Wiedmer: UTC got a lot out of Moore

Wiedmer: UTC got a lot out of Moore

April 26th, 2010 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

Sunday's television reports out of Greenville, N.C., are true, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Wes Moore has accepted a similar position at East Carolina.

Four words: What took so long?

When you're winning 78 percent of your games, graduating about 98 percent of your players and going to eight out of 10 NCAA Tournaments from a one-bid league like the Southern Conference, well ... let's face it, you should never have gone to eight of 10 tourneys because BCS conference athletic directors should have been smart enough to never let you remain here that long.

Of course, even now Moore won't exit the Scenic City for an Atlantic Coast Conference or Southeastern Conference job, which has always been his dream. If he goes he'll merely be trading one one-bid league for another in Conference USA, thought at least he'll be doubling his base pay, tripling his recruiting budget and flying instead of busing to most road games.

And given UTC's current financial woes, who wouldn't jump at the chance to have all that, especially when Wes's wife, Linda, grew up less than an hour away from Greenville in Jamesville, N.C.?

Yet there apparently remained some large part of Moore -- loyalty, apprehension, fear, ambivalence, something -- that had him hesitating to say good-bye as late as Sunday night.

Twelve years in a place as nice as our town can do that to a guy, especially when the last 11 of those seasons all included SoCon regular-season titles, a feat of excellence matched only by UConn's Gino Auriemma. UCLA's John Wooden or North Carolina's Dean Smith never won 11 straight on the men's side. Tennessee's incomparable Pat Summitt never accomplished such brilliance on the women's side.

But there are Moore and Auriemma, separated by Gino's seven national titles but united by 11 straight regular-season league crowns.

Not that the winning is the biggest reason it might be tough for Moore to leave or for the Lady Mocs fans to wish him well. He and Linda have a lot of good friends here, have carved out a comfortable life, have put together yet anothe Lady Mocs team full of bright, dedicated student-athletes determined to guide him to a ninth NCAA tourney in the past 11 seasons.

Much as he'll always embrace his Texas roots, Moore knows he has also become almost as much a fixture of Chattanooga life as Moon Pies, Rock City and Riverbend.

No matter how bad things have been at times with UTC athletics overall during his tenure, the community knew it could always count on Moore's Lady Mocs to warm even the coldest of winters inside McKenzie Arena.

Breaking that bond won't be easy for either side, even if no one should begrudge him this opportunity. In fact, most of us are more than a little stunned that he didn't leave us a long time ago.

And to the extent Moore has earned this opportunity through consistent excellence rather than excellent coattails, we should all be happy for him.

But it's still tough to see it end this way, the best mid-major coach in the country leaving UTC for a school with a mid-major reputation, even if it almost has a high major budget.

In fact, ECU's last women's coach left Greenville for Georgia State. Not Georgia. Not Georgia Tech. Georgia State.

Beyond that, does E-C-U stand for East Carolina U. or East Chattanooga U?

UTC athletic director Rick Hart spent much of his youth in Greenville during his dad's time there as AD. Former Mocs men's coach Mack McCarthy remains in the athletic department after stepping down as head coach in March. Of course, he was replaced by another former Mocs men's coach -- Jeff Lebo. Even former UTC football coach Donnie Kirkpatrick is on the Pirates' staff.

That's not a coincidence. That's a conspiracy.

Maybe Moore will get up this morning, think about starting over and call the whole thing off, siding with the devil he knows rather than one he doesn't.

But the far more likely ending has him heading east, to double his pay and half his travel time. Either way, we should all thank him. We've already had a chance to watch him work his magic a whole lot longer than we should have.