The coincidence struck Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser even before he arrived in San Antonio.
Moser’s Ramblers are playing Saturday in the Final Four in the Alamodome, just as Rick Majerus’ Utah Utes did 20 years ago. Moser worked as an assistant to Majerus for four years at Saint Louis University, reviving his coaching career and learning a lot about basketball.
That history with Majerus and current Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen, a key player for the 1998 Utes and a SLU assistant alongside Moser, creates a Utah connection to Loyola. Moser said this week that he wished he could have tapped into Majerus’ experience about playing on this stage, as he sought advice from Jensen and other coaches about how to deal with everything that the Final Four entails.
And even now, five years after Majerus died, Moser is conscious of wanting to impress him. “I think he’d love our team,” Moser said in a news conference in San Antonio. “I think he’d say we play the right way.”
Basketball experts see a clear connection between Majerus’ Utes and Moser’s Ramblers, recognizing the Utah influence. The way the Loyola players move, screen and pass the ball reminds them of Majerus’ detailed coaching, right down to the proper angles.
The players are not the same, but the style is unmistakable. Cameron Krutwig is not built like Michael Doleac, but he can pass, screen correctly and move where he is supposed to go. Point guard Clayton Custer can drive and shoot like Andre Miller. He’s not as strong as Miller in finishing at the rim, so he’ll dish off when he drives.
The team’s defensive principles are the same as Utah’s. The Ramblers may play with a little more offensive freedom than the ’98 Utes, but the X’s and O’s are very similar.
Majerus’ fingerprints are on Loyola’s team. That’s evident. That’s making the Ramblers even more fun to watch, and Moser always will be thankful to Majerus for reviving his career after Illinois State fired him as coach. “Kind of reinventing myself,” Moser said.
“That was another huge, huge part of my career,” Moser continued. “I went in there with the approach where, I’m going to be in the room with one of the best basketball minds for however long it was, and I’m going to have competitive reinvention. I’ll be back. I’ll be [a] head coach again.”
And look where he is now, in his seventh season since leaving Majerus’ SLU staff. The Ramblers are in San Antonio, playing in the Final Four.