John Moore
The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table is naming its College Coach of the Year Award after longtime Westmont men’s basketball coach John Moore. The winningest coach in program history stepped down after 27 years. (Noozhawk file photo)

John Moore, the winningest coach in Westmont men’s basketball history, is stepping down after 27 years at the helm, he announced Friday.

Moore was named the NAIA Coach of the Year this past season after guiding the Warriors to a 26-5 record, the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title and a program-record sixth straight NAIA National Tournament. He is the first Westmont men’s basketball coach to receive the award.

Moore accumulated a 558-278 (.667) record in his 27 years at Westmont and took his teams  to 14 NAIA national tournament appearances.

Landon Boucher has been named the new head coach, Westmont Athletic Director Dave Odell announced.

Boucher played under Moore at Westmont for two seasons (2010-12). Two years ago, he coached San Marcos High to a CIF-Southern Section Division 2A boys basketball championship and was named the division’s Coach of the Year.

“Coach Boucher is a big picture thinker who is not here just to win games but also to build on the tradition set before him,” Odell said. “He brings a strong faith commitment and a real understanding of the college’s academic mission and our aspirations as an athletic program.

“Having been in and around Westmont basketball for almost 40 years, I had a strong sense of what we were looking for in a head coach. In a way, Coach Boucher had an 11-year interview for this job. The last few years, it became quite clear as he made an immediate impact helping recruit many of this year’s GSAC championship team, scouting and developing winning game plans. Landon is ready for the next challenge.”  

Moore will continue to serve as an associate professor of kinesiology and associate athletic director at the college.

“It is hard to imagine 27 years have passed since that first year when Jeff Azain and I coached a team of players whom today I call lifetime friends,” Moore said. “Every team Jeff and I have coached has been unique, and while we have had success on the court, it has paled in comparison to the friendships our players have forged and the growth our men have experienced through their time at Westmont.

“I have always believed coaching and teaching at Westmont have been what God has called me to do. It is in these deep bonds of brotherhood that God has done his finest work. And for this I am eternally grateful.”

Moore leaves coaching following perhaps his most successful season.

After beginning the 2019-20 campaign with a 14-game winning streak, the second best start to a season in program history, the Warriors won the Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season championship with a 15-3 record in conference play. All five starters averaged double-digit scoring, led by junior guard Abram Carrasco’s 18.9 points per game (ppg) and senior forward Justin Bessard’s 15.1 ppg.

“I would especially recognize this past year’s group as the last team I will have coached at Westmont,” Moore said. “They have played this game the Warrior way. They have been tough, smart and unselfish, and they have honored the game and each other, a seeming amalgam of all past teams.”

Unfortunately, Moore was unable to take his team to the national tournament in what is now known to be his final year as head coach. The day after the tournament bracket was released, the NAIA canceled the national championship due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Moore has had assistant Jeff Azain, left, by his side for his entire coaching career at Westmont.

John Moore has had assistant Jeff Azain, left, by his side for his entire coaching career at Westmont. (Westmont College photo)

“My sole regret this season is that we were unable to compete in Kansas City, as it would have given us even more time together and one last chance to battle for a national championship,” Moore said.

His 1998-99 squad, led by senior forward Brian Gomes, went 29-6 and reached the tournament semifinals. Gomes averaged a double-double of 15.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

In the 2002 tournament, Moore led the team to a quarterfinal appearance with junior forwards Chris Clark (18.8 ppg) and Mitch Pierce (13.3 ppg) leading the way. The team finished with a 22-10 record.

The 2014-15 team reached the national championship game for the first time in program history behind sophomore guard Cory Blau (16.4 ppg) and senior center Daniel Carlin (13.6 ppg). After defeating GSAC-rival Hope International in the semifinals, 70-69, Westmont lost to Dalton State (Ga.) in the championship game with Carlin on the bench due to severe flu-like symptoms.

“Of course I will have fond memories of games in Kansas City and Tulsa representing Westmont,” Moore said. “But even those memories, as sweet as they are, do not compare to the joy we experienced together daily in Murchison Gymnasium and on Kammerer Court.

“I would like to say thank you to my assistant coaches, especially my most recent ones – Jeff Azain, Landon Boucher, Rob Goodrow and Larry Knapp.

