Sep. 21—WOOSTER — The College of Wooster's storied men's basketball program was in need of a spark when Steve Moore arrived on campus as the head coach in 1987.
Thanks to an abundance of excellent players and dedicated assistants over Moore's 33 years as the Fighting Scots' head coach, it didn't take long for that spark to ignite, as Wooster established a reputation as one of the finest collegiate programs — big or small — in the country.
Moore, a 1970 Monroeville graduate, will be inducted into the W Association Hall of Fame at The College of Wooster on Saturday (Sept. 25).
The players' buy-in to Moore's coaching philosophies was immediately evident, as Wooster's win total increased by six to 14 in his first season at the helm. Another seven-win improvement followed in year two, and with it, the first of a North Coast Athletic Conference-leading 18 championships. Winning continued at an exceptionally high rate under Moore, as Wooster won at least 18 games in each of his final 31 seasons at the helm, including at least 20 in each of his last 24 seasons, a feat upon his retirement that was tied with Duke University for the second-longest active streak of 20-win seasons in NCAA men's basketball.
While the Scots earned spots in eight NCAA Tournaments and won four NCAC titles in the 1990s, the 2000s is where Moore's legacy is firmly cemented and when Wooster reached the top echelon of collegiate basketball programs. After not making the NCAA Tournament in 2002, Wooster earned an automatic berth to the field in 2003 with a 93-71 win over Allegheny College in the championship game of the NCAC Tournament. Three games later, Wooster held off Ramapo College of New Jersey 68-64, and in doing so, punched its first ticket to the semifinals of the Div. III Championships, where the Scots finished third. Wooster hasn't missed the NCAA Tournament since 2002 — a Div. III record of 18 straight years — and the Scots' streak is tied for the seventh-longest in NCAA men's basketball history, regardless of division.
Four years after making its first national semifinals' appearance, Wooster punched its ticket back to Div. III's "Final Four" with a 94-87 victory over The College at Brockport, State University of New York. However, a spot in the national title game remained elusive, with Amherst College getting the better of Wooster 67-60 in the semifinals.
Everything — except the national championship — fell into place for Wooster during the 2010-11 season. One of Wooster's most talented teams opened the season with 20 straight wins, and the Scots' two losses during the regular season were by a combined five points. Top-ranked Whitworth University visited Timken Gymnasium for the sectional round of the national tournament, and Wooster utilized a key 11-2 second-half run en route to pulling away from the Pirates 76-66. That set the stage for a national semifinal contest against Williams College, which beat Wooster in the 2003 semifinals. The 2011 game was trending that way again, before Wooster staged a remarkable comeback to win 73-71 in a game in which it trailed by 17 with 8:54 remaining. The University of St. Thomas (Minn.) beat Wooster in the national championship game.
Prior to arriving at Wooster, Moore guided Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for six seasons. There, he helped the program post its first 20-win season in 40 years.
Moore retired with a 39-year career record of 867-253, including an extraordinary mark of 780-186 at Wooster. He's 12th all-time in NCAA men's basketball wins, No. 2 all-time in Div. III wins, and his student-athletes earned 21 All-American certificates and 111 All-NCAC honors. One of his top honors came in 2008, when the National Association of Basketball Coaches presented him a prestigious "Guardian of the Game" award for education, an honor also once bestowed to the legendary John Wooden.
Moore and his wife, Jane, live in Wooster, and have two daughters — Beth '03 and Emily '05 — and four grandchildren — Grace, Jack, Gwen, and Beau.