easy step –– getting people to talk positively about you and your program because of the effort you put in as a coach  –– many head coaches fail at.

Tireless and relentless are the words to describe Moser’s approach. He impresses in the living room and in the office with families and recruits. His homework is done before he offers, because he invests so much of his own time.

“He has the ability to shift gears from the day-to-day grind of a head coach during the season with all the responsibilities that come with it and then is able get into recruiting mode,” says Robinson, who worked under Moser for several years at Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola. “He’s a recruiter at heart. He has a youthfulness about him, and he’s a coach who still gets excited about the recruiting process.”

Can Moser over-analyze a prospect at times? Sure. I can attest to that by some of our phone conversations over the years, where I will even joke with him about it. But that’s part of why the Loyola basketball program is in the position it’s in right now.

“One of the things he taught me was to surround the recruit and that information was power,” says Gates, who worked for Moser at Loyola and is now an assistant coach at Florida. “He would personally talk to as many people as he could about the player.”

Assistant coaches are sometimes saddled with a boss who just doesn’t get after it on the recruiting front. They are slow to follow up with phone calls to recruits, they don’t make the necessary contacts in a timely fashion or dawdle to get out and evaluate a prospect.

There are head coaches out there who simply don’t like to recruit. As a result, if often

puts a lot more pressure on the assistants.

“He made your job easier as an assistant in finding kids and throughout the recruiting process,” says Gates. “But you had to be on your A game because you know he was as he was also flipping every stone to find a player or to find out more about a player.”

The other positive is knowing Moser’s ability to land talent and recruit with integrity and landing players at no cost to his soul.

“He can close,” adds Robinson. “If you can get the kid right there, get him in front of the family on a home visit or on campus, Porter has that ability to close.”

The scary part right now is this: What Moser will do now, going forward in recruiting, with all this built-up ammunition and capital?

He has added a record-breaking 32-win season, Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships and a magical Final Four run to his recruiting sales pitch. Plus, he can take advantage of the name brand that’s been generated as a result of all the media exposure and notoriety that came in the past couple of months.

Moser can then dangle a sparkling new $18 million practice facility that breaks ground this spring, a beautiful campus that’s been upgraded over the years, obvious job security and a sudden interest in all things Loyola.

The April evaluation period for college coaches began this past weekend. But it’s just another recruiting cycle for Moser –– only now he has a brand that’s red-hot.

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