Porter Moser might be the most popular man in Chicago right now, just as Sister Jean is the most popular woman in the world.
Loyola’s run to the Final Four has pretty much blown everybody’s mind. And the collateral interest in everything from Cameron Krutwig’s weight loss to a 98-year-old nun’s constant smile to how a wolf mascot somehow replaced the school’s former hobo mascot — “Bo, a Ramblin’ Sort of Guy” — is manifest.
Moser is the coach of this 32-5 variety show, and it’s not unreasonable to wonder about his future.
When a team like Loyola, from the middling Missouri Valley Conference, beats three big-time teams ranked higher than it and now faces Michigan for a chance at the NCAA title game, well, basketball folks get mighty interested in the rising coach.
The pattern has been set for years. A good young coach shines in the postseason, a bigger school with a vacancy sees this, offers the young coach a lot more money and prestige and — boom! — the coach is gone and the job carousel spins.
It’s not clear what big-school jobs might open up. Pittsburgh was available until it hired Jeff Capel from Duke on Tuesday. Later, it was learned Louisville had hired Chris Mack from Xavier.
Moreover, an FBI report is coming that might wreak havoc on many programs. Once coaches start moving around, new jobs will pop up like a reverse Whac-A-Mole. Riches and fame are out there for overachieving coaches like Moser. But so are bad choices and career derailment.
Brad Stevens coached mid-level Butler into the big-time a few years ago and then took the NBA money and glitz and moved to the Celtics. His six-year, $22 million deal pretty much put a cork in the college bottle. And it has worked out well for Stevens.
But ask fired Pitt coach Kevin Stallings how his supposed upward move from Vanderbilt to the Panthers worked out. I’ll tell you how. His team went 0-18 in the ACC this season, and after two years, Stallings finished with the worst career winning percentage in school history.
On the other side, at the zenith, you have 71-year-old Mike Krzyzewski, who just finished his 38th season as the coach of Duke. Coach K has won 1,027 games at Duke, makes somewhere around $10 million a year and has a tower office that is reached by an elevator that requires a registered thumbprint to be read by a laser light for entry.
Do you stay, or do you go?
Obviously, if young coaches didn’t move out and up, nothing would ever change at any school. Indeed, the assistants on the bench next to the head coach are always on the alert, too.
I remember spending time with the football coaching staff at Arizona a few years ago, chuckling at the board the assistants kept on their locker-room wall. It had a list of every Division-I school and the coaching possibilities under headings such as “Going Nowhere,” “Possible” and “Rent Don’t Buy.”
Loyola athletic director Steve Watson knows what’s up. The more the Ramblers win, the more Moser shines. Money dangles.
“That’s part of the business,” Watson said shortly after Loyola beat Kansas State to advance to the Final Four.
So are obvious questions.
Could Moser handle the egos of one-and-dones, so common at ruthless schools? His team now isn’t filled with NBA wannabes or selfish players, but with share-the-ball teammates. Why, even once-academically proud Duke goes heavily after one-and-dones these days. Those are the great talents, such as 6-11 Marvin Bagley III, who have no interest in college except as steppingstones to fame and wealth. Kind of like some coaches, when you think about it.
Moser isn’t exactly a kid — he’s 49 — but he could stay at Loyola and become a legend, establish a hoops legacy, get that statue on the lake.
He possibly could be what Mark Few is to Gonzaga. Few, 55, has been at the smallish school, the only place he has ever coached, since 1999, when he looked like an incoming freshman. Now he has a 535-118 record and looks about 40.
Northwestern seems to be doing the young-coach-as-icon thing by signing basketball coach Chris Collins and football coach Pat Fitzgerald (both 43) to long-term deals.
Could Moser do that at Loyola?
The big money will never be there. A Jesuit school can’t play that bidding-war stuff. But sanity, security and success could be.
As if Moser doesn’t have enough to think about right now.