Jim O'Donnell: After that embarrassment, Illini should dump Underwood and hire Porter Moser

  • Loyola coach Porter Moser celebrates Sunday after his Ramblers beat top-seeded Illinois 71-58 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.

    Loyola coach Porter Moser celebrates Sunday after his Ramblers beat top-seeded Illinois 71-58 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis. Associated Press

 
Updated 3/22/2021 4:57 PM

IT WILL BE FOREVER REMEMBERED as the game that launched 100,000 emotions.

On the Loyola side, among them, unbridled joy, dancing in the Zooms, warm fuzzies about the seventh-grade nun who forever changed your life.

 

From an Illinois point of view, alumni angst, boosters anger and an Orange Krushed campus out of mind.

If they played Sunday's second-round NCAA men's tournament match 100 times, and allowed Porter Moser and Brad Underwood to coach each team 50 times against each other, it says here Moser and his profoundly expansive basketball intellect would win 98 of 'em.

Underwood was so thoroughly pantsed in the 71-58 bracket zinger that at least one prominent alumnus was calling it, "The most embarrassing basketball loss in the history of the university."

In Champaign-Urbana, the solution is bold, somewhat predatory and expensive.

But it would also show that Timothy Killeen, president of the U. of I., and Chancellor Robert Jones are indeed men of constructive, assertive action and can work around cloddish athletic director Josh Whitman.

Most importantly, it is predicated on the presumption that Moser has read Theo Epstein's compelling essay on the benefits of recalibrating upward professional progression every 10 years or so and changing jobs.

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And the answer is:

If Moser makes himself available at the conclusion of the Ramblers' season, Killeen, Jones and all should buy out Underwood and hire the garlanded Loyola master as their next men's coach.

Call it "The Rick Renteria Syndrome" or wake up the pragmatism of Doug Collins-to-Phil Jackson to shepherd Michael Jordan's Bulls from Point B to Point C.

Hurdles:

• Both coaches are reportedly contracted through the 2025-26 season, Underwood at a crescendoing $4 million for the final year;

• Moser is a man of extraordinary loyalty who once said, "I'm working at a Jesuit school, in my hometown, in the conference I played in -- I hit the trifecta."; and,

• Moser, wife Megan and family are said to be quite happy in the $2.5 million North Shore mansion they bought from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and wife Cecelia in 2018.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Plot accelerants:

• With a shrewd basketball lineage that touches Al McGuire through Rick Majerus, the 52-year-old Moser is well aware that windows of demand for college coaching services can slam shut with brutal swiftness;

• Most detail-oriented students of Moser's career would insist he owes it to himself and his legacy to take one big shot competing at a power athletics university with all of the sundry material, financial and other support tangents he does not have at Loyola; and,

• Moser's four-year "Cycle of Cinderella" at LU-C ends when Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson play their final game sometime in the next two weeks.

His mission is complete, his place in the Ramblers Basketball Valhalla forever assured. Loyola faithful are to smile because it happened, not sob when it's over.

From the standpoint of President Killeen and Chancellor Jones, if the best college basketball coach in their state winds up at Indiana -- for years to haunt Illinois' spooked program -- they will look administratively calcified in the eyes of many.

In truth, the single biggest stumbling block of Moser-to-Illinois may be the coach's admirable ethics.

He undoubtedly will not accept a position until it's open.

That means Killeen and Jones will have to rely on persuasive, resourceful intermediaries -- paging Dennis Swanson, former chief of ABC Sports and long ago basketball manager at Illinois -- to quietly get a commitment from Moser "if the position were to become open."

And then poleax Underwood with the swiftness of a high-post passing decision by Krutwig.

Sure it's all not simon pure.

But do the people who move and shake the University of Illinois truly want to win an NCAA men's championship?

Or do they want whiny otters like Whitman to continue to write of outcomes "that will forever live in infamy among the Illini family?"

IN A MAGNIFICENTLY SENSITIVE GESTURE, former associates of Bill Hazen with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G League have established a GoFundMe site to assist the recuperating play-by-play man.

Hazen, 70, was beaten, choked and bloodied 10 days ago during a heinous carjacking while making a Lyft drop-off in West suburban Maywood.

Bill Shaw, a cameraman with the Mad Ants, and former team marketing and communications director Heidi Kessens stepped forward because of their deep affinity for Hazen.

Said Shaw: "We wanted to do something besides clicking a heart or posting a Facebook comment.

"We both have always enjoyed Bill's personality and feel that we've got to take care of our own. Here's a spot where someone who isn't asking for any help can get a blessing when he probably needs it most.

"My real hope is that the fund will go viral."

As of midday Monday, no real Chicago money was yet evident at the site.

To access, Google, "bill hazen gofundme."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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