Porter Moser knows what it’s like to live and work with determination, passion, and grit. He also knows what it’s like to keep front-and-center the core values of faith, family, honesty, and integrity. Whether it’s recruiting, hiring, running drills, or just living day-to-day Moser walks the walk and talks the talk. Not that it’s always easy, but in All In he shows us that with enough practice it sure can look that way.
Drawn from Moser’s life as a son, husband, father, and winning coach, this collection of inspiring, poignant and rousing lessons drives home the importance of being “all in”—meaning, fully dedicated to a task at hand. Revealing his ups and downs as both a college player and later as a coach, All In shows how Moser built his all-positive, no-negativity work ethic; how a second chance from legendary coach Rick Majerus helped Moser achieve new levels of success; and how, in 2018, he guided the No. 11 seed Ramblers through one of the most inspiring Cinderella stories in college sports history.
With a rousing foreword from Sr. Jean, the lively and wise 100-year old chaplain of the Loyola Ramblers—All In offers sage advice for athletes, coaches, recruiters, sports fans, and anyone looking to develop the skills to lead on the court or in life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Energy and Passion
There’s a saying I share with my players at the beginning of every season (and which I also send to my kids on our family group chat): “How you think is how you feel, how you feel is how you act, and how you act is what defines you.” I believe completely in the progression of these three statements. If you’re thinking good thoughts, you’re going to have a bounce in your step. You’re going to act in a certain way. Likewise, if you’re thinking negative thoughts, if you have a “poor me” attitude, that’s how people will perceive you. I make a point to maintain that positive mental attitude, something I learned from my mom, in everything I do. That’s a big part of how I’ve found success. But I know that I couldn’t have done it alone. That’s why I look for players, coaches, and others who can bring that energy to what we are building. These are the people I want around me because they are the ones who will help me build our culture and bring success to our program.
Having players of high energy and character who have high values is the basis for how we have built the men’s basketball program at Loyola University Chicago (LUC). Yes, I want skilled players. But their outstanding skills go hand in hand with strong character. I want energized players who want to get an education, not just major in basketball. And by character, I mean belief in a value system. Some of the values I look for include respect for oneself, the team, and the culture that binds that team together. I look for integrity—doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I also look at a recruit’s circle of influence. I don’t want my players to receive mixed messages. I want to make sure that the values we espouse as part of our team culture are reinforced by the player’s circle of influence, meaning the people he has around him—family, friends, mentors, and former coaches.
When I say culture, I mean the common values and vision that a group of people believe in. When you have a team that shares a common set of values, then you can build a culture, and that culture becomes a brand. It’s what you stand for and how people perceive you. You build culture by setting expectations and standards for how you behave. We have a culture within the walls of the locker room, on the court, and on campus. You build it by holding one another accountable to the expectations and standards that are set forth by the coach, the school, and the team. This common vision is the foundation of our program. I was once asked, “What does culture mean at Loyola University Chicago?” I pointed to a picture I have on the wall in my office that had run in the Chicago Tribune after our Final Four run in 2018. It was a photo of me and the graduating seniors on that team and the Final Four emblem, with the caption “#1 Graduation Rate in the Country.” When the whole country got to know our team, they saw what a close-knit group of high-character guys they were. The circle of positive characteristics that feeds our culture is always expanding.
Energy and positivity are an important part of who I am, and I want to surround myself with people who are positive and have high energy. The best teams are those where your best players are your leaders. It’s the same for companies: your top performers set the tone. If they’re not setting the right tone, it will be hard for others to follow. I look for those positive characteristics in the players I recruit to the program. But it’s a two-way street: it has to be a good match for the player as well. When student-athletes are trying to decide where they are going to play in college, they need to find a way to get the attention of coaches and show them what they can do. Players use their skills and talents to get noticed. Once they get noticed, they have certain boxes they want checked off when they are deciding whether a particular school is a good fit for them. Maybe it’s the quality of the facilities on campus. Maybe they want to play in a competitive conference. Maybe they want to play for a coach who has a great reputation and plays a certain style of game. Sometimes student-athletes will pick a school based on where that school is located. It’s the same for me as a coach. I have certain boxes that must be checked off when I recruit student-athletes, no exceptions.
- Do they have passion and energy?
- Do they have character and respect?
- Do they want to be part of something bigger than themselves?
- Do they come from a winning program and culture?
- Do they play tough and smart?
