By Ryan Clark
Melanie Moore has had a chip on her shoulder her entire life.
From the time she was 5 and played basketball in the backyard with bigger, taller relatives, to the time she was recruited in high school, she’s been determined to prove her doubters wrong.
Check the scoreboard, she’ll say. The doubters are way behind. Moore, a native of nearby Glandorf, Ohio, went on to star in college at Siena, where she earned a degree in finance and won Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in 1998 and 1999. She was named to the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005 and the conference’s Hall of Fame in 2018. She played two years overseas before becoming an assistant coach for Siena. She then made stops at Indiana State, Dayton, Princeton and finally Michigan, where she was elevated to Associate Head Coach in 2018-19.
This spring, she was named the eighth head coach of the Xavier Musketeer women’s basketball program.
We caught up with her during her first week on the job. She was still in the process of putting a staff together, but she took time out to speak to one of her largest fanbases — our alumni. We asked her, among other things, why she wanted to come to Xavier, how she plans to turn the program around, and what we can expect from her team on the court:
Coach, tell us about the time you first fell in love with basketball — how did that happen and why?
This is funny, but I recall being 5 years old, and it was just a family tradition of ours to go to my grandparents’ house on my mom’s side, and everybody was tall, and everybody had a love for the game. They would put that orange ball in our hands, and we would go at it, from aunts, uncles, cousins. It was a battle. And it was survival. You played to survive. And I was 5, and as you grow up, it becomes your passion. That’s what we did and we didn’t know any better.
This led to a pretty stellar high school career. You were recruited by a lot of places — and one of them was Xavier. You didn’t come here then. What is it that made you want to come here now?
I was interested when I first heard about the opening. Then the more I learned about the Jesuit community, Fr. Graham and his leadership, Greg Christopher and the leadership that he has in the department, the arena, the community — it became my dream job. It became clear to me that it felt like home, and I wanted to come to a place that reminded me of home, a place where I thought I could be successful. And why not Xavier — it’s an unbelieveable university with the high academics and the big-time basketball? It’s an incredible place. I started asking myself ‘Why not Xavier?’
One of the huge parts of our fanbase is our alumni. This will go out to those channels. How do you bring Xavier back to that Elite Eight level — and beyond?
When I think of Xavier, I think of a winning mentality and a winning tradition. We’ve been to the Eilte Eight. We have banners hanging up. We need to get back to that mentality, to be proud, with our shoulders back, being proud of what we represent. We represent the women who got us to that point. We need to walk around with a certain attitude, because we represent that. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable, bring a certain integrity and work ethic. We need to bring a competitive greatness with us that says we’re ready to lead Xavier back to where they once were — national prominence.
One of the things you may not have known — this year is the 50th anniversary of women being admitted to daytime classes at Xavier. All this year, we’re focusing on really strong women who’ve made a difference here at the University. What does it mean for you to be hired into such a position of leadership while we’re celebrating all of this?
I’m obviously humbled and honored to be the leader of this program. As a female, I think it’s amazing the opportunity that we have, but it’s been laid by the women who have come before us. That’s my goal of teaching the women in our locker room. Today, we have more opportunities than we’ve had. We’re not completely there yet — we’ve got to keep fighting — we have to keep saying ‘We do have a voice, we can work hard, we can have a family, we can be career-driven.’ I hold myself accountable to be a role model for these women. Whatever their dreams and aspirations are, they can make it happen.
I’m a talented female basketball player. What’s your recruiting pitch to me?
First off, I would look you in the eye and say ‘I want you to come to play for Xavier women’s basketball.’ Here’s why: You bring an unbelievable talent to the court. You’re a scorer. You’re someone I can play in multiple positions. You’re versatile. You’re not only a great basketball player, but you’re a great human being. And that’s my No. 1 job as your head coach. I need to empower you as a woman, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you’re growing as a person. Then you add the basketball component. We will get you better. If you’re goal is to play overseas, or in the WNBA, we will work tirelessly to make that happen. Now there’s going to be accountability on you. You will have to sacrifice. But if you believe in us as much as we believe in you we can make this happen. And we’ve had success before. Look in that arena. See that banner? We want to get back to that. You can have an immediate impact in our program. Someday, you can come back and show your kids the banner you helped hang. You can tell them how you brought Xavier women’s basketball back to national prominence.
During your introductory photo shoot, I really enjoyed your back-and-forth with the photographer. You didn’t seem to like the pose you were asked to do. You said you needed to add a little more swagger. So you gave it some attitude. People say a team takes on the attributes of its coach. If true, what will we see from your team in the fall?
Passionate. Energetic. I always say a quiet gym is not a good gym. So you’ll see excitement. Energy. We’ll celebrate one another. But with that, I think you’ll see a hard nose, and a little bit of an attitude. In life, I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder. I’m going to prove everybody wrong. I think that’s where the swagger comment came in. I think you have to believe in yourself first. You have to have a winning mentality, and that’s what we’re going to have here.