Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Position: Small Forward
College: William and Mary
Irish points average: 7.7
Irish Career High: 15 vs Slovakia 2005
Jim Moran is an international ambassador for Ireland, one that the country never realised it had! The 6’7 swingman would have an illustrious career in Spain and while there his own feelings of Irishness developed as he became known as the Irishman.
One former teammate described his impact: “I personally discovered Ireland basketball because of Jim Moran. I think that wa the case for many people in Spain in general. He became a very recognisable and respected figure not just in the island. It was known that him and Pat Burke were related to Irish basketball. In Gran Canaria Jim single handledly changed the image of the Irish from the tourist in the south of the island chugging beers and walking around all red! Jim was this other image, he truly was an ambassador for Ireland and was really proud of his Irish heritage, he turned out to be a great ambassador for Ireland in Spain”.
Growing up in New York, it was family barbeques more than anything that gave Jim reminders of his Irish heritage. With Irish grandparents on both sides of his family, there were still a lot of Irish family in Ireland who would regularly come over to New York to visit. For Jim, that accent was unmistakable and as a young kid he would see how excited his mother in particular got when Irish cousins or family were coming to visit. Jim’s father was also a New York State Trooper and he had family in the Irish-heavy NYPD so that identity was never far from the family although for him it was more in the background initially.
Jim committed to William and Mary College in Virginia. The Colonial Athletic Association school is better known for having three of the first ten US Presidents amongst its alumni than for its basketball team. In fact they remain one of only four of the original Division One NCAA schools to never have made the NCAA tournament. Despite the history it was a great situation for Moran to be able to come in and make an impact immediately. His 8.7 ppg as a freshman helped the school improve from a 12-16 record to 20-7. It was the start of a career where Jim would make an immediate impact wherever he went. After a steady career, Moran’s trajectory changed when Rick Boyages took over as William and Mary coach ahead of Jim’s senior season. Moran would average 13.6 points a game as a senior and critically Boyages (who had been an assistant at Ohio State) instilled the confidence in Jim that he had a life in basketball beyond college.
Unlike many players of his era, Jim played for Ireland before playing professionally in Europe. After an initial stint with the Irish team an offer was there for him to go to Germany to start his career. That was until the input of Walter Szerbiak (the father of former NBA All Star Wally), who had been a star in Spain himself and knew Jim from their local area growing up. It led to Jim signing for Gran Canaria in the Spanish ACB “The GM I played for knew Walter and they reached out for some games. They watched some stuff of me in College. I was sitting at home and I only had the offer from the second division in Germany. I didn’t know a tonne about European basketball, I didn’t know who the good teams were or who the bad teams were. I kind of only knew college and the NBA. They reached out and the location was a lot nicer and it was probably three times the amount of money I got offered for Germany so I signed and that was about it!”.
It is rare for players from mid-major schools to go straight into the ACB and Jim would immediately make an impact, making himself a critical part of the team thanks to his ability to do a bit of everything and being completely selfless. The famous Aaron Levenstein quote “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital” sums up Jim’s career in many ways. His statistics don’t jump off the page, he often averaged between 5 and 8 points a game, yet Gran Canaria saw him as so valuable they brought him back every year for a decade. The Club’s trajectory was on the up at the time and the ground work laid by Jim and his teammates in the early to mid 2000s eventually led to Gran Canaria winning a domestic trophy for the first time in 2016 and reaching the Euroleague for the first time in 2018. When they play games now in front of their 11,500 fans, there are two jerseys hanging from the rafters. Greg Stewart was a major player for the club in the late 1980s and early 1990s and when he died tragically in a car crash in 2018 he was honoured by having his jersey retired. That jersey hangs beside Jim Moran’s who was the first ever player to receive that honour, something that speaks volumes about how he was perceived.
Playing for Ireland
Jim’s legacy for Ireland is one of hardnosed role player who was always willing to do the dirty work to allow those around him to shine. Unfortunately Jim’s struggle to be released for international duties summed up the contempt that many clubs had for the Irish National Team. Even players that were revered at club level had little or no respect at international level. “I had issues every year getting over. They didn’t want to release me. They didn’t take it serious. I was in Spain so their national team was Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Rudy, Rubio, Navarro and they looked at it that they are competing for the Olympics and they looked at me thinking what are you doing? You guys are qualifying to qualify. I always had a tough back and forth with them and it’s one of the things I loved about Bill Dooley, when shit hit the fan he’d always call me and say they can’t hold you there. In 2002 I was coming into a contract year and I was a little nervous about it. In hindsight I wish I gave them the middle finger. Hindsight if I knew I’d be there for ten years I could have fought with them for two weeks. It was always a tough back and forth to get out of there.”
What his teammates thought
“You don’t realise what he provides until the end of the game, it’s not in the stat sheet, Jim you shut that guy down. He just did that all the time. You look at his career, he stayed with the same team, it’s almost a microcosim of a game, here’s a guy who’s going to give you everything from the jump ball until the end and he’s going to do it consistently so why wouldn’t you want that guy on your roster for as long as you can have him”. Pat Burke
Post Playing Career
Jim is now an assistant coach in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons. He has also served as an assistant coach with the Portland Trailblazers for many years.
Jim’s legacy will go down as being an ultimate glue guy and a Gran Canaria legend. His teammate Sitaphe Savanne (one of the stars of John Feinstein’s The Last Amateurs book) sums up what people at Gran Canaria thought of Jim: “Jim Moran is a myth in Gran Canaria. He is a legend over there, that’s why his jersey is up in the rafters. He has the singularity of having played his whole career in Gran Canaria. He landed there, he wasn’t the most touted signing, he was signed out of college but came in, totally fit and because of his work and performance he earned the favour of the public and the island as a whole. He truly represented the values that the team was trying to implement. He was 100% hardwork and 100% sincere with his effort. 100% fairplay and always put the team first, he would sacrifice his body and he would sacrifice minutes, ego never came in the way. Overall he was the perfect example, for me as a parent I want my son or daughter to look up to as a sportsman”.