Tom Moore is enjoying his time on a college basketball sideline as an assistant coach again. He’s just as humble and wide-eyed as he was when he got his first opportunity to become a Division I assistant under coach Jim Calhoun at UConn in 1994.
Moore, 52, now sits next to 44-year-old head coach Danny Hurley at the University of Rhode Island after being let go as the head coach at Quinnipiac last spring after 10 seasons and no NCAA Tournament appearances. This is a little different than when he left his Division III head coaching job at Worcester State to join a Big East powerhouse that would go on to claim two national championships (1999 and 2004) under Calhoun while he was there.
Moore’s goal is to become a Division I head coach again. Another coach may look at his current situation as a step back but not the humble Moore, who left his $24,000-a-year head coaching job for $16,000 to start at UConn, eventually working his way up the ladder under a future Hall of Famer.
He is no stranger to hard work. It was that quality along with his meticulous attention to detail that allowed him to be successful in Storrs.
“When I got let go at Quinnipiac, there wasn’t an opportunity for me to go get another Division I head coaching job,” said Moore, who compiled a 162-146 mark in 10 seasons at Quinnipiac. “I think guys who get let go from high major jobs can sometimes land in the same season at a mid-major or a low-major job, but it seems like the hiring pattern, if you’re a mid-major or low-major and you get fired, it seems like you have to go back and be an assistant in most cases before you can gain traction or your reputation gains traction again and you have other opportunities. That’s just sort of the way the landscape was for me, I felt, in just reading the tea leaves in March.”
Hurley jumped at the opportunity to add Moore to his staff. He said it’s paid off in recruiting as well as on the court. His respect for Moore goes back to Moore’s time at UConn.
“Tom was one of the few guys I liked and respected because even when I was playing at Seton Hall, I always respected Calhoun, just how hard they played and how they came at you,” Hurley said. “If he was tough and good enough to work for Calhoun, I knew he would be good for me. And he’s been great, coaching, recruiting. He’s been a a great addition to the staff.”
Moore was let go in March 2017, but after about a week off, he felt he needed to get back in the game. He is fortunate to have landed in a good spot, one that happens to be about 1½ hours from his home in Tolland.
Hurley, son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., is doing big things at URI. Last season, his fifth, he led the Rams to just the second Atlantic 10 conference title in school history and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years. URI (12-3, 4-0 A-10) is off to another fine start behind a veteran team this year as well.
“I feel like I did in ’94 when I joined UConn at a time when the program had been built up to a point where it was running and functioning at a high level,” said Moore, who became the youngest head coach of a collegiate program when he was 24. “I have the same feeling here. You know I was just looking for a really good opportunity and I’ve always been a strong believer in that if you align yourself with good people and people you believe in, the next move will work for you. This is a great opportunity and I’m so grateful to Danny for offering it to me.”
Hurley said he’s had really good assistant coaches on his staff over the years. He said that’s the main reason he hasn’t been able to keep them. Not being able to pay them well enough to keep them long-term is another.
He expects Moore’s time will come — sooner rather than later — to become a Division I head coach again.
“I’m lucky to have him … it’s just how long can I keep him,” Hurley said. “When people look at his overall body of work with Coach Calhoun and at Quinnipiac, just how hard he worked to get to UConn, he didn’t come from a basketball family or have a lot of advantages of being a former player. He’s had to grind it out. The work he’s done with us this year has been terrific.”
“Dan has been great for me,” Moore said, “and great for me professionally to learn under a different philosophy, too. I had Coach Calhoun for 13 years and then I had myself and I was doing my thing for 10 years. Here, now we’ve got a whole different way of thinking from an X and O perspective, an offensive and defensive philosophy perspective, team building, recruiting.
“There’s a ton of new ideas I’ve been exposed to with these guys here this year, which stimulates your beliefs and makes you question some of the things you did and didn’t do. It’s great. It’s a great learning experience. I’m confident that I figure another head coaching opportunity will appear for me down the road. Will it be this spring? I don’t know. Will it be two years, three years? I don’t know, but I think something else will appear and I figure I will be even more ready for the opportunity. But right now, I’m really trying to put all my energy into doing as good a job for Dan at URI as I can.”