St. John’s extends surprise offer to Porter Moser

St. John’s looks like it has found the man it wants to lead its program. Now it waits to see if the feeling is mutual.

Porter Moser, the 50-year-old coach of Loyola-Chicago who reached the Final Four last year, was offered the vacant head-coaching position Monday night, according to several sources.

A week ago, Chris Mullin informed his alma mater he was stepping down, starting a search process that began with Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley as the top choice. After Hurley turned down athletic director Mike Cragg, St. John’s began talks with Iona coach Tim Cluess and Moser. Moser was on campus Monday afternoon and later went to dinner with St. John’s decision-makers.

Cluess’ buyout, believed to in the $2-to- $3 million range, was seen as impediment by certain higher-ups, according to sources. Cluess, a Long Island native who played at St. John’s from 1979-81 before transferring to Hofstra, had support from local AAU and high school coaches, while Moser doesn’t have any local ties. Late last week, reports surfaced listing Cluess as the favorite for the job, though sources said at the time it was premature.

A Rick Majerus understudy, Moser has coached at three mid-major schools: Arkansas-Little Rock, Illinois State and Loyola-Chicago, compiling a 246-226 record over 15 seasons. He’s reached the NCAA Tournament just once, but he parlayed that into a Final Four berth. He has led Loyola-Chicago to 20-win seasons in three of the last five years.