February 16, 2023
How Teri Moren built the Indiana powerhouse: an oral history
'Even things that may seem small, they matter to her'
Indiana women’s basketball sits in the midst of its greatest season ever. Now the No. 2 team in the country, Teri Moren has taken the program from pedestrian to prosperous over her nine seasons as the head coach.
She arrived in Bloomington before the 2014-15 season after spending four years as the head coach at Indiana State. The year before she took over the Hoosiers, the program finished 5-11 in the Big Ten. Indiana hadn’t reached an NCAA tournament since 2002 and hadn’t had a winning record in the Big Ten since the 2008-09 season.
Since then, she’s led Indiana to the NCAA tournament four times and to the WNIT twice (where the Hoosiers won the tournament in 2018); she’s lifted a program that was once mediocre to the pinnacle of women’s college basketball; and she knows there’s more work to be done, as her team currently stares down snagging a top seed in the 2023 NCAA tournament.
So what makes Moren such a talented coach? How did she build up the program to be among the best in the country? What’re the secrets behind the success? Those who’ve spent the most time around her, her players and staff, share their thoughts.
All subsequent non-italicized text are direct quotes that have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Rhet Wierzba, associate head coach: I met Coach Moren after my second year coaching at Mercer. She talked to me about a spot on her staff (at Indiana State), and at that point, I had actually told her no. We were in the middle of a major rebuild down at Mercer, and I said I can’t leave right now.
Usually, when you tell somebody no for a job, you don’t get another call back. But then the next year, she had another spot open up, and she called me back again. It was a different time because we had won 20 games at Mercer. I felt we had gotten it on good ground, and it was a good time to leave. This is now my 10th year working for her.
Tyra (Buss) Davison, guard (2014-2018): As soon as the old coach left and Coach Moren came in in August 2014, she just sat us all down and talked about herself a little bit because she didn’t recruit us.
If we wanted to stay, we were gonna have to have two feet in and buy in. As soon as she had that first meeting with us, I just knew that there was no way I was gonna transfer. I was gonna stay and play for Coach Moren and see what she could do with the program.
Ali Patberg, guard (2017-2022), current team and recruitment coordinator: I’m from Indiana. I knew about her. I’d seen her.
I decided to come here because she had a vision for her program and where she wanted to go, and I truly believed in what she was saying. Her passion, her energy, I could tell she was different in a great way. I thought she was big time from the moment I met her. That’s ultimately why I came here.
Grace Berger, fifth-year guard: My initial impression of her was just how competitive she is. She wanted to be the best even when she was still in the early stages at Indiana. While she was recruiting me, she talked about winning championships, she talked about being the best in the Big Ten and making a Final Four.
Even before the program really took off, she had a vision for it. The past five years, I’ve just seen her slowly work towards that, and it’s just been super cool to see.
Aleksa Gulbe, forward (2018-2022): I first met Coach Moren in, I think it was 2017 in November, when I came to IU for a visit with my mom. Right after meeting her and her staff, it was just a great first impression that made me have that family feeling.
Mackenzie Holmes, senior forward: I came to visit here in October of my junior year. She was very welcoming, she made me feel very comfortable, made my family feel very comfortable, definitely gave the family vibe. She’s very close with her family, and I think that’s something she prides herself on, making Indiana feel like home for whoever comes here.
Patberg: I came to IU, and I wouldn’t say I was at a low point, but I definitely lacked confidence in my game, hadn’t played really in two years, had been hurt (at Notre Dame).
I would say I believed in myself, but she believed in me and saw a lot of things that I didn’t see, and I needed her in my life at that point, not just from a basketball standpoint, but a personal standpoint.
She’s loyal. When you’re on her team, she’s all for you. She’ll do anything for you. You can feel her passion and how much she cares. She loves the people she works with, her team, her players. You can just tell that she loves the game of basketball. I don’t know how to explain it, but she lives and embodies an all-around great person.
Wierzba: She’s very committed. She really wants to win. She’s a hard worker. She’s intense. Those are all things that I liked about her. But, the more I’ve gotten to know her, she’s caring along with that. She wants the best for her players, she wants the best for her staff, but she’s also not gonna take shortcuts to get there. It’s not fluff; it’s genuine, it’s real.
When Moren came to Bloomington before that 2014-15 season, she was ready to hit the ground running.
