She had to quickly put together a staff and start working on the new season without much time to spend with the team.
Moren was taking over as IU’s women’s basketball coach after Curt Miller resigned in late July, citing personal matters as the reason for his abrupt departure that left a program shocked and confused.
“What would have been ideal was if all of this had taken place in June, July and I get to spend time with them in the summer and establish our culture, our core values, what is going to be important to us moving forward,” Moren said. “And that kind of had to be sped up ?because of the late start.”
Those two months would have been beneficial for getting to know the players off the floor. So far, the staff has just gotten to know the team on the floor.
“I think it’s been a tremendous challenge for them,” Moren said. “I’m not sure it was as smooth as maybe people on the outside think it looks like. It’s been challenging for the players and, I think, our staff.”
Sophomore guard Larryn Brooks said the team’s first interaction with Moren was a phone call after her hire was announced.
“I think everyone’s impression was, ‘I hope she’s good. We don’t really know a lot and we just want to really get to know her,’” Brooks said.
The team hasn’t had that time to get to know Moren off the court.
“They’ve all said it,” Moren said. “‘You guys didn’t recruit us. We don’t know you guys.’”
Moren has been the new head coach at a school twice before.
It took her three seasons to bring Indianapolis to a 29-3 record. After that, it took her four years to win a conference title at Indiana State. Coaching at a school like IU was a little different.
“I would say this, by far, has been my most challenging,” Moren said.
IU started with a 10-1 record, but that came against a nonconference schedule that primarily consisted of smaller schools and losing teams.
Since then, IU is 3-8 in conference play and at one point lost six of seven games. The team gave away a lead it held for 38 minutes against then-No. 23 Minnesota, lost to a Penn State team that was 0-7 in Big Ten play and were outscored by three Michigan State players alone in a 72-57 loss Jan. 28.
A transition that appeared to be going well for the new coach took a quick turn as the questions began: what was happening, and where were things going wrong?
“I think the hardest thing was the timing of it was not very good,” ?Moren said.
Teri Moren didn’t watch a lot of film of her new team when she took the job as IU women’s basketball coach on purpose. She wanted to be able to make up her own mind on what skills each player brought to the team.
The returning players had the taste of success, but Moren knew there would be troubles.
She had seen freshman guard Tyra Buss a few times in high school and had an idea of freshman guard Maura Muensterman, but she did not have too much knowledge of what the incoming freshman class would bring.
She did know one thing.
“I anticipated that we would probably be the smallest team in the Big Ten,” Moren said.
The team wasn’t very deep at the four or five spots, Moren said, and they weren’t as athletic as they needed to be. She knew what Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers were capable of based on her time coaching against them as an assistant at Georgia Tech.
Sophomore guards Larryn Brooks and Alexis Gassion were the players she mentioned that would be crucial. Brooks had a strong freshman year and was the point guard, the leader. Gassion brought athleticism and versatility in that she could guard multiple positions.
Moren likes to note that, as a former point guard, she and Brooks share a connection. Moren was a point guard at Purdue and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
“She told me all the time, ‘You’re the leader, you’re the point guard. I need you up in the office,’” Brooks said. “’We need to be talking about offense, we need to be talking about game plan. We need to be talking about anything after games: good things, bad things.’”
Curt Miller did not inherit a team that fit his style. He emphasized scoring and shooting.
IU went 11-19 in the first season, but then Miller was able to start bringing in players that aligned with his vision for the program.
The 21-win 2014 season came once players like Brooks and guard Taylor Agler came along and provided some shooting.
Moren, on the other hand, focuses more on defense. Despite that, the manner in which they coach does not seem all that different.
Mike Miller of the Bloomington Herald-Times covered the team for both of Curt Miller’s two seasons at IU.
“He seemed to be very demanding,” Miller said. “They would let us watch practice, and he sort of stayed back a little but then when he didn’t like something, he made sure you understood he didn’t like it and what you did wrong.”
Moren also hangs back from a distance while the team does drills and is not afraid to make her point authoritatively when she sees something she doesn’t like.
Coach Miller knew that the 2015 team was going to have problems with size, so he recruited accordingly. He got former Big East Defensive Player of the Year Liz Stratman to transfer to IU, but she has to sit out a season because of transfer rules. He signed post player Jenna Allen, but she decommitted a week after Miller stepped down and switched her commitment to Michigan State.
Regardless, Miller expected the same troubles inside that Moren now has to deal with in 2015.
“I think had Curt been coaching this team, he fully expected that they were probably going to take a step back from where they were last year,” Miller said.
Anna Munn was in a similar situation to the IU freshmen when Teri Moren became the coach at Indiana State in 2010. She was not recruited by Moren and she had to adjust to a new school with a new coach that she did not know.
But when Moren came to her house in the spring to reassure Munn she wanted her to be a part of the program, any worries about the coach faded.
“I wasn’t recruited by her, but when she came into my house, it automatically felt like family,” Munn said. “She treated me like I was a part of her family.”
Munn said she and Moren had a very close relationship during her four years as the team went from a .500 record to MVC regular season champs.
Her senior year, she was the only original member left from Moren’s first year. She said Moren was demanding and she expected strong character from her players if they wanted to touch the court.
“I really understood her philosophy and was able to show that through my work ethic and dedication. That you need to have that to play under Teri Moren,” Munn said.
Moren was compassionate, not just toward the players, but toward their families. Her dedication at Indiana State was evident in preparation for games and also in developing relationships with players, Munn said.
“I think that’s why she is so successful,” Munn said. “She really sees us as people, not just as athletes.”
IU has a young basketball team. Of the 1,642 points IU has scored this season, only two have not come from a freshman or sophomore. Veteran leadership roles have fallen on players who have only been there one year longer than the freshmen they are supporting.
“I don’t know if there is a younger team in the country,” Moren said. “Eleven freshmen and sophomores, no juniors, a senior walk-on; I don’t know what other team in the country has that makeup.”
Learning to accommodate the unpredictable nature of a young team, Moren said, has been a dominant theme throughout this season. There are games in which IU has everything clicking against higher-ranked opponents, and other games that leave IU squandering, sinking to the level of lower competition.
The lack of size was never a secret, and the coaching staff has worked on being creative with how to play defense. There is always a primary strategy and one or two backup plans for when the original scheme does not work out. This small-ball lineup has led to Moren going outside the box, including having Gassion occasionally guard fours and having forward Amanda Cahill guard less-athletic threes.
“I have also used more zone than I ever have in my career,” Moren said. “I’m not crazy about zone, never have been.”
The adjustment has had its rocky moments. The timing was not ideal. But this is only one season in a six-year contract.
It is still a winning basketball team, and struggles in the Big Ten season were to be ?expected.
Moren will have her first full off-season and summer when the 2015 season comes to a close. She will be bringing in two new post recruits in forward Kym Royster and center Danielle Williams. She said she is excited to have more time to get to know her team, both current and incoming. She is enthusiastic about being able to get in the gym and develop the game of some of these young players. But there is also still a season going on.
The Hoosiers had lost four straight games and six of seven, but then Monday night they took on Purdue, Moren’s alma mater.
Moren’s Hoosiers won an ugly, hard-fought game that consisted of 40 fouls and players being thrown to the ground fighting for rebounds.
She was pleased with her young team’s toughness and its ability to close out a game, which they had not been able to do in the recent weeks. Her press conference had a more optimistic tone than had been heard in a while.
When asked by a reporter about defeating her old school, she spoke of its tradition. Her admiration for what has been achieved there was evident.
“It’s my job now to build that here.”