It happens nearly every tournament – a young coach teeming with potential takes his double-digit seeded team from a non-BCS conference onto the Sweet 16. Then, because we have a week of airtime and blog articles to fill, gets his ego stroked to the point where he may just boot Coach K aside as the next head coach of Duke.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Richmond’s victory today over Morehead State means that the Spiders Chris Mooney, 38 years old with just sevens years of head coaching experience, has become the hottest, and most sought after coach in the game. NC State, Georgia Tech, and dare I say Tennessee, are likely assembling plans to reach out and speak with Mooney once the tournament concludes.
The Spiders, best known for their starting backcourt in Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper, were able to curb the output of Kenneth Faried, “limiting” him to 13 points and 11 rebounds. They also got Bill Raftery all tingly inside with excellent ball movement, scoring 26 field goals on 18 assists.
The case that Mooney, who looks a lot like the host of Double Dare, will be out of Richmond following their tournament run can be made even stronger when you look at his current crop of players. The Spiders top three scorers – including the 2010 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Kevin Anderson – will be graduating. In short, a rebuilding year awaits in 2012 so why not sell high here?
Mooney was interviewed last spring for the then vacant Boston College job. He turned it down and opted to sign a seven-year extension to remain with the Spiders. That was comforting at the time to fans, but it was done because Mooney knew there was a great short-term opportunity to build off the 2009-2010 season, in which the team finished 26-9 but was upset in the first round of the tournament by the upstart Saint Mary’s Gaels.
This path to greener pastures in a normal one, and it’s just a matter of time before the coaching carousel gets moving with ruminations of where Mooney will land. I just hope Spider fans are cherishing this 2011 NCAA Tournament.