Chicago Colleges: Howard Moore
But Moore admitted with him being a Chicago White Sox fan, it was a slightly bigger deal to throw the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field prior to the White Sox’s game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
“I’ve always rooted for the Cubs,” said Moore, who will enter his third season at UIC. “I don’t hate the Cubs, but I’m just a little bit more favored toward the Sox.
“You grow up in the city; you’re like, ‘How often do you have an opportunity to do both ballparks in one week?’ It’s great. I love it being a Chicagoan, growing up loving both and kind of growing toward the Sox as I got older. It’s a great thing.”
What got Moore to lean toward the White Sox as a youngster was an incentive by the Chicago Public Schools.
“Growing up, the public schools always gave free tickets to kids with perfect attendance back in the 80s. As a kid, my carrot was to go to school to get perfect attendance every year, so I could get my White Sox tickets. That’s what sucked me in. When you talk about winning ugly season in ’83, I was hooked.”
Friday marked the second time Howard threw out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field. What made his first time especially memorable was meeting his childhood hero Harold Baines.
“He’s on my Mount Rushmore of sports heroes,” Moore said. “They had a surprise for me. They walked me right up to him and said, ‘Coach, we want you to say hello to Harold.’ I was 10 years old again. It was great.”
Former Thornton point guard Jay Parker has committed to UIC.
Parker, a 5-10 point guard, starred at Thornton and played this past season at Highland Community College in Freeport, Ill. He will be eligible to play next season at UIC as a sophomore.
Parker also considered Chicago State, Omaha-Nebraska and the University of Indianapolis. He averaged nine points and five assists for Highland this season.
“I chose UIC basically because of my relationship with coach Howard (Moore),” Parker said on Friday. “He was recruiting me since I was a sophomore in high school. I just know the type of person he is and what he’s trying to do with the program. It really opened my eyes to wanting to come there.”
Parker’s older brother Josh Parker was a senior guard at Dayton this season.
UIC now has four recruits in its Class of 2012.
Moore graduated from Taft in 1990, and his high school career was played when the state only had two classes. The IHSA expanded basketball to four classes during the 2007-08 season.
“I’m not a fan of four classes,” said Moore, who attended the state tournament on Friday and Saturday. “I just think it really takes away from the strength of the state. When you split everyone up and dissect the talent and make different classes play against one other, I just think it really dilutes what we got in our state. I think it takes away from some of the natural rivalries and matchups that you would historically see.”
Moore watched in the front row of Carver Arena as Peoria Central defeated North Chicago in the Class 3A state championship on Saturday afternoon. Despite its state title, Peoria Central will likely still be considered to rank behind Class 4A finalists Simeon and Proviso East.
Moore was disappointed Peoria Central wouldn’t have the opportunity to prove whether it was better than the two Class 4A teams. Peoria Central had won three previous state titles in the two-class system.
“I just think if you get back down to two classes, then it’s even more competitive,” Moore said. “It’s even more exciting to see these kids go at it and compete. Why not see Peoria Central play against Proviso East in matchup? That’s a great matchup. It’s too bad they had to go to two more classes.”
Despite disagreeing with the four-class system, Moore enjoyed being at the state tournament.
“I think it’s great down to be here,” Moore said. “I think it means a lot. It’s our state’s Final Four if you want to put in that nature. It means a lot to our kids, our programs, our schools. This is a great venue.”
The first was to gather as many talented transfers and junior college players and quickly jumpstart the Flames.
“We want to establish a winning program instead of having a winning team every so often,” said Moore prior to the first day of the 2011-2012 season.
Now, Moore and UIC are in Year 2 of that building project. And since Moore wasn’t hired until August of 2010, there wasn’t a whole lot of construction in Year 1. This season is where Moore looks to create his foundation.
With that, UIC fans will require rosters in hand at least early in the season. The Flames welcomed nine new players to this year’s squad, including seven freshmen from his 2011 recruiting class, one junior college player and one transfer from Toledo.
