Mooney leaves Air Force after one season

Updated: May 5, 2005, 10:47 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Chris Mooney stepped down after one season as coach at Air Force on Thursday to take the open coaching spot at Richmond.

The hiring was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

Mooney, an Air Force assistant for four years before taking over the top job, will be introduced Friday at Richmond as the replacement for Jerry Wainwright, who left last week to take over at DePaul.

The 32-year-old coach, fourth-youngest in Division I, agreed to a five-year contract with Richmond. He went 18-12 last season with the Falcons.

"Obviously, it was a really difficult decision because of the program and, specifically, the team we have at Air Force right now," Mooney told The Associated Press. "I went out there and was impressed with their school. They have great basketball tradition and I think they have a tremendous commitment to basketball."

The Falcons, on the other hand, struggled for decades. Mooney led them to 18 wins, marking their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1975-76. But they lost in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament and there was no repeat of the team's 2004 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which marked Air Force's first trip in 42 seasons.

Mooney took over for Joe Scott, who left for Princeton last year. Scott engineered the turnaround at Air Force, installing a meticulous, slow-down offense -- the so-called Princeton offense -- to help the Falcons neutralize the talent disadvantages they faced in many games.

Now, the search for the third coach in three years at Air Force begins. Mooney said he doesn't think the program is as fragile as some might believe.

"I really hope not, because I think there's a good team in place," he said. "There's a lot of talent, experience, character in the program, a lot of depth. I think if things can go smoothly and guys regroup, they could be very good and ensure they're good for a long time."

Wainwright was 50-41 in three seasons at Richmond and led the Spiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2004.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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