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Family matters as Tennent's Kirby Mooney off to Richmond

05/30/2024, 12:15pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It only made too much sense.

Kirby Mooney had been trying to find the right fit for his college pick, weighing a couple Division II offers after some Division I programs had poked around. 

Then his uncle Chris came calling. 

Kirby Mooney (above) is off to play for his uncle Chris Mooney at Richmond. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Chris Mooney, the 20th-year head coach at the University of Richmond, offered the 6-foot-4 William Tennent senior a preferred walk-on spot on his Spiders’ roster. And that was all Kirby Mooney needed. 

“I’ve been a fan forever, of course, and it’s a dream, so I’m going to take it — I did take it, obviously,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a dream, it’s a dream. I watch every single Richmond game, I follow them like crazy, my uncle thinks I’m a good player and I’ll help the team in some way.”

Kirby Mooney capped off his high school career at Tennent as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,430 points. The Panthers went a combined 31-16 in his junior and senior years, making it to the District 1 6A playoffs both times. 

A big guard, Mooney has a variety of ways to score in his bag, from creating his own shot with the ball in his hands to serving as an off-ball cutter or shooter; he also can post up and score in the paint in mis-match situations, and is a quality rebounder and passer as well. 

All of those qualities had numerous Division II programs involved: West Chester and Millersville had extended offers; California (Pa.) was in the mix as well. Several Division I programs had poked around, but none had extended an offer. 

Mooney was getting close to making a decision, but his uncle threw a wrench in those plans when he extended the preferred walk-on spot in April, one of his three walk-ons graduating and moving on. 

What hadn’t even seemed like an option to Mooney suddenly became the most obvious choice of all. It’s a different role, for sure, but there was no doubt what the move had to be.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can and help the team in any way I can,” Kirby Mooney said, “so yeah it’s a dream, it’s a dream come true.”

Last season, Richmond’s men went 23-10 (15-3 A-10), its third 20-win season in the last five years, including the COVID-shortened 2020-21 year. The top seed in the 2024 A-10 tournament, the Spiders lost to No. 9 seed St. Joe’s in the quarterfinals, then lost to Virginia Tech in the opening round of the NIT.

Chris Mooney has been Richmond’s coach since just before Kirby was born; his father Kevin is the fourth of five children born in the Mooney household, Chris the youngest. The Mooney family grew up in Northeast Philly, went to Archbishop Ryan (Chris) and Holy Ghost (Kevin), before Chris starred at Princeton and then launched his coaching career. 

Kevin moved into Bucks County, raised a family, Kirby the third of fourth children, born not long after Chris got the head coach job at Richmond in 2005 following one year at Air Force.

They all became huge Spiders fans as Chris Mooney built the program into a regular Atlantic 10 contender, making it to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011, then again in 2022, beating Iowa in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. 

“When they made the NCAA Tournament, that’s not the earliest [memory], but probably my favorite,” Kirby Mooney said. “That Iowa game was definitely my favorite experience to watch [...] the seats are great that my coach — my uncle — gets me, and that’s probably my favorite, the win against Iowa in the NCAA tournament.”

Catch that slip-up? That’s going to be life for Kirby Mooney for the next four years. Family gatherings, he might still be Uncle Chris. Anywhere else…

“He’s been Uncle Chris my whole life and now he’s going to be Coach Mooney,” Kirby acknowledged. “When it’s during the season, working out, anytime I’m on campus, it’s all business.”

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