MADISON – Like the rest of the Wisconsin basketball community, Howard Moore was stunned when Bo Ryan announced his retirement, effective immediately, one week ago and long-time assistant Greg Gard was named the interim head coach.
Gard’s first main order of business was to bring Moore’s familiarity back to the bench, announcing Wednesday that Moore, a 16-year collegiate coaching veteran, will fill his vacancy on the Wisconsin bench.
“Given the timing and the situation, bringing in Howard is a home run for our program and players,” Gard said in a statement. “To have the ability to bring in someone with his experience and knowledge of the way we do things is a perfect fit and win-win. He was a part of our championship team in 2008 and he has a passion for UW that is unparalleled. He loved his experience here and has a deep affection for this place and its people. We’re extremely fortunate to have someone like Howard available and eager to join our staff.”
Moore served as an assistant at Wisconsin under Ryan from 2005-10 before serving the last five seasons as head coach at Illinois-Chicago. In 14 seasons under Ryan, Wisconsin had only six assistant coaches – Gard, Moore, current assistants Gary Close and Lamont Paris, current Virginia head coach Tony Bennett and current Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter.
“People that know me know how much I love Wisconsin, the University, the school, the program and obviously the people there” said Moore, who had just started working as a Big Ten Network analyst when Gard called him Wednesday night about the job.
“Greg is up there in people I care about when it comes to UW. He’s a friend, and when he asked me to help him, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be heading up to Madison.”
After finishing some paperwork, Moore plans to be at practice Tuesday and be on the bench for when the Badgers (7-5) host Green Bay (6-4) Wednesday night at 8 p.m. It’s the final nonconference game for Wisconsin before the start of Big Ten play against No.14 Purdue (11-1) next Tuesday.
“We’ve shown signs of being a great team (against Syracuse and Temple), but we’ve also shown our weaknesses in games against Western Illinois, Marquette, Milwaukee and so on,” said Moore. “We’ve got to tighten up some things, and we're ready to address those things. The timing is great because during the break you can really take the time to teach and address some of the shortcomings.”
With Moore on the bench, the Badgers made five-straight trips to the N.C.A.A. tournament, highlighted by the 2007-08 campaign, during which UW won a then-school-record 31 games, the Big Ten Conference regular season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Sweet 16. During his time with the Badgers, Moore helped recruit Frank Kaminsky, who developed into the consensus national player of the year last year.
He left Wisconsin following the 2009-10 season to become a head coach in his native Chicago at UIC. His banner year was in 2012-13 when the Flames won 18 games for the first time in six years and posted the nation’s 12th-largest turnaround from the previous season. UIC also secured its first-ever postseason win in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
And while he went 49-111 (.306) during his five seasons in Chicago, Moore said the experience of running his own program gave him a new outlook on coaching.
“It gave me experiences both good and bad,” Moore said. “I’ve had to make decisions that affect the program and other groups. I’ve had my hand in every faucet of coaching, and being the head coach you have to live with your good decisions and some of your bad decisions. Now I can give Greg some great reference of what to look for and just give him guidance and honest, solid opinion on things. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure he gets this job permanently and make sure Wisconsin basketball stays on a solid trajectory."
A graduate and former player at Wisconsin, Moore played in 47 games for the Badgers from 1990-95, including 21 appearances as a senior. He played for coaches Steve Yoder, Stu Jackson and Stan Van Gundy, and helped the Badgers earn back-to-back NIT berths in 1991 and 1992. In 1994, Moore teamed with Michael Finley, Rashard Griffith, Tracy Webster, Andy Kilbride and Brian Kelley to help Wisconsin end a 47-year drought and return to the N.C.A.A. tournament for the first time since 1947.
Times have changed, as Wisconsin has made 14 consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament. Even though they've dug themselves a hole, Moore believes this team has what it takes to make it 15.
“I think we can still be a N.C.A.A. tournament team, I think we can still compete for the top half of the conference and there’s a lot of basketball to be played,” said Moore, “but we’ve got to start doing the right things right away.”