Why Tom Moore deserves at least another year with Quinnipiac men’s basketball

Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore, left, rallies his bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(WTNH)–Tom Moore came to Hamden with big-time credentials, the kind that were supposed to lift Quinnipiac from hard-to-pronounce no-name to mid-major household name.

He was known for his success as a recruiter, as Jim Calhoun’s go-to-guy and maybe even the program’s eventual successor.

He was supposed to come to QU, reach the NCAA Tournament, and move on to a bigger school. At least, that’s what most Connecticut basketball fans thought at the time.

Image (3) James-Feldeine.jpg for post 7815
Moore consoles Quinnipiac senior James Feldeine after the Bobcats fell just short in the 2010 NEC championship game against Robert Morris. (AP Photo)

Now, 10 years later, Moore is in a position he probably never would have imagined. Quinnipiac has taken a step back in the MAAC, and after a first-round tournament exit Thursday and a 21-loss season, rumors have spread that his job may be in danger.

Quinnipiac athletic director Greg Amodio, who took over in 2015, may be looking to hire his own coach.

Moore had immediate success at QU, winning the Northeast Conference regular season title in 2010, and coming within a possession of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bobcats were in the hunt for the NEC title again in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but lost each time to league heavyweights Robert Morris and LIU-Brooklyn, by a combined 13 points in three semifinal games.

Twice their dreams were snatched away by a guy named Velton.

When Quinnipiac graduated to the MAAC in 2014, it was at the worst possible time for the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

Moore said fellow NEC coaches told him that if QU had stayed in the conference that year, they would have won the league easily. Instead, a veteran squad led by Ike Azotam and Ousmane Drame led the school to 20 wins and a trip to the MAAC semifinals, before bowing out to evenutal champion Manhattan.

2015 and 2016 were down years, as the program tried to find the right players to compete in the league.

Quinnipiac's Peter Kiss won the MAAC Rookie of the Week award four times this season. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Quinnipiac’s Peter Kiss won the MAAC Rookie of the Week award four times this season. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Former Oklahoma recruit Giovanni McLean didn’t quite pan out, using Hamden as a pit-stop before transferring to Texas Tech.

But this season showed the type of promise that should be encouraging to Bobcats fans going forward.

Freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss set the MAAC on fire, trading conference Rookie of the Week honors eight straight times and finishing 1-2 in the MAAC in scoring among freshmen. (Dixon put up 16.8 ppg, Kiss 13.3 per).

It’s a path to success not unlike the one league regular season champion Monmouth has taken recently. The Hawks, who finished 26-5 and 18-2 in the league this year, lost 11 of 12 games down the stretch and finished 11-21 when star guard Justin Robinson was a freshman in 2014. They slowly improved from there, winning 18 games in 2015 and finishing last season as the NCAA Tournament’s most-talked-about snub.

The point to all of this?

Quinnipiac guard Mikey Dixon (3) steals a ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. Gonzaga won 82-62. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Dixon led all MAAC freshmen in scoring this season, putting up 16.8 ppg. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Success at the mid-major level in college hoops is cyclical. It’s like how high-major college basketball used to be–with young teams struggling to find their way and experienced ones battling for league titles.

You don’t just fire your coach and expect things to turn around immediately.

It takes time.

By the time Dixon and Kiss are seniors, QU could very well be at the top of the MAAC. Moore has already proven he knows what it takes to get a team there.

Sure, this whole experiment hasn’t yielded an NCAA Tournament bid just yet, but QU would be foolish to give up on it now.

Tom Moore is still that guy that Jim Calhoun relied on to help him land big-time recruits. He’s still that defense-and-rebounding expert whose Bobcats led the country in offensive boards from 2010-14.

Quinnipiac is still hard to pronounce.

They can all still get to the Big Dance together, and if they do, it’ll only be that much sweeter.

And you know, maybe then Moore can move on.

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