SAN ANTONIO – The eight of them gathered in the spacious suite of the Porter Moser in the Westin on Wednesday evening. This motley team of coaches included middle-aged men you might never have heard of: John Gallagher from Hartford, Mike Martin from Brown, Chris Harriman from New Mexico, Dave Pauley from the University of Sciences from Philly.
A clan of coaching eccentrics from across the country, none of whom have found mainstream success, college basketball and the month of March sometimes for the happier, but not always more deserving. Until two weeks ago, Moser was like her.
In most cases he is still.
"He's in the Final Four, his pictures are here on the wall … and a year ago he tried to win in the (Missouri Valley Conference)," said Gallagher. "Did that happen?"
The friends exchanged ancient stories as they drank beer and chewed on wings and squid. At some point the time had come for a toast. With glasses Loyola Chicago team in the middle of an all-time timer of an NCAA tournament run glasses should be raised. Moser ̵
"To David Patrick for getting his first coaching job," he said.
Steve Shields, an assistant at Southern Miss that Moser has known for almost 30 years, was not surprised by Moser's words for Patrick, who had just made his appearance at UC Riverside earlier this month. Nobody else in the room was too. As always, Moser refused to do it to himself.
"Distracting from his luminous moment," Shields said.
Up to this point, Loyola-Chicago is an amazing story, but not a unique story. Moser's way to the Final Four is, however. We saw seeded Cinderella teams 11. make it so deep into the NCAAs before (see: George Mason and VCU). Moser, however, has done the unprecedented. Never before had a coach left until he had played his first NCAA tournament (14 seasons), making the Final Four on his first trip to Big Dance.
"When the nation hit him, we saw him at the age of 18," said Todd Eisner, Winona State Coach and Moser's college friend. "Outgoing, enthusiastic, passionate, he always played with an edge, but always felt like he belonged, this weekend is the fruit of all those days, months, years of work."
Reasons to Believe
Talk to those who know Moser best, and they'll swear he deserves that glory. Talk to those who barely know him, and they could say the same. People like John Giannini ( La Salle), Wes Flanigan (Little Rock) and Scott Cross (UT Arlington): All three were fired this month, two of them within the last week. Moser took the time to get her numbers from other people, call her and talk to them for 15, 20, even 30 minutes (and there could be more), just to send encouragement and assure them things can change for the better.
"This is Porter Moser, it's always about someone else," said Gallagher.
Moser knows it. He was there.
In 2007, he was forced into Illinois state after four odd years. He went there 51-67 and never finished better than the sixth in the Missouri Valley. It was a 180's from Moser's time in Little Rock, when he was hired in 2000 at the age of 29 – making him the youngest head coach in Division I – and three successful seasons (without NCAA tournament) brought in the ISU job , The ISU embarrassment hurt him so much that a sports director of the MAAC even interviewed him.