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    Then & Now: Moe Iba

    Then & Now: Moe Iba

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)


    basketball Hall of Famer Moe Iba was the head coach of

    the Huskers from 1981-1986, and achieved a career record

    of 106-71. While at Nebraska, Iba’s teams averaged over

    seventeen wins per season, and four times reached the

    post-season, including the school’s first ever NCAA

    tournament appearance in 1985-1986. Iba also won Big 8

    coach of the year twice, and each of his six teams

    finished with a winning record.

    Iba recently joined HHC on the

    twentieth anniversary of Nebraska’s first ever-modern

    NCAA tournament birth, to talk about both yesterday and


    HHC: Moe, its an

    honor to have you join us, and we appreciate you taking

    the time to do this.

    MI:  No problem. It’s

    a pleasant surprise to hear from you.

    HHC: As a player, you started at guard for

    three seasons at Oklahoma State, where you played for

    your father, Henry Iba, who is probably the man that

    revolutionized college basketball more than anyone else.

    What was it like playing for him, and what did you


    MI: Well, the thing

    about playing for my father was that growing up, and

    after watching the success they had at Oklahoma State,

    that’s always where I wanted to play when I came out of

    high school. So, that aspect of the experience made it

    that much more enjoyable.

    The thing that I got from playing

    for my father was the philosophy that carried throughout

    my coaching career, as far as knowing how to play

    defense and handle players.

    HHC: Upon graduating

    from Oklahoma State, you took a job at Texas Western

    (now UTEP) as an assistant coach to Don Haskins. While

    at Texas Western, you were put in charge of the freshman

    teams, and helped develop them while compiling a record

    of 64-9. In fact, many of the players you developed

    played on the famous 1966 team that upset Kentucky and

    won the national championship. What was it like being a

    part of that, and where does it rank on your

    accomplishment list?

    MI: At Texas Western,

    coach Haskins and I were the only coaches, as I was his

    assistant. So, that was truly an honor. And, the players

    that we had on our freshman team did go on to play for

    the varsity, as you pointed out, and I helped with them

    there, too. 

    Winning the championship at Texas

    Western was a feat that people probably don’t realize; a

    small school going against Kentucky, and winning a

    national championship was just unbelievable. I was very

    young at the time, and probably appreciate it now more

    than then. The thing that is going to be nice is that in

    the next three months, a movie is coming out about that


    HHC: Yeah, we saw

    that, and we want to ask you about that in a second.

    First, talk to us about what that 1966 team did in

    helping African Americans cross into college basketball.

    MI: It’s funny you

    should mention that. The thing that I didn’t realize at

    the time was that sure, we’d played against other black

    players throughout the year, but when we played

    Kentucky, they had all white players and we had all

    black. And honestly, I think that’s what made it such a

    monumental game. 

    HHC: Have you had a

    chance to see a sneak peak of the movie yet, which will

    be called Glory Road?

    MI: No, I haven’t,

    although I’ve seen the previews, and we’re going to get

    to preview it on November 28th in El Paso.

    And I’m looking very forward to that.

    HHC: So who is going

    to play you, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Vin Diesel?

    MI: (Laughs) I don’t

    know who is going to play me, but the story is mainly

    about coach Haskins, and how he got to Texas Western.

    And, then of course about the national championship,

    which is what the story should be about. 

    HHC: We’ll have to

    check in with you after you’ve seen the movie. Hey,

    after your impressive success at Texas Western, you took

    the head-coaching job at Memphis State, where you stayed

    from 1967-1970. Talk about your times in Tennessee.

    MI: Well, my first year there, they were

    independent, and we did well in going to the NIT. The

    second year, we joined the Missouri Valley, and it was a

    situation where Memphis State did not have any black

    athletes. So, we recruited the first black athlete to

    Memphis State, and I felt good about the progress we

    made there, as far as breaking the color line. Some of

    those recruits ended up going to the national finals

    against UCLA, actually. 

    HHC: You came to

    Nebraska as Joe Cipriano’s top assistant coach in 1970,

    which was a position you held for eight years. Talk

    about what it was like working for “Slippery Joe,” and

    what did you learn from him?

    MI: The thing about

    Joe was that he was a very good recruiter, and people

    didn’t give him enough praise for his basketball

    knowledge. I think I learned more about getting the ball

    from the defensive end of the floor to the offensive end

    than I’d ever known before from Joe. Joe believed in

    solid basketball, good defense, and he wanted to play a

    fast type offense, which I learned a great bit about

    from him. 