My energy helps me in recruiting. When Clayton Custer announced he was going to transfer from Iowa State in 2015, I knew that this was a great young man who would be a perfect fit for Loyola and that Loyola was a perfect fit for him. With one day left in the recruiting period, I flew to Des Moines, rented a car, and drove to Ames to have lunch with Clayton. For the next two and a half hours, I explained why he should come to Loyola. That night I drove from Ames to Kansas City to meet his parents and talk to them. That effort paid off: Clayton committed to Loyola, where he was a huge key to our success. Instead of saying it was too hard a trip to make, I made it happen. My energy and passion drive me. It’s at the center of everything I do. It goes back to the old saying: the harder you work, the luckier you get.
I’m looking to fill my program with people who are driven to succeed. When I hire someone, energy is at the top of the list. I ask a series of questions: What is the temperature of the room going to be when they walk in? Is it going down? Or is it going up? What’s the mood going to be? I don’t want the mood, or energy, to be going down. I want someone to ignite the room, to raise the mood, to bring that positive energy. I challenge my assistants and my players to bring it harder than I do at practice because they know I’m going to bring it every day. My assistant coach Drew Valentine is one of the highest-energy guys I have on staff at Loyola. That’s why I hired him. When I talked to Tom Izzo, Drew’s boss at Michigan State, he told me that Drew’s energy level was equal to his. That’s a lot of energy. And he wasn’t kidding. I love coaching practice with Drew every day because he brings his energy to the floor, and he has fun. His energy is contagious. Energy is who he is. I always joke that he’s a first-team All-American trash talker who gets people fired up, including myself.
If you want culture, you recruit or hire culture. Everybody who joins our program, athletes and staff included, reads The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. That book outlines the way I want to build the culture of our program: create a positive vision; have a purpose; get the right people on the bus; fuel the ride with positive energy and enthusiasm; keep energy vampires off the bus; and work hard and enjoy the ride. Maintaining that culture was a big part of the Final Four run. I’ve also learned from Jon Gordon that it’s important to count your blessings; look at challenges as growth opportunities (we emphasize learning); talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself; feed yourself with positive encouragement; and choose faith instead of fear. I’m constantly referencing Gordon to motivate our players, even to the point of texting quotes from his books to the team. Little acts like these send a big message: “I care.” For example, I texted Lucas Williamson and Cameron Krutwig, our team captains, a quote from Gordon’s book Training Camp: “One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards of everyone around them. Be that one person today.” These reminders set the tone for what we are doing at Loyola.
That tone is reflected on game day. I love that the guys will jump from their seats whenever we make a big play, like a blocked shot, a dunk, or a key three-pointer. Even though there’s a rule that players must stay seated during the game, I want the official to come over to me and say, “Hey, Porter, get your team to sit down.” I’ll point to the guys on the bench and make it look like I’m telling them to sit down, but I’m actually telling them, “Great job; keep getting fired up!” Of course, if I get warned that I might get a technical foul, then I’ll make sure that they do sit down. But early in the game, I’m not going to corral our enthusiasm. You can see that energy in the way I pace the sidelines during a game; I’m oblivious to it until I’m watching the tape of the game. That energy is just part of who I am and who we are as a team. At some point during the game, I know I will take off my jacket and toss it aside. When I was at Illinois State, fans would guess how long into the game it would be before I tossed my jacket aside. At Loyola, some fans started a Twitter account called @PortersJacket, which covers the game from the point of view of my discarded jacket. I never realized that was such a big deal, but I love it—I love that people are getting a kick out of my energy. And I love that it gets them excited. My jacket stays on longer now, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve matured or because we’ve gotten better.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Defining Moments xi
1 Energy and Passion 1
2 Fall Seven, Rise Eight 17
3 Lessons on Humility and That Damn Ticker on ESPN 31
4 Competitive Reinvention 43
5 Find a Way 57
6 Because of Your Family 65
7 Learn From Your Mentors 79
8 A Person for (And With) Others 91
9 Go Forth and Set the World on Fire 101
10 Trust in the Process 111
11 Giving Gratitude 121
12 Decisions 131
About the Author 145
What People are Saying About This
Porter is a man of faith, of true character, a man whose experiences have been distilled into the kind of wisdom young people need from adults today. All In tells the story of what college athletics can and should be about. We need models of integrity in nearly every walk of life today, and this personal account of a career in education and sports could not come at a more critical time.