Wierzba: She had a vision for what she wanted this to be when we got here. It wasn’t just a pipe dream of, “This is where we want to be.” It was, “This is how we’re gonna get there”; it was, “Get a little bit better every day. Go to work every day. We’re not gonna go from where we were to now overnight. It’s gonna be a process. You have to embrace the process, and you gotta put the work in.”
We had to figure out who’s going to be successful here, who’s going to be successful building this the way we want to build it.
You’re gonna have to be willing to set your personal agenda aside for the team. We’ve had a lot of players, some really talented ones, that have been willing to do that, and because of that, we’ve had greater team success, which in turn has resulted in greater individual success.
Buss: Those first couple years, she kinda stayed away from the long-term goals and talked about the principles and the culture that she wanted to build.
We struggled a little bit my freshman year, but that was to be expected. Then we turned it around, and we made the NCAA tournament, and we won the first round game. That hadn’t been done in 33 years.
It didn’t come as a surprise. I think we knew we could get there. I just think it took the right players and the right people to buy into Coach Moren and the coaching staff. Yeah, maybe we did surprise a lot of people, but I think for us, we just kinda worked on and worried about ourselves, and that’s always been Coach Moren’s motto: Don’t worry about the outside. Don’t worry about anything else. We worry about us and the people in this program because we believe in ourselves, and we can do it.
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Moren took the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament in just her second year as head coach, their first appearance in the tournament in 14 years. As a 9-seed, Indiana beat Georgia in the first round, 62-58 before falling to No. 1 Notre Dame, 87-70. Even still, the building blocks had been set.
Indiana subsequently reached the quarterfinals of the WNIT in 2017 and won the 2018 WNIT tournament, before reaching the NCAA tournament again in 2019, 2021 and 2022.
She mostly built up her roster through strong recruits, including Grace Berger, Mackenzie Holmes and Aleksa Gulbe but also complemented them with transfers, like Ali Patberg and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. But no matter how her players arrived in Bloomington, Moren remained committed to fostering deep individual connections with each of them.
Berger: She’s built a relationship with me off the court, so that when she pushes me, when she’s hard on me every day in practice, she can do that because of how much respect I have for her and the relationship that I have with her off the court. She’s not afraid to tell me what I need to work on.
Holmes: My freshman year, my sophomore year, I struggled with the confidence piece, but just knowing that she continued to have confidence in me the whole way, knowing that she believed in me was crucial for me.
Even in the recruiting process, she went out of her way to show that they were invested in me as a person and a player. She came out to Maine for a random open gym with my high school team. That’s just because she cares. She didn’t have to do something like that, but she really wanted to show how invested she was. Those things make for not only a really special coach, but a special person.
Gulbe: You’re not just a basketball player. You’re not just one of the people on the team. She actually treats you like a human being.
I love coffee, and we’d talk about coffee, favorite orders. There was a moment where I did not pay attention to how many cups I had during the day, so she was like, “How many coffees did you have today? Don’t drink too much coffee!”
Berger: Outside of practice, outside of games, she’s really a super down-to-earth and goofy person. She loves to joke around with us. Her sense of humor and just how funny she can be with us is something that maybe from the outside you wouldn’t anticipate about her.
She loves dogs just like me, and I think we’ve bonded over that. It’s something that again, I think kinda shows that we have such a great relationship off the court. It’s not just all about basketball. That really benefits us on the court because we have that trust, we have that relationship where all of her players really want to work hard for her because we have so much respect for the person that she is outside of basketball.
Holmes: We went to Big Ten media day together; her, Grace Berger and I went, and that was a lot of fun. Coach is a lot of fun to spend time around once you get to know her. We share a lot of the same interests with shows, and we both love dogs.
Me, Grace Berger, Arielle Wisne and Coach are in a group chat, and if she finds something that she thinks is funny from “The Office,” she’ll record it and send it to us.
She’s a huge Michael Scott fan.
Buss: You gotta have a coach that you know genuinely cares about you, and I think that’s what makes Coach Moren who she is. Yes, she wants to win games, and yes, she’s super competitive, but on the other side of things, she genuinely cares about you as a person.
She always had an open-door policy, so you could go into her office, and you could talk to her about basketball, but you could also just talk to her about life. Sometimes that gets lost in college athletics because people think of this as a job, but it’s really more than that, and she always made it more than just about basketball and winning and losing.
Wierzba: It’s a genuine relationship. It’s not surface-level. It’s just spending time with them.
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Beyond the off-the-court relationships, her players and staff have also seen all the work Moren puts into her program behind the scenes: her burning desire to win and to put her players in the best position for success.