The goal with so many new faces was to bring in a higher level of talent, but also have a chance to teach them and watch them cultivate over the following years.
“What you’re trying to do allows you to change the mindset, plant the seeds on what you want to become as a program,” Moore said. “Them coming in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you don’t want to say brain-wash, but you really want to instill in them what you expect from your program on a daily basis. That’s the fun part of it. We went this direction instead of getting transfers or junior college players. We want four to five years to invest in the process and grow.”
As with investing money, the dividends for UIC may still be a few seasons away. A player like Toledo transfer Hayden Humes is expected to make an impact early, but it is likely going to take most of the newcomers some time.
“You always want to be successful going into a season,” Moore said. “The level of success may be different for us. We’re looking for improvement. Last season was the worst I’ve had as a player or a coach. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Last year was full of trials for Moore and his team, which went 7-24 overall and 2-16 in the Horizon League. With his late starting date, Moore always felt he was playing catch up with the season while also trying to learn the ropes as a first-time head coach.
“I had no idea about the dynamics of the program, trying to figure out what type of players I had, what to expect from the group,” Moore said. “Now, I have a better feeling for the guys. I feel a lot better where I am today than a year ago and have a better idea where the program is.”
Last season wasn’t without it successes. None was bigger than upsetting Illinois at the United Center. Moore was hopeful it was just the beginning for his team, but it was actually the end. The Flames went 2-17 the rest of the year.
“I think you’re excited about a win like that,” Moore said. “You got to make sure that’s not your championship. That’s what I told our guys. That’s Dec. 18. We have a long way to go. The team at the time wasn’t equipped for that type of success. We weren’t capable of learning that’s a great win, but it doesn’t make your season.”
While Moore had no control over his roster or his 2010 recruiting class, last year still hit him hard. With more time this offseason, he put it to use and sought to make himself a better coach.
Moore turned to Stan Van Gundy, Bo Ryan, Dick Bennett and other coaches for advice. He reviewed last season thoroughly. He made sure he and his assistants were on the same page. He gave a closer look at his current players and what he still needed to accomplish in recruiting. He tried to leave no stone unturned.
“You look at one of the greatest coaches in basketball, Coach K, [Duke] coach [Mike] Krzyzewski, and he’s still looking to improve as a coach,” Moore said. “All he’s done, all he’s accomplished in his program, and he’s still on a mission to see how he can be better. If Coach K can humble himself to say, ‘I don’t have all the answers,’ coach Howard Moore better be in the same mold.
“It was really a lot of evaluation on every level of the program, including myself in terms of what we need to do to better and improve every aspect of the program. I think we’re on the right page there and the right path is there.”
Illinois packs the United Center, slips UIC a cut of the gate, provides the Flames with some exposure, maybe lets them hang around for a bit and then ultimately delivers what the crowd came for -- a no-doubt-about-it Illini victory. Of the 13 times Illinois and UIC had met before Saturday, the Illini had won 12 of them.
On Saturday, UIC took charge of filling its own stocking, swiping the usual Illinois win in one of the bigger victories in Flames history -- a 57-54 win over No. 14 Illinois at the United Center.
Of the 13,117 fans who reportedly attended Saturday's game, the Flames were lucky if 10 percent belonged to them, despite their campus being a few bus stops away. None of it mattered to UIC's players, though.
"Midway through the second half, I finally took a look at the crowd, and I saw the second tier was orange and the third tier was orange. When they scored, obviously, the Illinois fans were loud. When we scored, it was kind of quiet. But we've been there before, we've played in some tough games, and I thought we fought through it really good today."
UIC defeating Illinois would be a big deal in any given season. The Illini are supposed to be the better team. Their coaches are paid more. Their recruits have more star power. Their players have more skill. They play in a better conference.
That was the case back in 1990, when UIC pulled off its other win. The Flames' 71-60 upset over the Illini in Champaign was a major achievement for the program then. But it'll probably be nothing like Saturday's win for UIC when history is revisited.
