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Guerin Emig: Porter Moser arrives as OU basketball coach with promise, momentum, virtue and some risk
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Guerin Emig: Porter Moser arrives as OU basketball coach with promise, momentum, virtue and some risk

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040421-tul-spt-emigcolumn Moser

New Oklahoma coach Porter Moser has also coached at Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola. He did well at UALR and became a national hit at Loyola. 

Columnist Guerin Emig and OU writer Eric Bailey break down the hiring of OU's new basketball coach. 

Odds favor Porter Moser working out just fine as Oklahoma head basketball coach.

“Really good coach. Great person. Humble family man,” a Big 12 Conference coach texted me as Moser’s candidacy gained steam the past 24 hours. “Works hard and with integrity.”

“I’ve known Porter Moser 15 years,” a coach who will be on the bench at the Final Four texted me. “HELLUVA ball coach. No one in the Big 12 will want to play offense against that guy.”

And this from a prominent OU athletics source: Joe Castiglione was hiring good but also clean. The OU athletic director loved that he could trust Lon Kruger to not only produce, but do it free of NCAA trouble encountered by predecessors Jeff Capel and Kelvin Sampson.

Castiglione wouldn’t have hired Moser if he wasn’t squeaky. In that sense, it appears the Sooners are getting a 52-year-old version of Kruger. They should be ecstatic about that.

They will anticipate Moser doing at OU what he did in becoming a mid-major darling by coaching Loyola-Chicago to the 2018 Final Four and then to this month’s Sweet Sixteen.

Here is where risk enters the picture.

Castiglione hired a coach with momentum and reputation on his side. He did not, however, hire a sure thing.

That was Kruger 10 years ago. Castiglione needed someone he could trust to both rebuild OU’s sagging program and spruce up the Sooners’ image. Kruger had a 25-year track record of accomplishing both tasks at multiple high-profile programs.

Moser has coached at Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola. He did well at UALR and became a national hit at Loyola. He was fired after a four-year run at Illinois State.

The percentages look good. Moser has won 293 college games and is 52 games over .500.

The question: Will those percentages translate at Moser’s first high-major job?

Loyola got a lot of March Madness attention because of guard Clayton Custer, big man Cameron Krutwig and superfan Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.

Moser was the one pulling the magic strings, though. He was doing so on the strength of a defense that was as oppressive as Sister Jean was adorable.

Can Moser smother Big 12 offenses like he did Missouri Valley ones? Loyola blanketed Kansas State to reach the ’18 Final Four. The Ramblers bottled up Illinois to make the recent Sweet Sixteen. That’s encouraging.

Now Moser must show us more where that came from night after night in the unforgiving Big 12, where the players are swift and the coaches are either in the Hall of Fame (Bill Self) or should be in the Hall of Fame (Bob Huggins), are in the Final Four (Scott Drew) or have been in the Final Four (Chris Beard).

I don’t sweat recruiting. Moser is more likely to sign fits than stars, same as he did at Loyola. Kruger is proof that formula works fine at OU.

It doesn’t bother me that Moser is more Chicago than Tulsa, OKC, KC or Dallas. If he agreed to come to OU a couple years after turning down St. John’s, turning down Madison Square Garden for goodness sake, he really wanted this job.

He’ll run red dirt into his hands and get right to work.

Castiglione will no doubt vouch for that at the introductory press conference. He’ll make it clear Moser was his choice from the start.

He won’t say he could have pursued coaches like Mark Turgeon at Maryland, Dana Altman at Oregon or Frank Martin at South Carolina. Coaches who have put in time in high-major places, some of them at Big 12 schools. Castiglione could have pursued on-the-market John Beilein, equal in Kruger’s age and demeanor.

These would have been safer plays.

Safer and duller.

Moser arrives with the spark of Sister Jean, Custer and Krutwig and Loyola’s recent March takeovers. He arrives with promise.

Now comes the tricky part — delivering on that.

Photos: A look at Porter Moser’s career so far

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Sports Columnist

I'm the proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the OU Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.

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