Berger: It’s hard for me to realize how rare it is now to take a team that was at the bottom of the Big Ten to a team that’s a Final Four contender.
We might not be the most talented, but coming into practice every day and being the hardest-working team in the country, we’ve just slowly seen the program getting better and better because of how she comes into work every day and demands the best out of her staff and her players.
Holmes: She wants to win, and she wants to be surrounded by people who want to win as badly as she does. I think that’s what makes her so special.
She puts a lot of trust in her players and her staff as well, and I think we all feed into that. Her competitiveness and her passion for basketball is contagious, and we all feel that every single day.
Gulbe: The whole team has set goals, and she has those goals in mind, and she’s not afraid to talk about them. She’s not afraid to work hard to achieve them, doing the extra stuff, talking with the staff all the time, talking with the players.
She’s an inspiring person, and she knows how to inspire us.
Wierzba: She’s really good at putting our players in position to be successful. It’s not what can’t they do, it’s what can they do?
Coach is good at, “OK, what’re they best at? Let’s put the ball in those spots where they can be successful.” I think a lot of times, people worry about what players can’t do. Well, let’s figure out what they can do, and what they can do, we’re gonna make the best of them. We’re gonna try to hide some of their deficiencies and exploit what their strengths are.
In 2021, Indiana played in the NCAA tournament in the San Antonio bubble. A 4-seed, the Hoosiers reached the Sweet Sixteen and took down No. 1 NC State, a statement win for a program that had never before reached the Elite Eight.
Though they came up short in that Elite Eight matchup, losing to Arizona, 66-53, it was another sign of just how far Moren had taken the program.
Berger: Winning that Sweet Sixteen game against No. 1 NC State, then making the Elite Eight, that’s something you say you want to do, but until you actually get there and get that close to being in a Final Four, I think that was a moment where I really realized how far the program had come.
It was really special. In the moment, you’re thinking about winning the next game. Coach celebrated for a little bit on the court, but afterwards, she was pretty much immediately focused on the next opponent.
Looking back on it, it was a moment where you saw all her work that you see every single day behind the scenes pay off.
Patberg: That was pretty awesome. I gave Coach a big hug, and we were both just kinda speechless. That moment was like, “Wow, this is becoming something.” It all stems from working hard and treating people right and believing in something.
Holmes: The whole bubble experience was probably collectively the most memorable, just because we were really a tight-knit group that year. That’s all we could see was each other every single day. We were Covid testing together every day. That win was just so memorable because we fought through a lot of adversity that year. To be able to come out and make that run in the tournament was really special.
Gulbe: That was crazy. That was crazy. We couldn’t have any fans, and it was the crazy cardboard people in the stands.
Coming off the year before where we could’ve been an NCAA tournament team, that being cut off and canceled was obviously a big disappointment. I feel like the returners took it as a must that we need to have a good season because of all the things we couldn’t do (in 2020). That Elite Eight appearance was just a cherry on top. All that hard work paying off, it was an amazing experience.
Wierzba: When we were down in San Antonio, and we beat NC State to get to the Elite Eight, just seeing the joy that she had for the players, she was so happy for them. It wasn’t as much for her; it was seeing them achieve what they had worked for.
In 2022, Indiana reached the tournament yet again, this time as a 3-seed. The Hoosiers won their first two games, before falling to UConn in the Sweet Sixteen, 75-58. It felt like it could’ve been the end of an era; Indiana was about to lose three of its five starters off the roster.
But Moren knew what she had to do to continue building a winner that could reach a Final Four. After the season, she brought in Sara Scalia, a Minnesota transfer who shot 41.3% from three in 2021-22; Sydney Parrish, an Oregon transfer who’d been a five-star recruit out of high school and shot 37% from the floor her sophomore year in Eugene; and Yarden Garzon, a freshman from Israel, who’s shooting nearly 48% from beyond the arc so far this year. Returning junior Chloe Moore-McNeil has also stepped up, averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.4.
Alongside Holmes and Berger, Moren’s elevated Indiana women’s basketball into a juggernaut.
Wierzba: Big thing is, we were able to get Mackenzie healthy, but seeing the growth of Chloe Moore-McNeil, who came in and was not a touted recruit at all; just the work that she’s put in and seeing her get better. And then, we had a four-person high school recruiting class that filled some holes.
