NORMAN — Porter Moser exuded energy during his introductory news conference as Oklahoma’s basketball coach.
Moser squared up each question asked by reporters and answered with passion. He discussed the highlights of his coaching career (including 10 successful seasons with Loyola-Chicago) and the lowlights (remembering a four-year stint at Illinois State which ended with his firing).
Moser barely came up for air during his 40-minute session Wednesday at mid-court of the Lloyd Noble Center.
Afterward, one question came to mind: Is the 52-year-old coach always this energetic?
“He is like that all the time,” his wife, Megan Moser, said. “He motivates our family and gets us all in a good frame of mind for the day. What you saw there is what he’s like all the time around my household.”
Moser’s family, including their four children, Jordan, Jake, Max and Ben, was seated in the front row of a socially distanced news conference. They undoubtedly wore smiles behind their masks while watching their father.
Chicago has been home for Moser. He was born there. During a brief meeting with reporters after the formal news conference, he asked where he could find good pizza in Norman.
Something special would have to yank him from the Windy City. Enter OU director of athletics Joe Castiglione.
“Talking to Joe, and seeing the servant leader he is at Oklahoma and listening to his vision to what Oklahoma is about was everything I was looking for,” Moser said. “Building a culture takes time. Building a culture is at the utmost importance of how you do it.
“What drew me to Oklahoma is winning the right way and seeing the coaches, the outreach of the coaches. Everybody says the same thing. It’s a family atmosphere. To coach at the highest level in the Big 12 conference in a family atmosphere-driven university is what any coach, especially me, covets and looks forward to.”
Moser took time to thank former coach Lon Kruger, saying that he is what every young coach aspires to be. The Sooners went to seven out of the past eight NCAA Tournaments under Kruger’s watch.
Many think a transition year could be in line for Oklahoma, especially with a fractured roster. But with Moser, there will be no excuses.
“I’m not coming in here and using the word ‘rebuild.’ I want to use the word enhance. I want to enhance the brand. I want to enhance the Oklahoma basketball brand,” Moser said. “I want to enhance the traditions that have gone on here and add my energy and add my personal touch to what have been years and decades of excellence here.”
Relationships will be important. He alluded that he’s spoken with players via Zoom. He wants to get to know them and share his vision.
“You build a program through relationships to build your culture where they wanna be part of something bigger than themselves,” Moser said. “If there’s no relationship and no trust, sometimes they’re on their own. We want an atmosphere where everyone’s pulling for each other, and that takes time. So yes, there’s a lot of roster spots open. But I’m looking forward to building the ones there, been reaching out to the young student-athletes who have already committed here and building that relationship.”
One important relationship Moser had was with the late Rick Majerus. After being dismissed following four seasons at Illinois State, Majerus hired him to the Saint Louis staff.
“Sometimes when people go over my resume, they don’t want to say it or they say it with a little pause, about Illinois State. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned through my faith, through my journey, is you learn more through adversity than you do successes,” Moser said.
“I then went to Saint Louis to be with Rick Majerus, and there began another part of God’s plan and what I’ve learned. He was one of the best basketball minds I’ve ever been around. To sit in a board room and watch his mind twist, turn and pivot and talk about game-planning... The attention to detail and how he did skill development... The things he stood for... How he treated my family, how he ran the program... I couldn’t have learned more.
“When Loyola came, he put his arm around me and said, ‘You have to go. That job is perfect for you. Go build a program.’ We lost him too early. If he was here, the last three weeks he would have put his arm around me and said, ‘You’ve got to go to Oklahoma. That’s a perfect fit for you, Porter.’ That’s what he would have said to me.”
Relationships were a cornerstone of Loyola’s success. He reached out to the student body in Chicago. He rented three buses so students could go to a road game. He said he’ll pass out hot dogs and visit fraternities and sororities to boost student involvement in the Lloyd Noble Center.
“That’s not a new idea, they’re just gonna get to know Porter Moser. And they’re gonna get to know how much it means to me to come in here and hear this thing filled up,” Moser said. “I had an unbelievable relationship with the student body at Loyola, and I’m looking so forward to having that same relationship here at Oklahoma.”
He’ll need to have a relationship with a committed, loyal staff to push through the transition.
There are reports that former Texas assistant coach K.T. Turner and Northwestern assistant Emanuel Dildy will join Moser’s staff. The OU coach could not confirm any names on Wednesday, but described the type of coaches he will hire.
“I want my assistant coaches to be in the mold of being a head coach someday, so I want them to be able to on-floor coach. I want them to be able to recruit. I want them to build relationships in the community,” Moser said. “I want them to be able to be in the budget meetings. I want them to be able to do my TV show if they want to do it and be in front of there. I’ll do it most of the time, I promise, but to be able to be a guest on it. I want that. I know where we’re at with that and we’re getting that. We’re getting that here so I want an extension of me, I want high-energy.”
Finally, another relationship will be a long-distance one with Sister Jean, the most famous Loyola basketball fan.
“With Sister Jean, like everybody else, she’s entering the transfer portal,” he said, drawing laughter. “She’s been a true friend of mine, a true friend of the program before she became a worldwide celebrity. I know this, she is one of the best people. She pours into those student-athletes. She pours into the coaches and we’ll be friends for life.
“As long as we don’t play the Ramblers, the OU Sooners have a 101-year-old nun going to be praying for us.”