COLUMBIA — Loyola University Chicago men's basketball coach Porter Moser has been around a lot of coaches in his 22-year career. But two in particular stand out in his mind: Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith and Tigers women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton.
Moser has known Haith since the mid-1990s when the two were assistant coaches at Texas A&M, and he met Pingeton when both were head coaches at Illinois State. Moser took the men's coaching job at Illinois State in 2003 just a couple days after Pingeton took the helm as the women's basketball coach. The two had offices right down the hall from each other and quickly developed a personal relationship.
No. 3 Missouri (24-2, 11-2 Big 12)
at Texas A&M (13-12, 4-9 Big 12)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Reed Arena, College Station, Texas
RADIO: KCMQ 96.7 FM
Missouri (10-14, 0-13 Big 12)
at Kansas (17-8, 6-7 Big 12)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
"His staff was great to work with, we were all really connected," Pingeton said. "There was a lot of newness there at Illinois State, a lot of excitement, and we became really good friends."
Pingeton remembers one moment in their friendship well. She and Moser — a Chicago Cubs fan — went to a game at Wrigley Field. Pingeton, who described herself as an awful singer, and Moser were asked to lead the crowd singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" from the broadcast booth during the seventh-inning stretch. Pingeton took the microphone, boxed out Moser and started belting out the song while he sang behind her.
Moser spent four years down the hall from Pingeton at Illinois State before he accepted an assistant coaching job at St. Louis University under coach Rick Majerus.
Pingeton and Moser haven't spoken recently, but when Moser learned of Missouri's winless conference record, he was quick to defend Pingeton and what she's trying to accomplish at Missouri.
"My first reaction is she'll turn it," Moser said. "It takes time, because you not only have to spend an incredible amount of time recruiting players, you have to sell your vision to them. Then once you get them, you got to develop them, get them part of your culture."
Moser isn't very familiar with the Missouri programs, but he had a good idea of what Haith and Pingeton can bring to their teams, mostly because they are the same type of person.
"They're both unbelievably driven," Moser said. "I just think they must have had a blueprint of what they wanted at Missouri. Boy, what two unbelievable hires. You got to give kudos to (Missouri Athletics Director) Mike Alden. Sometimes people scratch their heads in the coaching world on certain hires. But in coaching circles, boy, are they respected."
Last spring, though, many Missouri fans and the media were extremely skeptical of Alden's choice of hiring Haith to replace Mike Anderson.
But Haith's first press conference in Columbia was the first step in reversing the majority opinion. Haith knew many were upset over his hiring. He embraced the challenge of proving everyone wrong, showing Missouri fans what Moser has known since the two first met.
"That was classic Frank," Moser said. "He wasn't going to let adversity bother him. He knows how to get what he wants. Frank's very focused. He knows what's right, and he knows how to get things done."
Haith and the men's basketball team are well on the way to getting exactly what they want. With a 24-2 record and No. 3 national ranking, the Tigers are hoping for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in March.
The main reason for the Tigers' success, especially compared to last season, is a surge of confidence Haith brought with him from Miami, Moser said.
"They have extreme confidence. I watched the last 10 minutes of the Kansas game, and they just didn't look like they were going to lose," Moser said. "They find ways to win, and that permeates from the top down. (It's) that belief from the coaching staff."