Final Four bound Badgers carried by Moore's hidden gem
Flames conclude season in Horizon League first round
Birt is averaging 6.5 points per game for the Flames
UIC to face No. 4 seed Valparaiso in HL first round on Tuesday
Largest league road win since 1998; Barlow with game-high 23 points
After three exciting years guiding the men's basketball program at UIC, head coach Howard Moore has the Windy City on watch. In his quest to become Chicago's "blue-collar college team," Moore has built a program that is pointed directly upward, based on a foundation of defense, toughness and grit.
The efforts of Moore's rebuilding project paid significant dividends during the 2012-13 campaign, when the Flames won 18 games for the first time in six years, advanced to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) and secured their first-ever postseason win. When the college basketball season wrapped up in early April, UIC had accomplished the nation's 12th-best turnaround from the 2011-12 season.
The results didn't go unnoticed. Moore was named a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award in early March, and earned a three-contract extension from UIC officials in mid-April. He will steer the Flames' ship through at least the 2017-18 campaign.
UIC's turnaround season began with a red hot start in November and December. The Flames jumped out of the gate with a 9-1 record, and appeared in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top-25 in four-consecutive weeks. Notable wins during an eight-game winning streak included victories over Colorado State and Iona, who both advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and a road win over Northwestern on Dec. 1.
UIC finished fifth in the Horizon League's regular season after being picked eighth in the preseason poll, and secured the season sweep over both Youngstown State and Wright State. The Flames went on to host a first-round postseason tournament game for the first time since 2008, an 82-59 drubbing of Cleveland State at the Pavilion.
After a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to fourth-seeded Green Bay in the Horizon League quarterfinals, the Flames regrouped, and accepted an at-large bid to the CIT. It marked UIC's fifth-ever postseason bid, and the first since 2004. The Flames made history with an 80-69 win over Chicago State in the first-round, representing the program's first-ever postseason victory.
The biggest step UIC took during Moore's third year was on the defensive end. The Flames led the Horizon League in defensive field goal percentage, stifling opponents to just a 40.6 percent shooting output. UIC was 13-1 on the season when holding its foes to between 30-39 percent shooting. The Flames also limited their opponents to just 62.8 points per game, the lowest mark in school history.
The first two seasons of the Howard Moore era produced impressive wins over in-state rival Illinois, Rhode Island, Evansville and 2012 NCAA Tournament participant Detroit. Moore also signed 10 players that eventually occupied more than 80 percent of the Flames' minutes played during the 2012-13 campaign. As a head coach, Moore boasts a 2-0 record against Big Ten Conference foes; the Flames will host Northwestern at the Pavilion, and face Illinois at the United Center next season.
Moore's basketball coaching craft was honed under the tutelage of some of the game's greatest coaches. Stu Jackson. Steve Yoder. Stan Van Gundy. But perhaps what directly prepared Moore for his first head coaching job was the success that was enjoyed by Wisconsin, his alma mater, during a five-year stint on Bo Ryan's staff.
With Moore on the bench, UW posted three of the top-five winningest seasons in school history, including an historic 2007-08 campaign that saw the Badgers win a school-record 31 games en route to the Big Ten Conference regular season and tournament championships.
Wisconsin made five-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament during Moore's tenure on staff, winning a total of eight games in the "Big Dance." The memorable 2007-08 run produced a "Sweet 16" berth. With the Badgers, Moore helped coach four All-Big Ten Conference players, and enhanced Wisconsin's recruiting presence in the highly talented Chicagoland region, successfully recruiting four players from the Windy City and its surrounding suburbs.
Before joining the staff in Madison, Moore spent one season as an assistant coach under Jim Whitesell at Loyola in 2004-05. In 2003-04, he served as an assistant under head coach Tim Buckley at Ball State, where he helped reel in what many recruiting experts dubbed as the highest-rated recruiting class in the Mid-American Conference.
From 2000-03, Moore served as an assistant coach at Bradley University where he worked as a lead off-campus recruiter and mentor to both the guards and post players. The 2001 recruiting class was one of the school's best, featuring Danny Granger, who eventually blossomed into a 2009 NBA All-Star as a member of the Indiana Pacers. He also helped mold Phillip Gilbert and James Gillingham into All-Missouri Valley Conference selections. Moore worked alongside current UIC Associate Head Coach Al Biancalana at Bradley under head coach Jim Molinari.
Moore, who grew up just blocks from the UIC campus, began his collegiate coaching career in his hometown by serving as an assistant coach at the University of Chicago during the 1998-99 campaign; prior to that, he was as an assistant coach for two years at his alma mater, Taft High School, on the northwest side of the city.
Before joining the Division I coaching ranks, Moore worked as a sales representative for a pair of Chicago-area corporations for three years. He opted for a career change that eventually brought him back to the near west side of the Windy City because he "hated the cold call days." Moore was actually still making sales calls during that 1998-99 season at the University of Chicago.
Moore played in 47 games for Wisconsin from 1990-95, including 21 appearances as a senior. During his playing career under Yoder, Jackson and Van Gundy, the Badgers earned 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 NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1947.
In 1994, Moore represented the Big Ten Conference on a team of league all-stars who were selected to compete in Argentina.
A recipient of the University of Wisconsin African-American Alumni Association Student Leadership Award in 1993, Moore graduated from Wisconsin with a Bachelor's Degree in African-American Studies in 1995. Moore graduated from Taft High School in 1990, guiding his team to the Chicago Public League semifinals as a senior. He was named to the CPL Hall of Fame in 1999.
Moore and his wife, Jennifer, have two children: a son, Jerell, and a daughter, Jaidyn. In December 2010, he was presented the Ricky Byrdsong Award at the Union Club of Chicago. The award annually recognizes men who are good fathers, have reached out and made a difference in the lives of youth, and have demonstrated a spiritual dimension to their lives.