We did not shoot the ball well enough from the perimeter last year, so we went out, and in our eyes, got the best shooter in the country in Sara Scalia, and then we got Sydney Parrish to come home from Oregon to fill some holes. We also got Alyssa Geary to transfer in (from Providence).
And then, we had to find the right fits for these spots because not everybody’s gonna be happy with different roles. We were very honest in the recruiting process, “This is where we see you, this is how you can help us, are you willing to buy into that?”
A lot of times in recruiting, a lot of coaches sell the fluff; we sell the hard. It’s gonna be hard. If you don’t want it to be hard, don’t come here. Her being able to be honest with those players, and so when they choose to come here, they know what they’re walking into (is key). When it’s hard, they know that. We’ve prepared them for that on the front end. And the ones that really embrace it are the ones that continue to get better.
Buss: That’s really important to recruits to be able to have that relationship side of it, not just on the basketball court but off the basketball court as well. I think it starts with that. They’re just great at recruiting because of that piece, and they genuinely care. It’s not just recruits coming in, and they’re acting all fake and saying things that aren’t true. They are completely real, they’re honest with you and they’re truly genuine to the point where recruits want to come in and play for a coach like that.
Whenever you’re winning and doing well as a program, that obviously helps, but you gotta have that relationship piece. I think they hit it on the head with every single one of those coaches that are there. They bring in players that fit the culture and are not only great players but great people that also help sell the program.
Berger: It just shows how good of a coach she is. It’s really difficult to lose three of the best players to ever play at IU, and then get completely different pieces that play a completely different style and adjust the team and the game plan to that.
She’s done a really great job of putting in different plays and being able to change her style a little bit to use our strengths and give us the best chance to win with this year’s team.
Patberg: She’s a big-time coach. She studies film all the time. She’s trying to learn and grow all the time. She has a great support staff around her that I’ve been able to see firsthand. I knew that as a player, but to be in it every day, they’re just awesome. They give everything they have for our team and for our program.
When all the new players came in, it was like, “This is what we’ve done to be successful, and we’re not changing it. These are the expectations; these are the standards; this is our program.” The success we’ve had has allowed us to say that.
Coach Moren has built this program on hard work, focusing on the details, coming in every day, keeping our head down, having that blue-collar mentality that she always talks about. To our team’s credit, all the new players have bought in, and it’s just been really cool to see.
Holmes: Getting transfers is hard sometimes, and to get another player who played in the same conference as us speaks volumes of Coach and the staff, as well as getting someone like Sydney to come here. For her to be able to get two transfers and bring them in and get those pieces working together, it’s been great.
Gulbe: It’s amazing that they could do it. With my schedule (playing basketball in Spain), I haven’t been really watching the games, but afterwards, of course I watch the highlight reel on Twitter or text with coaches.
Last year, we were a pretty old team, and then this year, youngsters like Chloe are stepping up – she’s big time, she’s big time. And obviously, Grace and Mackenzie doing what they do best. The transfers that we got, they just have more scorers with Scalia knocking down 3s. Also, Yarden, she’s having a great freshman year.
It’s very impressive what Coach has done to bring the whole group together and also for them to buy into the philosophy.
Buss: Man, I don’t even have words to describe it. I’m so proud. It’s been awesome to watch and see, but it’s not surprising to me. People ask, “Is it crazy they’ve gotten to…?” No, it’s not crazy at all. I always knew it. I always believed it.
I’m super blessed to have been a part of that build, and I’m just so happy to be able to see how far it’s come, the amount of support that Indiana women’s basketball now gets.
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Ask her players to describe her, and you’ll hear what you might expect about a coach who’s had as much success as Moren’s had: “winner,” “leader,” “confident.” But it’s more than just cliché; it’s the truth.
Patberg: From the moment I met her, I kinda knew she was different. She’s just big time. She’s a big-time person. She lives what she preaches every day. She works extremely hard.
You meet her, and she’s very confident, but she’s very humble, so you feel at ease with her. You feel like you belong. The success she’s had, you would never guess it. If you saw her at the grocery store, you would never think that this was Coach Moren, the winningest coach in our women’s basketball history. She just has this perfect mix of humbleness and confidence.
I was aware of those things as a player, but to actually be a part of it upstairs and to see the way she treats people day in and day out, I think that’s just a testament to her character and who she is. She just empowers everyone around her. She makes you feel like you have a big impact on the program and the game and the team.
Holmes: She’s a leader. She leads by example the way she carries herself every single day. She’s competitive, but she’s also a great person who cares a lot about family, cares a lot about her staff, her players, the players’ families.
