CHICAGO — Loyola Chicago promoted assistant Drew Valentine to head coach on Monday, hoping he can build on the success the Ramblers experienced under Porter Moser.
The 29-year-old Valentine helped Loyola make two deep NCAA Tournament runs in four seasons as an assistant. He gets his first head coaching job with Moser taking over at Oklahoma after a 10-year run that included a Final Four in 2018 and a Sweet 16 appearance this year.
In a statement, Valentine called the promotion “an absolute honor” and called Moser “one of the biggest mentors and role models in my life.”
“The impact that he has made on this entire university will not forgotten,” Valentine said. “We will continue to do things the right way, with character and passion! The vision and standard that Coach Moser established will forever remain a part of the culture.”
Valentine played a big role in Loyola’s rise. The Ramblers went 99-36 overall and 56-16 in the Missouri Valley Conference the past four years, winning three regular-season league championships.
He was Loyola’s de facto defensive coordinator the past two years. That group ranked among the best in the country this season.
“Over the course of his career as both a player and as a coach, Drew had proven that he’s a winner who does things the right way,” athletic director Steve Watson said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of the recent success of our program and Drew has played a key role in those accomplishments. He is the perfect person to lead us as we continue to build upon that success as we begin the next chapter of Loyola basketball.”
Before arriving at Loyola, Valentine played at Oakland and was a graduate manager at Michigan State under Tom Izzo. He then returned to his alma mater as an assistant from 2015 to 2017. Valentine is the older brother of Chicago Bulls guard and former Spartans star Denzel Valentine, and his father, Carlton, starred for the Spartans in the 1980s and became a successful high school coach.
Moser, who takes over for the retired Lon Kruger at Oklahoma, was 188-141 in 10 years at Loyola. He has a 293-242 record in 17 seasons as a college head coach, with stops at Arkansas Little Rock (2000-03) and Illinois State (2003-07).
The Ramblers went 26-5 in their fourth straight year with 20 or more wins and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their stunning Final Four appearance.
They went 32-6 that season and charmed the nation in an unexpected run buoyed by one last-second shot after another. Along the way, their team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, became a celebrity, with bobbleheads and athletic apparel and national TV interviews.
Loyola, with the nation’s stingiest scoring defense, made another run this year. The Ramblers earned their first AP Top 25 ranking since March 1985 and won the MVC Tournament for the second time in four years.
Sister Jean, 101 years old and fully vaccinated against COVID-19, was on hand for the NCAA Tournament. She watched in Indianapolis as the Ramblers beat Georgia Tech and dominated top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Illinois in the second round before falling to Oregon State.