    Off the court, Joe and I became

    very good friends, and he loved life. The way he was

    taken away from us was a shame, but he was a wonderful

    man, and of course, I got very close with his son Randy,

    who became my assistant at Nebraska.

    HHC: After your eight

    years of being his top assistant, you served one year as

    assistant head coach for Cipriano in 1979-1980, as he

    was fighting cancer, and actually won Big 8 coach of the

    year that season.

    A year later, and one night before

    the beginning of the 1980-1981 season, Cipriano lost his

    battle with cancer, and you took over the reigns as head

    coach of Nebraska. How difficult was this time of your

    life, and what you remember about it?

    MI: The toughest

    thing was watching Joe go down hill, as far as the

    cancer taking control. And the year that he was still

    alive in 1979-1980, that was a wonderful year, because

    he would go with the team and sit on the bench, and it

    was his team. I think I got closer to him that year than

    any other year. It was sad to see him go, and when he

    passed away, we took over the ball club, and it was very

    difficult for the players, I think. They thought so much

    of Joe and rallied together, and played very well that


    HHC: Your first two

    years as head coach at Nebraska, in 1980-1981 and

    1981-1982, your teams finished with winning records, and

    in the top half of the conference. However, it’s the

    next season, in 1982-1983, that we really want to talk

    about, as your team made the final 4 of the NIT at

    Madison Square Garden. Talk to us about what you

    remember about that team?

    MI: Well, that team

    was a very special team because it was the first year of

    Dave Hoppen at Nebraska. And, he was such a big part of

    Nebraska basketball for the four years he was there. The

    guards were David Ponce and Greg Downing, and Claude

    Renfro played one of the forwards. Our big men weren’t

    very big in stature, as far as height, but they were

    very good athletes. It was a very special year, and I

    just thought that we got a lot out of the ability that

    we had. And David came along so well during that year.

    HHC: Your 1983-1984

    and 1984-1985 teams also made the NIT, just missing the

    NCAA Tournament. Out of all three of your NIT teams at

    Nebraska, did any of them underachieve, overachieve, or

    did they all play to their level?

    MI: Well, I thought that they all played

    to their level. The one year, and I can’t remember

    exactly when it was, but Stan Cloudy got hurt, and he

    was our three man. He went down, and it was a situation

    where I think we’d have done better if he had been

    healthy at the end of the year. So, that was

    disappointing. However, those teams all played well, and

    they were all teams that I will remember, and of course,

    David was the key cog of those teams. 

    HHC: The immediate

    success you had at Nebraska was quite amazing, and we

    have to get your opinion on the whole “football school”

    label that Nebraska has had on its forehead for decades.

    Does that make it more difficult for basketball to

    succeed, and was it that way when you were in Lincoln?

    MI: Well, I’ve always

    said that the best time of my life was when I was at

    Nebraska, and I’ve always said this about Nebraska.

    Because of the fans and facilities, and because of it

    just being the University of Nebraska - If you can’t win

    in basketball at the University of Nebraska, you can’t


    HHC:  Before we talk about your last

    season at Nebraska in 1985-1986, we have to talk about

    the illegal practice prior to the start of that season.

    What are your thoughts on it both then and now?

    MI: Oh… (Pause) Well,

    I guess it was a big deal to a lot of people… And, we

    probably shouldn’t have done it the couple times we did

    it. But, we were punished by getting so many practice

    days taken away, and I’m sure that it upset some of the

    people on the board of regents at Nebraska. And, I’m

    sorry for it, but it was something that happened, and we

    worked through that.

    HHC: Now that we’ve got that out of the

    way… (Laughs) 1985-1986 was a monumental year in

    Nebraska basketball history, as your team achieved the

    first ever modern NCAA Tournament birth in school

    history, and Dave Hoppen became the all-time scoring

    leader at Nebraska, despite going down with a crucial

    injury in the Colorado game.

    How special of a team was that?

    MI: Well, the thing

    about that year was that David was having a great year.

    We went to Colorado, as you mentioned, and he hurt his

    leg in the first half, and we went into halftime and I

    asked him if he thought he could play, and he said yes.

    So, he went back out, and it crumbled on him real early

    in the second half. To this day, I don’t think he hurt

    it any further, but he had ligament damage and couldn’t

    play anymore that year. I thought we had a real good

    chance to win the conference championship that year with


    The thing that was most amazing to

    me was that the next game was at home against K-State,

    and we got beat very badly. And, we changed some things

    within the next week or so, and went to a very small

    lineup. The players we had left accepted the roles they

    were put in, and played probably as good of basketball

    as I’ve ever had with a very small team.

