PHILADELPHIA — In a small lecture hall, one floor below La Salle’s Gola Arena, University of Richmond basketball coach Chris Mooney met the media following the Spiders’ 84-75 win Saturday.
Mooney offered an opening statement, as he regularly does, and then answered a few questions about UR’s fifth victory in its last seven games. At that point, The Times-Dispatch asked Mooney if he had any thoughts he’d like to share about the digital billboard whose message called for his firing. It was paid for and activated Thursday off I-95, near The Diamond, by an anonymous group.
“I really don’t,” Mooney said. “We’re so focused. We’ll enjoy this win and the bus ride home.”
A Sunday visit to the location of the digital billboard revealed that the message regarding Mooney no long is part of the rotation. A representative for the group that sponsored it said Thursday that the billboard would remain active for a month. A Sunday email requesting explanation from that representative was not immediately answered.
This was posted on the the Twitter account of those associated with the group: “... some supporters of the program have harassed, intimated or made subtle (nonviolent) business threats against two people who are not part of our group. ... we are content that our message has been heard loud and clear. And we are not going to allow two other livelihoods to be derailed by those seeking some type of revenge for our actions.”
Mooney said that Sunday he planned to attend a basketball game. His son, Danny, was playing. Then, Mooney said he would watch video of the Spiders (12-15, 6-8 A-10), and Wednesday’s opponent on the road, George Mason (15-12, 9-5 A-10). He mentioned making sure Richmond’s players reported to the Robins Center for treatment in the training room.
“It’s really an around-the-clock job, and we’re really, really focused on that,” Mooney said.
In the 27 seconds Mooney used to answer the question, he didn’t seem angry or disappointed by the publicly displayed call for his dismissal following 14 years as Richmond’s coach, or a question about it. Mooney is under contract for three more seasons beyond this one, through 2021-22.
“We just hope we can continue to play well and improve,” he said.
At La Salle, Mooney viewed a 24-point, nine-rebound, six-assist effort by 6-foot-10 sophomore Grant Golden as perhaps “the best game he’s had as a Spider, among many good games.” Golden made 10 of 12 shots, and 6-7 sophomore Nathan Cayo (15 points, five assists) converted all seven of his attempts, six power moves and a dunk.
“We really tried to focus on taking our time, taking that extra dribble all week at practice and making sure we got the shot that we wanted,” said Golden, who is 5 points from becoming the 47th 1,000-point scorer in UR history.
With 12 victories, Richmond has matched its win total from last season (12-20, 9-9 A-10) with a starting lineup of three sophomores and two freshmen. The Spiders’ top two interior substitutes at La Salle were freshmen.
“Last year, we finished the season as a good team,” Mooney said. “We started out with, I thought, a really challenging nonconference schedule, without [injured guard Khwan Fore] to start, and I thought by the end of the season, we were a good team.
“Whereas this season, I’m feeling that we’re getting so much better. Of course, we’re inexperienced, but we have some really good players.”