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With a Record of Building Tournament Teams, Carrie Moore Plans to Bring Women’s Basketball Back to March

Harvard women's basketball participates in Crimson Madness for its season opener on March 15, 2021. Team will now be led by Carrie Moore after over 40 years under the helm of Head Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith.
Harvard women's basketball participates in Crimson Madness for its season opener on March 15, 2021. Team will now be led by Carrie Moore after over 40 years under the helm of Head Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. By Zadoc I.N. Gee

As soon as Harvard Head Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith announced this past fall that she would be retiring after 40 years at the University, Carrie Moore set her “heart and eyes” on the position. Moore had just coached her first game as an assistant at the University of Michigan, but she had wanted to be a head coach since she worked at basketball camps in college, and the job she describes as the best in the country was always at the back of her mind.

In Cambridge, the decision-makers behind the coaching search had their eyes on Moore. Athletic Director Erin McDermott had worked with the Michigan native when they were both at Princeton from 2008-2010. Moore had also spent the years since working with McDermott building an impressive resume. At Creighton from 2010-2015, Moore was on the bench for five straight postseason appearances.

Returning in 2016 to Princeton as an Assistant Coach, Moore was instrumental in recruiting the team that has dominated the Ivy League for the last four seasons. She still remembers watching Abby Meyers at AAU tournaments in high school, long before Meyers would become the 2022 Ivy League Player of the Year and lead Princeton to a first-round upset over Kentucky in March’s NCAA tournament.

From Princeton, she was hired in 2019 to be Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at North Carolina, where she brought two top-10 classes and three McDonald’s All-Americans to a team that hovered around .500 for four years before her arrival, eventually helping to guide a team to the NCAA tournament in 2021. Last year, Moore moved to the same role at Michigan, where she continued to build her reputation as a recruiter and helped lead their team to this year’s Elite Eight.

Creighton, UNC, and Princeton – programs where Moore’s fingerprints are still evident – each made runs in this year’s NCAA tournament as well, with Creighton also surviving to the round of eight, UNC making the Sweet 16, and Princeton falling one possession short of joining them.

Moore’s sustained success in recruiting likely stems in part from the fact that not too long ago, she was in the same place as many of the high schoolers she scouts. After a standout high school career in the Detroit area, Moore was a four-year starter at Western Michigan University from 2003-2007, scoring a school-record 2,216 points over her career and leading the nation in scoring her senior year, tallying 25.4 points per game. She then played in the pre-season for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, briefly signed to the Chicago Sky, and played a year in Poland before transitioning to coaching.

At just 36 years old, she joins a cohort of young coaches with impressive player resumes at the top of the Ivy League, from Columbia’s Megan Griffith, who graduated from Columbia in 2007 and played three years professionally in Europe, to Princeton’s Carla Berube, who was a 1,000-point scorer for Geno Auriemma at UConn in the late 1990s. This youth, according to Moore, brings advantages.

“I think there’s a youthfulness about me, there’s an authenticity and a relatability that has always transcended really well throughout the recruiting process,” Moore reflects. “I think I’m a player’s coach, and I’ll be able to relate to them.”

Though Harvard does not have the Power Five pedigree of UNC or Michigan, Moore is excited to continue her recruiting efforts in her new role and build on the momentum that has landed top players like first-year Harmoni Turner, a five-star recruit in 2021, and junior McKenzie Forbes, a transfer from the University of California. “Any player and any family in the country is going to call me back once I say ‘I’m Carrie Moore, and I’m the Head Coach at Harvard,’” Moore suspects. “[The school] really sells itself, so it’s not a sell - it’s more of a presentation and an opportunity that I want to be able to share with some of the best basketball players and some of the best people throughout the country.”

The first-time head coach also looks forward to building her strategic philosophy, planning to implement a fast-paced offense that opens up space for Harvard’s multiple shooters and playmakers, and a “blue-collar” defense. Hoping to borrow from Tom Izzo, whose gritty Michigan State men’s teams she grew up watching (“I’m sure my Michigan folks won’t be too happy about it,” she likes to joke), Moore envisions instilling a culture that cures some of the rebounding ills Harvard faced this past season and tires their opponents out. This mindset, along with her familiarity with Princeton’s team, are the pieces that Moore plans to use to help Harvard add its first Ivy League title since 2008.

Settling into her first week in her new position, Moore’s excitement to be at Harvard is readily apparent. She sees connections to her job arise in spaces that seem at first to have little to do with basketball, and hopes to create an environment where her players can “soak up every ounce of potential” from the Harvard experience, not just on the court but also in the arena of social change. She recently texted her new team about the confirmation of Harvard Alumna Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, seeing echoes of her players in the first Black female justice on the nation’s highest legal body. “I want us all to be able to aspire to do unimaginable things,” Moore remembered telling them. “And I feel like they’re already doing that, just attending Harvard.”

Moore is especially appreciative of being able to follow Kathy Delaney-Smith, speaking with reverence about her predecessor’s impact on her players, the program, and women’s place in sports as a whole. Speaking with Delaney-Smith’s former players and hearing their regard for their coach has been, says Moore, “a motivating force… to build relationships that last not only four four years, but forever,” and to help her players reach graduation “ready to set the world on fire.” Though Delaney-Smith is retiring, Moore says she looks forward to keeping in touch with the coaching legend throughout the transition process and to seeing her at games in the future. “I told her that her legacy will live on as long as I’m the Head Coach at Harvard,” Moore recalls.

But what has Moore most excited about the future is the group of players she has right now. She watched Harvard’s nail-biting loss to #24 Princeton in the Semifinals of this year’s Ivy League Tournament, and she was moved by the fight and the emotion the Crimson showed while almost pulling off the upset. Her opinion was only heightened upon meeting the team and getting an introduction into her players’ unique personalities. While she has only known them for less than a week, they’ve already given her a moment she expects she will never forget. As Moore and a number of team members took a picture after the coach’s introductory event, she told them: “This is it guys. This is day one; it’s going to be a great ride – just believe it.”

— Staff writer Nicholas Daley can be reached at nicholas.daley@thecrimson.com.

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