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UIC's new head coach gets emotional about 'dream job'
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Howard Moore, 37, was introduced as the UIC Flames' men's basketball coach after spending the last five years as a Wisconsin assistant.

 

Courtesy UIC

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Published: 8/23/2010 4:29 PM

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Four city blocks from "The Village," the since-razed public housing development where he was raised by his parents, Howard Moore stood inside UIC's Pavilion Monday morning and fought back tears.

Once because of the magnitude of his opportunity and once because his late grandmother couldn't be there to share in the moment.

"If you haven't seen it already, this is my dream job," Moore declared midway through his introductory speech. "This is an opportunity for me to come home and make an impact."

Moore, 37, was introduced as the Flames' men's basketball coach after spending the last five years as a Wisconsin assistant.

Michigan State assistant Mark Montgomery and Minnesota assistant Vince Taylor were the other finalists in the popular race to succeed Jimmy Collins.

After a nervous start, Moore delivered an earnest and confident speech to an overflow crowd that featured his mother, father, a grandmother, wife and Collins nodding approvingly from the front row.

Collins, whose 14-year, 218-win run ended when he resigned in July, led the standing ovation when UIC athletic director Jim Schmidt officially welcomed Moore as the school's third coach in 23 years.

"This program will be the class of the city of Chicago, of the state of Illinois," said Moore, a 1990 graduate of Taft High School. "And we're going to take that seed that Jimmy Collins planted - and other people as well - and we're going to take this thing and we're going to grow it into something very special that the people of Chicago will be extremely proud of."

Moore revealed he will follow the "Wisconsin model" on and off the floor.

For the 14 players on the Flames roster, whom Moore met on Sunday, that means an increased emphasis on accountability ... and defense.

Wisconsin ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense last season (56.9 ppg) and led the nation in 2007-08.

"We're going to be a hard-nosed, half-court, man-to-man defense that's going to be extremely stingy," Moore said. "And we're going to make sure teams feel that they're playing against a very tight-knit group of guys on the floor."

Minnesota transfer Paul Carter, who played against Wisconsin the last two years, noticed how his new UIC teammates reacted to the defense-first edict.

"It was funny seeing some of the guys' faces," Carter said. "They were like, 'Wow,' but that's the only way I know how to play. With (Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan and (Minnesota coach Tubby) Smith, that's the only way you're going to play.

"So when Coach Moore said that, I was actually happy about it."

When the Flames get down to business next week, Moore hopes to rely on Carter as well as veteran guards Robo Kreps and Zavion Neely to set the tone.

Neely, for his part, appreciated the way Moore came across when he met the players on Sunday.

"He was talking about putting in defense, doing stuff the right way, being accountable for your own actions," Neely said. "I can tell he was serious. Everybody was saying we have to be accountable; we have to pick it up to his level of what he wants to get done."