Howard Moore ready for UIC challenge

August, 23, 2010

Howard Moore was recruited by Steve Yoder, and he played for him for one season, then for Stu Jackson before finishing his career with Stan Van Gundy.

Do you think the new Illinois-Chicago coach knows what it's like to deal with multiple coaching changes?

That's the approach he took when addressing his new team Sunday morning in Chicago, a day before the fall semester started Monday.

The timing of Jimmy Collins' abrupt retirement last month meant the hiring of his successor was going to be pushing the start of school. Athletic director Jim Schmidt got it done just in time and found a coach who is set up to succeed.

Moore played at Taft High in the Chicago Public League. He graduated from nearby Wisconsin. He coached as an assistant at schools in the area from Ball State to Loyola of Chicago -- in the Horizon League -- to Wisconsin, where he continued to recruit Chicago.

If the 37-year-old Moore doesn't succeed, then it's not because he wasn't prepped for the job.

UIC has a decent tradition, winning the Horizon League in 2002 and '04 and also making an appearance in 1998. The UIC Pavilion seats 8,000 and is the perfect size for a program that should be able to draw if it wins. And there is a vacuum in college hoops at this juncture in the area, with DePaul going through a spell at the bottom of the Big East, and Northwestern still searching for its elusive first NCAA bid. DePaul and Northwestern play outside the city limits. UIC, like Loyola, plays in town.

What Moore has to do now is get to know his players as much as possible. He said Sunday night that he plans on spending quality time over the next two weeks before individual work starts. Coaching in Chicago allows him to recruit without having to travel far.

"The biggest thing I have to do now is develop a relationship with these players and let them know that they're my guys,'' said Moore. "I've got to build a trust with them. And then I've got to recruit my ass off.''

Moore doesn't have a lot of time. UIC opens the season Nov. 10 at Pitt in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

"It's a competitive schedule,'' Moore said. "I'm not complaining about it.''

Working for Jim Molinari, Jim Whitesell, Tim Buckley and most recently Bo Ryan has given Moore quite a playbook to merge. He said he will incorporate parts of the swing offense from Wisconsin but more than anything wants to ensure that the Flames play defense like the Badgers.

"That's where Bo Ryan's stamp will be,'' Moore said. "I want us to guard like Wisconsin.''

Moore said he will meet with Collins' former assistants -- Byrant Lowe and Mark Miller -- and give them a shot to stay on with him. Of course, he also has his own coaches who he has been in contact with if he ever landed a head-coaching job.

The Flames do have a solid returning team led by Robo Kreps. But it was a core group that finished 3-15 last season in the Horizon, 8-22 overall.

"Everyone is chasing Butler and they've set the bar very high,'' Moore said. "It will be fun to see how we elevate this. It was bittersweet. I had my dream job as an assistant at my alma mater so it's bittersweet that I'm leaving.''

But at the same time, he's "very cool and excited since I've been an assistant for a long time. I'm prepared for this. I'm excited for this. I can't get wait to get UIC basketball to the top of the league. I just want these guys to understand I've been in your shoes [with a coaching change]. It's not your fault. It's not my fault. Let's learn to trust each other and embrace it and we'll do OK.''

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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