NCAA Tournament: Miami’s Charlie Moore is on the move again. Next stop, New Orleans?
An Elite Eight matchup with mighty Kansas for a spot in the Final Four? Who would’ve believed it?
Overheard at the United Center this weekend: one media member impressing a few others with a real “whoa”-getter of a fact. And that fact is that Miami guard Charlie Moore, who is rather famously at his fourth college — California, Kansas and DePaul coming before this final stop — was actually a grade ahead of Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu at Morgan Park High School.
I didn’t bother to point out the ever-so-slight flaw in that fact, which is that it isn’t a fact at all. Moore, 24, was two years ahead of Dosunmu.
How about that?
“Suitcase Charlie,” as the irrepressible Rick Telander once called him, started every game for Cal in the 2016-17 season but left there after coach Cuonzo Martin took off for Missouri. The two years at Kansas — the first of which Moore had to sit out after transferring — were OK enough, but Moore decided to come home and be closer to family. His father, Curtis, suffered a massive stroke in 2015 and has been in a wheelchair since.
It was Curtis who encouraged Moore, two years in at DePaul — and with one more season of eligibility at his disposal as a result of the pandemic — to try something new. Coach Dave Leitao had been fired. Why not? Just do it, Charlie. Live your life.
“My dad wanted me to be happy,” Moore said.
Who could have imagined it would lead him back to Chicago and Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup with mighty Kansas for a spot in the Final Four?
“It’s been a unique experience with me,” Moore said. “But going through what I went through, going from college to college, I’ve learned a lot. I don’t regret anything. It made me who I am today as a person, and I’m pretty happy with who I am. But to end it in Miami, with these guys, our coaching staff, the Miami family, it’s been a blessing.”
Miami had recruited Moore out of high school but didn’t get him. Moore signed with Memphis, which didn’t get him, either. Oh, well. Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga still had Moore’s number plugged into his phone. And when former DePaul assistant coach Bill Courtney, now with Miami, saw Moore’s name in the transfer portal last year and let his boss know, all it took was a text message to get the conversation off the ground.
Belatedly, Larrañaga and Moore have struck up the kind of relationship that might have kept Moore’s suitcase in a shadowy corner of a closet had he gone to Miami in the first place. Maybe? But there’s no sense speculating along those lines now. For Moore, a sixth season — capped by a 10th-seeded Cinderella run — has been found money.
“I will appreciate him for the rest of my life,” Moore said of his coach.
Back in November, Larrañaga called Moore into his office. They talked about the ACC, which, it turns out, is the surprise league of this NCAA Tournament, having put three teams into the Elite Eight despite a regular season when it was considered far less than its usual self. Larrañaga wanted Moore to walk away from that discussion understanding something important:
“Charlie, I want you to understand that I know this league backwards and forwards,” Larrañaga told him, “and I truly believe you’re the best point guard in this league. And you need to believe that. You need to understand that you’re as good as — or better than — anybody at any other school.”
That went for the point guards at ACC schools with much higher-profile programs. And as far as Larrañaga sees it now, it goes for Auburn, the No. 2 seed Miami upset in the Round of 32, or Kansas or any other foe the Hurricanes will run up against if they just keep winning.
“With most of my players, it takes a while for them to kind of adopt our system,” Larrañaga said. “It took Charlie no time at all. And that’s what makes him so special, that he was able to just embrace every challenge that he faced. …
“Charlie has been able to quarterback our team on offense and make every one of those [teammates] embrace him. They love him. And then at the defensive end of the floor, which has really been the catalyst for our success, Charlie has been the leader there, too. He has done an amazing job.”