Saturday's victory may be the defining moment that makes the Flames relevant in the college basketball world again. If UIC is dancing in the NCAA tournament a few years from now, it likely will have something to do with Saturday.
The hiring of former Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore put a buzz around UIC's program. Everyone agreed Moore was a smart hire. He had recruited with success in the Chicago area. He had put in his time as an assistant and had learned from a variety of successful head coaches. The cherry on top was Moore's roots were Chicago-based. He was a born-and-bred Chicago player and coach. Everything fit.
Moore quickly built a solid recruiting class and got people optimistic about UIC. But like it does everywhere, the initial buzz began to die down for Moore as the season began. The talk became less about what UIC will do in the future and more about its current status. With the Flames starting off the season 4-7, there weren't many positives to discuss.
Saturday changed that.
If UIC had won at Pittsburgh to start the season, it would have meant less than defeating Illinois at the United Center.
By beating the home state power, one thought to be a Big Ten championship contender and an Elite 8 team (which may have been altered as well Saturday, but that's another story), on the Big Ten Network, before a massive Chicago crowd and with dozens of media outlets in attendance, Moore and UIC placed a major piece into their rebuilding puzzle.
Instantly, Moore earned additional credibility when it comes to recruiting. If "We just beat highly ranked Illinois," isn't the first sentence out of Moore's mouth in the coming weeks when talking to recruits, it will likely be the second. And with the Illini possessing a full cupboard of talented recruits coming in, some of Chicago's top players will be looking at places other than Champaign, and now UIC could be a legitimate option for them. The Flames could be a perfect place for a rising star like Hales Franciscan junior guard Aaric Armstead or Simeon sophomore guard Kendrick Nunn.
Moore understood immediately what the win could mean to his program.
"I think it's a tremendous deal," Moore said. "I think it could really give our program a shot in the arm in recruiting, obviously some exposure. My last few press conferences, I got to be honest with you, I haven't seen so many people. I almost sat down with you guys. I had no idea where to go."
The win also will likely be the top memory of the 2010-11 season for the Flames' seniors. While UIC showed it does have talent, it still has to go through the likes of Butler, Cleveland State and Detroit in the Horizon League.
Whatever happens the rest of the season, UIC's seniors will always be able to think back to the day they knocked off Illinois.
"It's always about your seniors," Moore said. "That's who our team should be playing for. They're obviously playing for me as the head coach, but you want your seniors to have moments like this to relish and to remember.
"This is something when Robo's 40 years old and has got a pot belly, we can sit back and talk about this over a beer. Because it's going to happen, Robo, your metabolism is going to slow down. It's just great to have these moments and share these moments with your team. That's why we do it. To have success, to see guys get degrees, that's the reasons why we should be in this."
CHICAGO -- The future appears bright at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
With a new head coach in Howard Moore, a new staff, a new way of doing things and a handful of talented recruits already committed, there is a buzz around the program and a belief the Flames could be on the rise for years to come.
But UIC senior guard Robo Kreps and senior forward Paul Carter, the team’s captains and star players, didn’t want to talk about the future during the Flames’ basketball media day on Tuesday. Their time isn’t a few years down the road or even next season. They only have the present for the Flames to succeed.
The media, coaches and sports information directors who voted in the Horizon League’s preseason poll obviously don’t believe the same. With the Flames coming off a 3-15 conference season, they were picked to finish second to last in the Horizon League this season.
Kreps was aware of the prediction, but didn’t let it bother him.
“Those rankings don’t mean anything,” said Kreps, whose 15.2 points per game led the Flames last season. “It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish. I think we definitely use it as motivation, but we don’t need any motivation this year. We were 8-22 last year. We’re ready to go out and show what we can do.”
Kreps, like Carter, believes the Flames are capable of winning now.
“We’re ready,” Kreps said. “We can win 20 games this year. We’re going to sneak up on a lot of teams. We’re pretty darn good.
