University of Richmond's basketball coach Chris Mooney has largely flown under the radar in a city that seems overly enamored with hoops at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU coaches Anthony Grant and Jeff Capel left indelible marks, moving on to bigger and better programs at Alabama and Oklahoma. VCU also had Eric Maynor, the star point guard who nailed “the shot” to beat Duke University in the first round of the NCAA tournament three years ago.
Mooney's Spiders, however, may be better. Last year UR made it to the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed, higher than any Rams team of the last five years, and finished the season ranked No. 24 in the country. Mooney, who played at Princeton and installed an up-tempo version of its pass-heavy offense, also recruited perhaps the school's best point guard — Kevin Anderson — and the team is poised to have an even stronger 2010-'11 season.
Still, Mooney says his bigger responsibility is to the community. “Richmond is our most important recruiting base,” he says. Last season three players from the area were on the roster, and Mooney regularly sends players into the community. Coaches and players have worked with the homeless at Caritas, put on clinics for the Special Olympics, and last year the team adopted a 14-year-old brain tumor survivor who spent time with players at practice and on campus.
Mooney also is putting down roots. He and his wife, Lia, have a 17-month-old boy, Danny, and Mooney withdrew as a coaching candidate at Boston College in April. “It was more about Richmond, how much we have invested,” he says. He also sees an opportunity to prove that UR isn't a one-year wonder. “For us, I think we had a great taste,” he says — of things to come.