Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser has never coached against one of his college teammates. That’ll change Oct. 23 when Winona State University comes to Gentile Arena to take on the Ramblers for an exhibition game.
Winona State head coach Todd Eisner went to college with Moser and became one of his best friends. They started their first years on the Creighton University men’s basketball team in 1986 and have remained good friends ever since. Both became college coaches after their playing careers. Moser’s starting his eighth year at Loyola while Eisner’s in his fourth year at Division-II school Winona State.
Tuesday night, they’ll be on opposite sides of the scorer’s table at Gentile for the first time ever when Loyola and Winona State face off in an exhibition game.
“You never want to play your college roommates because the other one won’t hear the end of it,” Moser said. “Especially me, I won’t hear the end of it if something bad happens. But you know what? He’s been one of my best friends since [we were] 18 years old and we were in each other’s weddings … Todd’s been one of the coaches I’ve talked to the most in the profession.”
Moser, now 50, played at Creighton from 1986-90 and Eisner from 1986-91. Eisner got an extra year of eligibility because he suffered a knee injury during the 1987-88 season. After the two went separate ways, they remained in constant contact and are still close today.
They were the best men in each other’s weddings and have made a yearly trip to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament with a group of friends since 1992 — a trip, Eisner said, Moser “ruined” last year when Loyola defeated Kansas State University to advance to the Final Four.
“I was recruiting on Wednesday night of the [Sweet Sixteen] weekend up until about 11 at night and hopped on a plane at 5:30 in the morning on Thursday,” Eisner, 50, said. “As soon as [Loyola] won, I was on my phone changing my airline tickets, changing my hotel reservation and going right back [to] staying in Atlanta … for the Final Four, we were obviously planning on going, anyway, but that’s where Porter ruined it.”
Despite the fact that Moser was coaching during this year’s trip, he made time to see the group, according to Eisner. Eisner said Moser showed his true colors when he spared a few minutes to chat with the group he’d watched the Final Four with for the last 25 years.
“We got to hang out, but he had to work,” Eisner said. “He allowed us to be a part of it, too. That’s what was so neat. That’s a time where he’s got to do other things more important than worrying about whether or not I have a good ticket or whether or not I can see him over at the hotel, and he figured out time for all of us to come over and spend some time with him before the game on Saturday.”
Not only will they be opponents for the first time, but the game will also have special meaning for Moser and Eisner. Their head coach at Creighton, Chicago native Tony Barone, will be honored as an honorary head coach before the game.
Barone left a lasting impact on the duo, even giving Moser a start as a graduate assistant coach at Creighton in 1990 and naming him an assistant coach at Texas A&M University in 1991. Barone amassed a 102-82 record over six seasons at Creighton and led the Bluejays to two NCAA Tournament appearances before going 76-120 at Texas A&M.
Moser said Eisner and he collaborated on an idea to honor Barone during the game.
“We really did it because our head coach, Tony Barone, is from Chicago … we’re going to have him be the honorary coach,” Moser said. “We just thought it’d be really cool for two of his former Creighton players to play each other right in his hometown and have him be the honorary coach.”
Moser said he talks to Eisner as much as he can during the season. But in the days leading up to the game, Eisner said there hasn’t been much smack-talk between the two but rather planning the logistics of the day.
“We talked Sunday afternoon … just to kind of go through the small details as we head into next week,” Eisner said. “I’m sure we’ll talk again relative to just making very sure we’re set up the way we need to be set up in terms of arrangements and gym time and those type of things prior to the game.”
While Eisner said he doesn’t think Barone will pick a side to cheer for, Moser said he hopes his former coach will cheer for the home team.
“I’m leaving him the tickets, so he’d better be rooting for the Ramblers,” Moser joked. “If he wants to root for Winona, he’s going to have to pay for his own ticket.”
Loyola and Winona State are scheduled to square off in exhibition Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Gentile Arena.