“First is our defense. We’re going to be getting into people. The type of defense we’ll be playing is going to help us. Offensively, we’re going to be doing things differently than last year. We’re going to be taking better shots, and everyone’s shooting percentage will go up.”
Moore echoed his players.
“It is what is,” Moore said of the preseason poll. “At the same time, we should be motivated regardless. If we’re picked first, we should be motivated. If we’re picked ninth or 10th, it’s there as well. Can you take it personally? Absolutely. We’re in this together. I told the guys, ‘They picked us ninth. So what? Let’s go play.’ No one wins a championship in October.”
Moore, who received his first Public League commitment a little over a week ago, got two more Sunday when Curie senior guard Greg Travis and Simeon senior forward Ahman Fells committed to the Flames.
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On one side of the phone, it sounded like a pause. On Moore’s side, it was the sound of beeping that indicated someone else was trying to call him. Within a 15-minute span, Moore received nearly a dozen phone calls. Friends, family, colleagues and others from around the Chicago area were all trying to get in touch with him.
They were all calling for the one reason -- they wanted to welcome him home. After growing up only blocks away from the University of Illinois-Chicago on the city’s west side, Moore was named the Flames’ new men’s basketball coach on Friday.
“Man, it’s a tremendous opportunity,” Moore said during an exclusive interview with ESPNChicago.com on Friday night. “It’s a blessing. I’m very humbled by the situation. The thing that really stands out is the fact that I’m a head coach, and I’m coming back to my hometown. Those two things in my first opportunity is a tremendous blessing.”
Moore did have a chance to come home three years ago when he was offered the Chicago State head coaching job, but he turned it down because he didn’t feel it was the right fit. UIC, though, made complete sense to him.
A major reason for Moore’s attraction to the job was the success achieved by previous UIC coach Jimmy Collins. Collins, who recently retired, took the Flames to new heights, including three NCAA Tournament appearances, during his 14 seasons at UIC.
In recent years, though, the program has been on the decline. The Flames won just eight games last year.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to get this thing rolling again,” Moore said. “The facilities are here. The players, they’re hungry. There’s a passion. That’s very ideal for me. I wouldn’t leave a tremendous opportunity like Wisconsin if UIC didn’t have the elements to succeed.
“The biggest thing I want to do is win championships. We want to get back to the point where we’re winning championships again.”
From the outside, Moore did appear to be the ideal candidate for UIC. He was familiar with the Flames and the Horizon League, having been an assistant at Loyola previously. He grew up in the neighborhood. He played at Taft High School in the Chicago Public League. He also has continued to recruit the Chicago area wherever he’s been an assistant.
Recruiting is what Moore is known best for around Chicago. He’s convinced a number of Chicago-area players to commit to Wisconsin in recent years and has developed strong ties with plenty of the area’s high school and AAU coaches.
Moore doesn’t mind being considered a great recruiter, but he doesn’t want that to be all people say about him.
“The biggest thing is, I know the game,” Moore said. “It wasn’t like I was blindfolded on the bench with [Wisconsin] coach [Bo] Ryan. I’ve never liked being labeled a recruiter. My job is way more than that. The program at Wisconsin was one that everyone brought different elements to the table. We wouldn’t have had the success we’ve had if we were all one-dimensional.”
As far as coaching philosophies, Moore said he believed in defense first, but also wanted to allow his players to have fun and create an up-tempo style of offense.
Moore doesn’t plan on his program being a complete mirror to Wisconsin’s, but he could see it having a number of the same attributes that he picked up while on Ryan’s staff.
“You learn how to run a program efficiently, how to trust people and your staff, develop players and student-athletes and improve as players and people,” Moore said. “Some people dream about being a championship program. We thrived at being a championship program year in and year out.”
And then his phone beeped again.
“My phone is beeping like crazy now,” Moore said. “It’s a good feeling. A lot of people are happy. A lot of people are excited for this opportunity for myself and my family.”