#ChiStories Podcast: Ramble On with Coach Porter Moser

It was a Cinderella story for the ages.

On this week’s episode of Chicago Stories, Loyola Ramblers men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser took a break from his busy off-season to talk to Mayor Emanuel about his whirlwind ride to the Final Four, the lessons he learned to get there, creating a winning culture, Sister Jean, and a lot more.

As Coach Moser says, “You achieve what you emphasize.”

Coach Moser describing basketball strategy to Mayor Emanuel. (Photo credit: Brooke Collins)
“We’re going to keep climbing, we’re not done yet.”

Coach Moser and the Loyola Ramblers burst out on the national scene this year after a series of thrilling upset victories during the NCAA Tournament, capturing the country’s hearts, and turning him and Sister Jean into household names.

But for those who have been following the Ramblers, their success has been a long time coming, and it started with the culture Coach Moser established the first day he was hired back in 2011.

“We’ve been talking about this amongst ourselves since I took over the program as a foundation for what we believe in,” Coach Moser said. “Now the public saw it, but this has been up since Day One.”

As Coach Moser told Mayor Emanuel, there are two parts to the team’s culture. The first is the attention to detail. “The little things matter and it’s an accumulation,” Coach Moser said. The other part is how players conduct themselves off the court as young men and student-athletes.

“It’s about the young man you are,” Coach Moser said. “The character. And how we do things.”

Coach Moser cutting the net. (Photo credit: LoyolaRamblers.com)
“You learn more from your failures than you do your successes.”

Coach Moser’s own road to the Final Four goes back much further than that.

After playing college basketball for Creighton in the late-1980s, he worked his way through coaching gigs before leading his first head coaching job in 2000 at the age of 29, making him the youngest head coach in Division I. Three years later, Coach Moser was tapped as head coach of Illinois State University.

Things were looking up. Then after four uneven seasons, he was fired. It was the lowest point in his career. It was also the best thing to ever happen to him.

“My faith, my family, everything was about a competitive reinvention,” Coach Moser said, “and I just threw myself into my next journey.”

That journey turned out to be serving as assistant coach at Saint Louis under the mentorship of the legendary Rick Majerus.

As Coach Moser told Mayor Emanuel, if he were to get a tattoo, it would say: Fall Seven, Rise Eight.

“For every time you fall, you’re going to rise one more,” Coach Moser said. “You’re going to have obstacles in your life, you’re going to have failures, but they’re opportunities to show character. They’re opportunities to reinvent yourself.”

Mayor Emanuel and Loyola Ramblers Coach Porter Moser. (Photo credit: Brooke Collins)
“When I got the job, people said Chicago Public League kids can’t do the work at Loyola — that’s hogwash.”

One of the other changes Coach Moser brought to Loyola’s basketball program was homegrown recruitment from the Chicago Public League.

“When I got the job Loyola-Chicago had one Illinois player on the team, but they didn’t have a Chicago Public League player for 12-years prior,” Coach Moser said.

That had to change.

“These are bright young men,” Coach Moser said, “and they’re graduating on time.” What’s more, Coach Moser also found local recruiting gives players a support network that could only come from being close to home.

It started with Milton Doyle from Marshall High School, then quickly followed by current Ramblers Donte Ingram from Simeon Career Academy) and Lucas Williamson from Whitney Young.

“One of the favorite pictures I have is Milton Doyle walking out of the graduation line,” Coach Moser said. “He broke off the line and came over and bear-hugged me.”

As far as Coach Moser sees it, this is only the beginning.

“We’re continuing to do this,” Coach Moser said, “so I hope this is a recruiting pitch too.”

Check out the rest of the episode to hear Coach Moser explain his Wall of Culture, his favorite memories from this year’s NCAA Tournament, and Sister Jean’s real role on the team.

Listen to the full episode as Coach Moser and Mayor Emanuel discuss:

4:10 — Wall of Culture
8:40 — The Last Five Minutes
13:37—Nurturing Character
18:13 — Learning from Failure
23:50 — Recruiting from CPS

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