    Harvey Marshall was on that team,

    as was Anthony Bailous. And, probably the one player

    that gathered our team together better than anybody was

    Bernard Day, who was a 6’4 and a half forward that

    really played well. And, Brian Carr played great at the

    guard spot, so we played three guards, and those people

    played tremendous basketball for the last part of the


    HHC: At the end of that season, and

    immediately following the first round NCAA tournament

    loss to Western Kentucky, you resigned as head

    basketball coach at Nebraska, despite having a large

    amount of success. What drove you to this decision?

    MI: It wasn’t my

    choice, to be very honest with you. I resigned after I

    had talked to coach Devaney, and some people on the

    board of regents, along with the president at the time.

    They had put pressure on Bob to fire me, and would have

    in the middle of that year, had he not let me stay until

    the end and resign. The people who made the decision on

    that were totally away from athletics, and they know

    whom they are and that they made a mistake. But, I have

    nothing but good things to say about Nebraska.

    HHC: In your own words, what kind of

    basketball coach was Moe Iba?

    MI: I think I was

    demanding, but fair. I think that while I was at

    Nebraska, the thing I appreciated more than anything was

    that the players played hard, and that’s all you can ask

    for with coaching.

    HHC: Talk a little

    bit about Jack Moore, whom you coached from 1979-1982,

    and who later died in the tragic plane crash in 1984.

    What was it like having him break your Big 8 free-throw

    percentage record while he played for you?

    MI: Jack Moore came

    from Muncie Central, and he played for Bill Herald.

    Moore came to Nebraska because of Joe. And, the first

    year, even though he had been player of the year in

    Indiana, Jack was not real successful - He was a little


    Then, his sophomore-senior years,

    you couldn’t have asked for anymore from a point guard.

    He ran the point guard well, and as you said, hit all

    his free throws. And, at that time, there was no shot

    clock, so anytime you got ahead late in the ballgame,

    you gave the ball to Jack, because they had to foul him.

    Jack was voted the best little

    player in the country his senior year, as far as being

    under 5’10”, and was a tremendous basketball player.

    And, it was not just because of his size, but also

    because his knowledge of the game, and how he knew how

    to run a basketball team.

    HHC: What are some of your favorite

    players and memories while at Nebraska?

    MI: First of all, my

    favorite memories of Nebraska are the people. The people

    in Lincoln and Omaha were great people, but I also

    always found out, that the further west you moved, it

    got even better. And, I was amazed, that even when it

    was 20 below, and we were playing OU one night, and I

    said to myself, “My God, there will be nobody here.”

    And I walked into the gym to find

    it full. That’s the thing that I remember, the support

    we got from the fans, and how much they loved Nebraska.

    Didn’t matter what they were playing, whether it be

    football, baseball, basketball, or whatever; they had

    great fans.

    I could name a number of favorite

    players, but all of the guys who played for us were

    special, and I always remember them being great

    individuals and playing their hearts out.

    HHC: Update us on Moe Iba’s life since

    1986. What have you been doing since resigning at


    MI: Well, after I left Nebraska, I spent

    one year at Drake University as an assistant, and then

    the next year, I got a job as head coach at Texas

    Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, which is

    where I live now. I coached there for six years, and had

    good success, and then I just kind of got worn down on

    basketball and retired.

    Then, after being retired, I got

    involved again, because of a former coach at Nebraska

    that worked for me, John Hammond. He is the player

    personnel director of the Detroit Pistons. So, he got me

    involved with advanced scouting, and I’ve been doing

    that the last seven years. I’ve worked for Detroit,

    Toronto, Seattle, and a number of other teams in the

    league. And, it’s been very enjoyable and kept me in


    HHC: That’s awesome,

    we didn’t know any of that. Moe, we appreciate you

    taking the time to join us. Would you be okay with

    taking some e-mails from the fans at

    [email protected] if we set you up an

    e-mail account and tell you how to check it?   

    MI: Yeah, the only

    thing is I don’t have a computer. (Laughs) But yes, I

    can get access to it and take e-mails, and would enjoy

    that very much.

    Like I said, my times at Nebraska

    were the best of my life, and I’ve got nothing but good

    things to say about them. This has been a very fun

    conversation Dave, and I really appreciate you calling.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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