<
>

Mooney leaves Air Force after one season

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.