After two Sweet 16 runs in the last three NCAA Tournaments, Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser was already a hot name for numerous head coach vacancies including Indiana.
Now that his Ramblers have bowed out of the event following a 65-58 loss to Oregon State, it is more than Moser’s name that is hot — his phone is no doubt blowing up.
One person expected to be checking in with Moser is Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson, who is now two weeks into a search for a replacement for Archie Miller. If Moser is Dolson’s guy, the IU AD likely caught a break late last week when Texas head coach Shaka Smart took the open position at Marquette, a spot many believed was tailor-made for Moser.
But while there has been plenty of noise surrounding Moser since Loyola stunned No. 1 seed Illinois in convincing fashion a week ago, the 52 year old coach says he had done his best to block it all out while he prepared his team for the Sweet 16. After the loss to Oregon State, Moser wasn’t ready to talk about his next move. Instead, he simply wanted to mentally process what has been a magical four year run on Chicago’s north side.
“I need to digest this (the season ending loss),” Moser said during his post-game press conference on Saturday. “I’ve had blinders on. I’ve given 110 percent of Porter Moser to this Rambler team. I’ve blocked out the noise. I know a lot of things were swirling outside around me. I can’t help or control that. The only thing that I was focused on was giving 110 percent of my preparation, my energy, my love to these players through this time. Now I just need to sit back and digest it for a second.”
The appeal to Dolson and Indiana is obvious.
Playing just a few minutes south of the Big Ten’s Northwestern and a couple hours north of Illinois, Loyola has stolen all of the headlines from their well funded in state high major neighbors.
All Moser has done is claim three Missouri Valley Conference titles and one second place finish over the last four seasons while compiling a 99-36 overall record (.733). Evoking memories of Brad Stevens and Butler, Loyola reached the Final Four in 2018 and the Sweet 16 this year.
But Moser skeptics will point to how Loyola’s season ended on Saturday as an eerily familiar red flag.
The Ramblers suffered a ten minute drought without a field goal, and saved their worst offensive game of the season for last, shooting 33.3 percent from the field and going 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Although Loyola is No. 41 in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency this year, that is Moser’s best effort in 17 years as a head coach. Only two other times have his teams finished in the top-100. Indiana fans will no doubt cringe at the idea of hiring another mid-major coach who is known for his defense while having offensive shortcomings, and Moser’s profile doesn’t seem to fit the description of the kind of cutting edge coach Dolson said he was looking for.
If IU hires Moser, they might want to bring an offensive coordinator along with him.
Interestingly enough, former Indiana point guard Michael Lewis was once hired by Moser at Loyola. He never made it to Chicago, instead electing to join Stevens at Butler in 2011.
Lewis has a burgeoning reputation on the offensive end and is widely credited for helping another defensive minded head coach, UCLA’s Mick Cronin, orchestrate his best offense this year. Cronin and Lewis have guided the Bruins to the No. 12 most efficient offense according to KenPom.
With top names like Stevens and Alabama’s Nate Oats seemingly off the board, Moser is someone who Dolson is almost certain to evaluate carefully.
Moser seems like a logical choice to make a move somewhere and take a big pay raise. And he certainly did not shut down that possibility in his post-game comments. But at least as of yesterday, he wasn’t ready to think beyond his Loyola squad.
“This one stings. All of my thoughts are with these guys and this program,” Moser said. “No, I haven’t (thought about it). I just need to take a breath with these guys. It’s very, very tough when you build a relationship with these guys and you see the season end. … It’s fresh off a loss, and I’m going to digest it with these guys.”
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