Here is the setup: The ultimate little guy, Gonzaga, with a coach who was never lured away by the big boys, is about to win college basketball’s national championship. Meanwhile, the big boys — Duke, Kentucky and others — failed this year.
And the narrative was about how their advantages have been taken away in modern times. It almost made me want to shed a tear for the poor, disadvantaged powerful rich people in college basketball.
Anyway, now the North Carolina head coaching job is suddenly available. It is among the top five most prestigious jobs in the sport, maybe even No. 1. And another of the ultimate little guys, Porter Moser of Loyola Chicago, is the obvious candidate for any coaching job anywhere.
So will Porter Moser actually leave Loyola? Has the college basketball world really changed the way everyone has been saying, or have the media just been full of BS? Or both?
I think Moser is going to leave Chicago. Oklahoma is reportedly talking with him. His name is already showing up on those most-likely lists to replace North Carolina legend Roy Williams, who resigned Thursday. What makes me think Moser will leave?
Oh, I don’t know. The history of sports, maybe. The history of the world in general? Money talks. Facilities talk. Tradition talks. And when you compete for a living, you’re dying to see how you’d do with the advantages on your side.
The coach of North Carolina can walk into the living room of any McDonald’s All-American and look him eye-to-eye without begging. But can the coach of Loyola?
Well, can the coach of Gonzaga? Because Mark Few seems to be doing just fine running the only college team in the nation to have gotten to the Sweet 16 in the past six NCAA Tournaments. Not to mention that his team is No. 1 now, undefeated, and about to become part of the GOAT discussion of college basketball.
Loyola got to the Final Four a few years ago under Moser and got back to the Sweet 16 this year, beating No. 1 seed Illinois. There is no reason that Loyola can’t become Gonzaga.
Meanwhile, no one wants to snub a legendary coach as he walks out the door, but North Carolina was slipping the past few years under Williams.
So this is the test of whether anyone believes that anything has actually, truly changed. What we heard all year, as Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari kept losing games, was that it doesn’t pay to be a rich guy anymore.
The elite high school kids can play overseas or start making money in the NBA’s developmental league. Meanwhile, the NBA is about to drop its rule that high school kids have to wait a year before going pro.
It was a BS rule all along, telling 18-year-old men that they can’t start their careers yet because the NBA didn’t want to pay them while they sat on the bench and developed. The NBA wanted college basketball coaches to develop the players for them. Meanwhile, those players could also become well-marketed with a run through the NCAA Tournament.
So the idea of the one-and-done was born, and the best high school kids would go play college for one year. Now, those colleges relying on one-and-dones might be in trouble.
So the model is about to change.
Really? It is?
Take my own very small example. I am the coach of a small college tennis team, Roosevelt University in Chicago. A national college tennis coaching survey last year had to be stopped and re-worded because I was the only one answering that I was the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams and didn’t have an assistant coach. That threw off the survey when my next question was how much my assistants are paid. My competition has more scholarship money for recruits, separate funds for international students, and well, let’s just say as a competitor, you don’t want to have both hands tied behind your back.
Moser is paid $1 million a year at Loyola. North Carolina would give him more than that in multiples. All the money and resources he wants would be available to him.
Sure, he’d be expected to start winning big by his second year, or else. And at Loyola, his job is probably already safe for 20 years.
But if you noticed, Loyola lost to Oregon State despite its incredibly scrappy, well-coached defense. It just didn’t have anyone who could shoot that day. At North Carolina, you can find shooters.
This is a defining moment for college basketball. I think Moser is going to leave and show that things haven’t changed as much as it looks. Loyola and Chicago will be sad to see him go. But here’s a warning for North Carolina: Don’t even think about trying to get Sister Jean.
You can’t have her.