Jimmy Collins seemed to be building momentum when he first took over at UIC, with three NCAA tournament appearances his first seven years, but as he explained in our final segment this week, some eligibility rules tweaks opened the door for the competition to appeal to some of the recruits he targeted. It’s not an excuse. It’s just an adjustment the program wasn’t quick enough to adapt to. When he briefly encountered health problems in 2006 and 2007, of course other programs would use that against him. Fortunately, Jimmy’s a picture of health now in retirement. That’s something the programs we’ve focused on can aspire to. But how can the Flames, Ramblers, Wildcats, Blue Demons and Illini do that?
There’s long been the argument that some of the most successful Public League and area head coaches should be rewarded by these local colleges and be hired to those coaching staffs, opening a pipeline to local talent through familiarity. The attempt has been made in some cases, and in others, what’s offered hasn’t been enough to convince them to leave the prep level. I inadvertently left one of UIC’s assistants with local ties off a graphic in Part Two: Ron Coleman, who attended South Shore and coached on the staffs at Whitney Young and the AAU Mac Irvin Fire. They had a couple of local products also go down with injuries that could’ve helped them win more than the five they ended up with. But we do show you a couple of impressive kids Steve MCcClain’s program can build around, so there’s a foot in that door. Northwestern probably would’ve made its first NCAA tourney had Vic Law of St. Rita not missed the season with a shoulder injury and Alex Olah been healthy all year. John Groce appears to be “on the clock” despite the recent vote of confidence from his new athletic director. They’re bragging about a great recruiting class coming in, which includes former Illini Frank Johnson’s son. But none of the players are from the Chicago area.
There are other parts in our series we wish we could’ve included. David Kaplan says practice facilities play a bigger factor in kids’ decisions than we know. That’s where they spend the majority of their time. Kendall Gill is adamant that the high school state finals need to return to Champaign. That’s where every high schooler dreamed to end his season before 20 years ago. And no one wanted to go on the record to speak of how kids can be persuaded through illegal means. They say it still happens, but the NCAA has a much closer eye on things and social media can reveal much more than it could years ago. Yet if someone has an open hand, they can probably find someone to fill it, if they’re among the most heavily recruited kids.
My thanks to all the people we interviewed and the producers and editors who finished the product we brought to you this week. We hope you enjoyed it. Now try to enjoy the tournament, despite this topic.
One of the icons of DePaul athletics is sticking around.
Monday, DePaul extended the contract of women's basketball head coach Doug Bruno through the 2023-24 season. Bruno just wrapped up his 32nd season as head coach of his alma mater, leading DePaul to its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament.
While the Blue Demons were eliminated in the Round of 32 this March, Bruno has led the program to the Sweet 16 three of the last eight seasons.
“I am so thankful to be working at a great institution like DePaul,” Bruno said in a press release. “I never would have been here without coach Ray Meyer who gave me a basketball scholarship, Frank McGrath and Gene Sullivan who hired me in the 1970s."
Behind Bruno, DePaul went 27-8 in 2017-18, winning its fifth-straight Big East regular-season title. The Blue Demons also won their third Big East Tournament title in five years, defeating rival Marquette 98-63. Bruno also picked up his 700th career victory in February, defeating conference-foe Butler 86-68.
“I’ve been fortunate to have great assistant coaches through all the years,” he said. “My current staff is absolutely one of the best in the country.
"Most important, the reason you succeed is the players. I’ve been blessed to have tremendous student-athletes help build the DePaul women’s basketball legacy.
“I am excited about this contract extension because we still have work to do. As proud as we are of everything we have achieved, our expectation through the length of this extension is to take the Blue Demons to even higher places.”
Loyola is rewarding Porter Moser for his basketball team's success this season.
Loyola and Moser have agreed to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday. The deal is through the 2025-26 season.
"We are excited to be able to announce a new contract for Porter that will keep him at Loyola a long time," Loyola Director of Athletics Steve Watson said. "He is the perfect fit for Loyola and operates his program the right way, with student-athletes who achieve excellence on the court and in the classroom and are also excellent representatives of the institution.
"We are fortunate to work at a university like Loyola, that values and has made a commitment to athletics. It is nice to reward Porter not just for an outstanding season, but also for the job he has done during his time here."
That's a well-deserved extension for a head coach who led the Ramblers to a NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985.
As the 11th seed, Loyola exceeded all expectations, shocking the world with a Final Four appearance. The Ramblers took down No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 7 Nevada, and No. 9 Kansas State before losing to No. 3 Michigan, who would go on to lose to No. 1 Villanova in the championship game.
Loyola finished the regular season with a 28-5 record and a MVC Championship.
In seven seasons, Moser has a 121-111 record with the Ramblers, though three of his last four have been winning seasons.