Fergus Falls and M State Hall of Fame basketball coach Dave Retzlaff played a pivotal role in the early sports career of former Otters athlete and Spartans alum Clay Moser’s journey “from the lakes to the Lakers” — first as Moser’s coach and later a colleague — offering Moser an assistant coaching position with the Spartans in the mid-‘80s. So it was only fitting Retzlaff introduced Moser, Tuesday’s Bigwood Lecture keynote speaker, to audience members in attendance in Legacy Hall on M State campus.
“Clay Moser is loyal to his roots, it’s a long ways from Fergus Falls Community College and Fergus Falls High School to the NBA, and once you’re there it’s easy to forget about people that are probably in your past — not a Clay Moser,” Retzlaff said during Moser’s introduction. “His roots are here in Fergus Falls and it’s because of those roots that he has come home tonight.”
Moser would go on to assist Retzlaff with coaching duties for three season’s forging a bond he credits with establishing the “philosophical foundation” as to how the game of basketball should be played.
“One thing that Retz(laff) did for me which I will never, ever forget is that he was the first one who didn’t scoff at me when I said here’s what I want to do … ,” Moser told audience members about his dream to coach Division I basketball. “He said ‘You’re going to have to get out and meet people,’ and he was exactly right. Now in this day and age, we call it networking, in that day and age it was called ‘go meet people.’ And that’s what I did.”
What followed was a penniless Moser hitchhiking, crisscrossing the U.S. working college basketball camps, journies that included being arrested in Louisiana, unknowingly hitching a ride in a stolen car with a drifter named Frank, and being involved in an armed robbery in Atlanta (not as a perpetrator).
In 1987 Moser achieved his dream of coaching Division I basketball for North Carolina State University assisting legendary head coach Jim Valvano. Subsequently, Moser spent time coaching and managing teams in the Continental Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association. He joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014 working as an assistant coach and director of basketball strategy up until his recent departure.
During the Q&A portion of the presentation when asked if he’d be open to returning to Fergus Falls to host a local basketball camp Moser said that he would be if “administrative roadblocks” — which hindered prior efforts — were removed. A different audience member asked Moser why despite a lack of job security in his current field he continues doing what he does, his response was simple, saying “Number one, I still love the game.”