DALLAS — Teri Moren has led Indiana to some unprecedented heights this season.
The team won its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years, rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll and earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Moren was honored Thursday as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year, the first time she has won the award. She received 12 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley was second with eight votes. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received five and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks three.
Voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
“I think a lot of people were like this is going to be a year where Indiana is reloading, rebuilding, they won’t be as good as they had been the year prior. We were picked third in the Big Ten,” Moren said.
Moren was surprised by her team, who told her she won by using an elaborate ruse.
“Anytime you can share it with people that made it happen. the staff, the players, the most important people who have been instrumental in the season and this award is special. I was speechless.”
The team has come a long way from when Moren was growing up in southern Indiana. She was a die-hard fan of the Indiana basketball team — the men’s one, that is.
She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office, as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.
As far as the women’s team, it just wasn’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 75 consecutive weeks starting with the preseason one in 2019-2020. That’s the fourth-longest active streak.
Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six times.
“People still talk to me about living in Bloomington and they couldn’t afford a ticket to the men’s game. Not that they settled, but became women’s basketball fans. At that moment, you could walk in and find any seat you wanted and watch women’s basketball,” Moren said.
“There were 300-400 people in the stands, now to what it is today, it’s an unbelievable thing to watch it grow. Things you dream about, to see fans and bodies up in the rafters.”
The Hoosiers had six of the school’s top 10 most attended games this season, including crowds of more than 13,000 fans for the first round of the NCAA tournament and 14,000 for the second round game — a shocking loss to Miami.
“It stings right now, but that last game doesn’t define our season,” Moren said.