“A special thank you also goes to the three presidents, David Winter, Stan Gaede, and Gayle Beebe, and the three athletic directors, Ron Mulder, Dave Wolf, and Dave Odell, I have served under.”

Over the years, Moore has seen 15 of his players named NAIA All-Americans and another eight earn Honorable Mention All-American honors. Additionally, 11 of his players were selected as NAIA Scholar-Athletes.

At the conference level, Moore has coached 42 All-GSAC selections, including two GSAC Players of the Year – Gomes (1997-98) and Carrasco (2019-20).

His teams have captured two GSAC regular season championships (2012-13, 2019-20) and three GSAC Tournament titles (1993-94, 1995-96, 1999-2000). Three times, Moore has been named the GSAC Coach of the Year (1998-99, 2012-13, 2019-20).

“Coach Moore built on what his coach and mentor, Chet Kammerer, got started at Westmont,” Odell said. “He carried on a tradition of excellence and made high expectations and solid results a hallmark of consistency.”

Moore’s connection to Westmont began when he played for the men’s basketball team during the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons after transferring from Cypress College. As a Warrior, Moore dished out 422 assists, the fourth-most in program history. His 6.9 assists per game is the third highest mark of any Warrior.

“It was 44 years ago that I came to Westmont College to play for Chet Kammerer,” Moore said. “While here from 1976-78 I was taught and coached by Chet and Randy Pfund, two men who have become deep-rooted friends. To say that my two years at Westmont transformed my life, would be accurate. 

“It is fixed in my memory the night Chet and I drove down to Orange County to take in a baseball game at Angel Stadium and spend time with a recruit. Halfway there, Chet asked me if I would be willing to read a book that he wanted to give to me. That book, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, has become my lifelong companion and, through that book and many ensuing conversations with Chet, Randy and teammates like Mark Miller, I came to faith.

“Fifteen years later, in 1993, it was my distinct honor to follow in the footsteps of my mentor, Chet Kammerer, as the men’s basketball coach at my alma mater.”

Kammerer credited Moore for continuing the Westmont men’s basketball program’s tradition of excellence, which he said began with previous Warrior head coaches Jack Siemens, Tom Byron and Ron Mulder.

“My words are insufficient to express John Moore’s impact on the history of Westmont basketball,” Kammerer said. “It was an honor to coach him and it was a pleasure to observe him as a coach. As a player and coach, his basketball IQ, character, leadership and tenacity were on display.”

Odell added: “Coach Moore will be remembered for his toughness. Coach was one of the toughest players ever to take the court at Westmont and his best teams were the ones that took on that character and battled in the way he played. Coach had a way of getting guys to play harder than they thought they could.”

“He will be remembered as an X’s and O’s pioneer,” Odell continued. “The way he adopted and then innovated the Princeton offense made any matchup against the Warriors a challenge.”

That was echoed by Moore’s close friend and Biola men’s basketball head coach Dave Holmquist, who holds the fifth most wins (992) of any college basketball coach in history across all levels. 

“From 1993, when John was hired at Westmont, until 2017, when Biola left the NAIA, I competed against many fine coaches. But John was clearly the best,” Holmquist said. “He coached many excellent players, but his teams were always better than they should have been.

“In reflecting upon his career, I am reminded of words spoken by a fellow coach when describing the great Alabama football legend, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant – ‘He can take his and beat yours and he can take yours and beat his.’ ”

Moore received praise from another lifelong friend, Kammerer.

Kammerer said: “John Moore is a remarkable, humble and selfless man. In fact, the Moore name has left a legacy in the history of Warrior basketball.”

A legacy that goes beyond his or his team’s play on the court.

“John is very competitive, but John is very kind,” Holmquist said. “I’ve always felt that he’s had a real heart for his players, that he cares about them. You get closer to some players than others. You’re not equally close to everyone you coach, but my sense is he’s really had good relationships with his players, current and former.

“That’s always been a real strength that he’s had. He went into coaching for the right reasons and I think the relationships mean a lot to him. I think he’s really valued that and I think his players have felt that, so it’s been a healthy union.”

The relationships Moore developed with his players are one of the many reasons he is thankful to have had the opportunity to coach his alma mater.

“When President David Winter and Athletic Director Ron Mulder hired me in 1993, I was not simply returning to my beloved alma mater, I was coming home to my dream job,” Moore said. “I am forever grateful to Ron and President Winter for bringing me home in 1993.”  

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.