VIRGINIA — Mesabi Range College made a historic decision last week when Tamara Moore was named head coach of the men’s basketball program.
Moore is now the first woman to be the head coach of a men’s college basketball team in the country.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing’’ since she accepted the job last Tuesday.
Moore, 40, knows it is historic, but the former WNBA player has been head coach of the TC Elite men’s semi-pro team in the Twin Cities for three years and started up the Official Basketball Association, which has 35 men’s teams nationally, last summer.
“Coaching men has never been an issue,’’ Moore said in a telephone interview. From day one, it’s never been a problem because of my resume.’’ That includes being a standout Minneapolis North High School and a top player at the University of Wisconsin, where she is still the all-time assists and steals leader. She also played six seasons in the WNBA with seven different teams (including the Minnesota Lynx). “It’s a no-brainer to want to learn from me.’’
A special connection ultimately made it possible for Moore to land the job leading the Norsemen, who went 6-19 last season. She is taking over the position from David Wilson.
Moore, who was most recently the head girls’ basketball coach at Minneapolis Edison, had one of her players recruited to play volleyball at Mesabi by head coach Sara Matuszak. Ironically, Matuszak was Moore’s high school guidance counselor when she was playing for Minneapolis North.
“The connection was instantly made,’’ Moore said. “She was one of my favorite teachers — if not my favorite teacher — in the building at the time.’’
Moore remembers spending a lot of time in Matuszak’s office and often laughing together.
Matuszak ended up emailing Moore about any volleyball or girls’ basketball players that might be interested in playing at Mesabi (Sara’s husband Brad is also the women’s basketball coach for the Lady Norse).
The two eventually hooked up on the telephone and Moore closed out the conversation by telling Matuszak to let her know of any assistant coaching jobs at Mesabi. Little did she know the men’s job was open and was going to be combined with the softball head coaching post, which she also later accepted.
“Who would have known that one of my girls’ basketball players being recruited for volleyball makes this all happen,’’ Moore said.
She is equally committed to the softball program and will soon be reaching out to the players. “I don’t want them to feel like they’re a second entity to the buzz that’s going on with this men’s team. I’m just as dedicated to them as I am to this men’s job.’’
Moore has already got several recruits to commit to Mesabi Range College for the 2020-21 season — and more are expected. “We’ll definitely have a 15-man roster this coming season.’’
The recruits have all been impressed by Moore’s resume and have wanted to join the Norsemen.
“At the end of the day, I know the game. I was an amazing player, but I’m an even more amazing coach. I believe that because I study the art of basketball. ... I’m a student of the game.’’
Moore even coached the Minneapolis North freshman team while she was a senior on the varsity.
“I’ve always been enamored with the idea of making people better. That’s what makes me feel good about coaching. It’s changing lives and being able to be involved.’’
Making players better and knowing the game are two of her best attributes, but being a self-starter is high on the list.
“For me I am so good at bringing something to life.’’
Asked by others if she’s nervous about the task ahead, she emphatically said, “No.’’ The team was 6-19 last year, so “all I can do is go up.’’
Knowing the Minneapolis market and many of the high school players there is a bonus, as well. “A lot of the players around here know me.’’
Moore said she has about 40 player videos on her cellphone and filling the roster shouldn’t be the hard part. Bringing in the right players will be the hardest part because “all eyes will be on Mesabi. I want Mesabi to be a hotbed’’ for Minnesota and beyond. Interested recruits are currently from as far away as Florida and Israel, where Moore played professional basketball.
Her goal is to run Mesabi’s program like a Division I program. That will included a March Madness-type event when the season officially starts up on Oct. 1. She envisions scrimmages for the men and women, as well as dunk and 3-point contests.
As far as her coaching style, Moore said, “defense wins games, offense sells tickets.’’
Moore believes her defensive abilities kept her in the WNBA for six years and she wants to relay that to the Norsemen.
“We have to play defense and let the offense come from that.’’