R1209 VCUR1

UR coach Chris Mooney (left) and VCU coach Shaka Smart could have moved on after great runs in the NCAA tournament.

University of Richmond basketball players were called to a 6 p.m. meeting in the Robins Center locker room Sunday, March 27.

They knew the topic. The Spiders' season was over, ended by Kansas in the Sweet 16 two days earlier in San Antonio. Georgia Tech was recruiting their coach, Chris Mooney.

"It could have swung either way," UR guard Cedrick Lindsay said. "Coach, he's a loyal guy. We all know that. But it could have been a great advancement in his career, going to the ACC.

"When he came in and told us what (his decision) was, you could just see the room light up. Everybody was happy."

Mooney announced he was staying at UR. The Georgia Tech job was his to refuse, which he did. In previous years as Richmond's coach, jobs at Boston College and Seton Hall were available to Mooney. Miami also was interested. Why would the Philadelphia native and Princeton graduate turn his back on the ACC and the Big East Conference?

"I really do love our program, the fact that we've built this program, the administration, the guys on the team. Those things would be the No. 1 reason," Mooney, 39, said this week of his decision to return to UR, where he is in his seventh season.

The disparity between compensation packages offered by Richmond and a Big East or ACC school is not nearly as great as it was when John Beilein left UR in 2002 for West Virginia. Beilein was making about $400,000 at Richmond, and agreed to a five-year deal at WVU that annually topped out at about $725,000.

After Mooney removed himself from consideration at Georgia Tech, that school hired Brian Gregory from Dayton. Gregory's salary at Georgia Tech is about $1 million. At Dayton, he was making about $750,000 a year. Richmond is believed to be annually paying Mooney between $750,000 and $1 million.

Plus, UR and Mooney agreed to a deal that runs through 2020-21, delivering security in a profession in which there ordinarily is very little.

Beilein never disguised his drive to coach in one of college basketball's powerhouse leagues.

"I don't have that feeling," said Mooney, who led UR to the past two NCAA tournaments and the 2011 Atlantic 10 Conference title. "I think we could be really good (at Richmond). We've been good, and I think we can continue to build.

"Now, we have something there that we've accomplished, that we can continue to reach for."

Mooney recalled his early years as a coach, during the late 1990s at Division III Beaver College, when he could have rattled off dozens of Division I jobs he would love to one day have.

"The more you're in it, you start to see the reality of it, all the things that come with those jobs," he said. "Then, it blurs the line of, 'Oh, this is a great job, and this is a bad job.' "

To Mooney, Richmond is a great job. He said he appreciates that he is able to work with high-character players, and he enjoys living in the area. Facility upgrades have been done, and more are on the way. A 10-year contract allows him to plan long term.

But can Mooney see himself at UR in a decade?

"Sure," he said. "I can definitely see that."

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