Her love for life and how much she cares about every single person in her life just speaks volumes into the type of person she is.
Wierzba: Even things that may seem small, they matter to her, they’re big. Making sure the players’ housing situations are what they need to be; she can sense when things just quite aren’t right with them, and she’ll pull them aside and have conversations with them.
On the court, we’re not gonna take shortcuts. We’re gonna get down on the floor; we’re gonna be with them every day; we’re gonna be in the trenches.
Buss: One thing that I always did that I loved when I played was after every game, we would get to sign autographs and take pictures with all the kids on the floor. Afterwards, the coaches would all go up to Coach Moren’s office, and she would be in there with her dad and usually her sister and the rest of the coaching staff. I would always go up there, and talk to them, whether it was about the game or just about anything.
We just had a really special relationship that I could always just talk to her about anything, and that’s what really meant a lot to me.
Over the years, Moren’s also found creative ways to keep that fire lit under her team, reminding them of why they have to remain laser-focused on improving each day.
Gulbe: I think this was last year, one week the rankings came out, and we were No. 5 or No. 4. Coach took the rankings sheet that she’d printed out before practice, and she was holding it up, and she was like, “Yeah, we’re No. 4 this week,” and then she took out this little trash can, lit the paper on fire and put it in the trash can. “It doesn’t matter for us. We keep working.”
I found that funny. In that moment, everybody was serious. This happened in the middle of Assembly Hall. She lit it on fire. At first, all of us were like, “What is going on?” And she just put it in the bin.
That’s another way of getting that edge running on your team, believing that, “OK, we’re No. 4, but at the same time, we’re not No. 1, so it doesn’t matter.”
Wierzba: That was a first. But part of it was, we can’t be defined by what other people think. The polls and the rankings, they’re all defined by what other people think of us. If you’re worried about that, then you’re always going to be worried about the wrong things. You’ve gotta be comfortable with yourself, knowing what you are. It doesn’t matter what people think of us. What do we think of us? We believe that we’re really good.
Obviously, we want the most out of our players, we want the most recognition and publicity for them because they deserve it with all that they do on a day-in-and-day-out basis, but our value does not lie in what others think of us.
Moren and the Hoosiers continue on their quest for the program’s first ever Final Four appearance, and the long list of accomplishments already achieved isn’t lost on anyone who’s played a part along this journey.
As Buss mentioned, college basketball is often viewed from a prism of business with self-worth defined by wins and loss. Of course, coaches need to win to keep their jobs, and players typically choose where they want to play based on where they might have the best chance to win, but what Moren’s done exceeds that.
She’s taken a program with a middling past and turned it into a powerhouse. It hasn’t just been with a couple good recruiting classes and savvy gameplanning; it’s been through crafting the program in the image of who she is and convincing her players to believe in that vision too; knowing when to dial it in during practice but also when to have fun on the bus or during a team meal. Moren has expertly led Indiana women’s basketball throughout her nine years like a maestro conducting a symphony, and it’s brought profound success to a state that prides itself on the game of basketball.
Patberg: We both grew up IU fans and Hoosiers, so just to see this program become exciting, sometimes I forget to step back and be like, “This is so cool.” And it’s all happened because we’ve had a leader who had a vision and believed in it. She’s different.
She’s a one-of-a-kind person and a one-of-a-kind coach that I believe is going to continue to build, continue to have success here because of how she’s built and what she stands for.
Wierzba: To me, the biggest thing is, she’s a really good person, and she cares for everyone. Knowing that you work for a good person who cares, you’re gonna get the most out of them, and I think that’s why her players will do anything for her, that’s why her staff will do anything for her because we genuinely know that she cares about us.
Berger: She’s the same coach that she was five years ago when we weren’t a top-25 team, a fringe-NCAA tournament team to where we are now, a top-5 team in the country. She’s the same coach. She comes in every day and holds you accountable whether you’re undefeated or on a losing streak. She comes in every day expecting your best.
Holmes: I don’t know if I’ve fully been able to really reflect on all that we’ve done and all that we still have left to do. Just the fact that Coach saw something in me when I was in high school and she already had this vision planned and this culture she wanted to create here and the fact that she wanted me to be a part of it means everything to me. Right away when I visited here, I saw what they wanted to do and how I could help be a part of it, and I think it’s so special to see how the program has progressed.
We still have so much more potential, and we’re not even close to being done yet, so it’s really exciting.
Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel
Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.