There was enough stress on James Mooney’s plate last week as the new head coach of the Mount Saint Vincent men’s basketball team, preparing to coach his first home game.
Mooney, the program’s all-time leading scorer, was returning to The Mount, this time in a jacket and tie instead of shorts and a tank top, hoping to get his Dolphins off to a winning start in Skyline Conference play.
The only thing more pressing on Mooney’s mind than his home debut was the fact his wife, Danielle, was due at any moment with the couple’s second child. So if Mooney was just a tad more stressed than usual, one could certainly understand.
“My wife had her doctor appointment (Thursday) morning, and the doctor actually wanted to induce her when she went in,” Mooney said. “But she said, ‘No. My husband has a game tonight.’ So the doctor held off.”
Ever the team player, Danielle Mooney waited until after Thursday’s game and before Saturday’s road game at Yeshiva before delivering Quinn Michael Mooney, all 7 pounds, 14 ounces of him, last Friday evening. It was the biggest win of the weekend for Mooney as he saw his Dolphins give up a 21-point first half lead and lose to St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn), 71-66, at The Mount’s Peter J. Sharp Center in his home opener.
The coach called the season so far a process, and one that should be able to help them bounce back.
“We started off great, but we knew it was short-lived,” Mooney said. “I told the guys, ‘We have to learn how to win. That’s what it comes down to. You’re not in these positions too often, and you don’t know what to do. You want to win so badly that you start putting additional pressure on yourself.”
Mount led 34-13, with 8:45 to play in the first half after freshman Vinny Tavella knocked down a three-pointer. The Dolphins still maintained a healthy 45-29 cushion at halftime before things started going awry in the second half.
Mount scored just 21 points in the second half and could only watch as Saint Joe’s took its first lead of the game at 60-59 with 5:14 to play when Sabastien Etheart sank a pair of free throws. Mount would tie the game with a free throw from Ammad Alkhulaidi with 5:01 to play, but the Dolphins would never regain the lead as Saint Joe’s outscored them 11-6 down the stretch to steal the road win.
Mooney thought the Dolphins came out in the second half without the fire and passion they showed in dominating the first 20 minutes.
“Halftimes are literally like our Kryptonite,” Mooney said. “We start off well and then we fade. We have to put the two halves together. We tell them in our halftime speech that it’s a game of runs, they’re going to come back and we just have to stop the bleeding. It’s all mental for these guys. In the first half we shot 9-of-11 from three (-point range). But in the second half, it was like we almost didn’t want to shoot.”
It was a hectic end of last week for the Mooney family, what with two important conference games sandwiched around Quinn Michael’s welcome to the world. But coaches being coaches, Mooney was still concerned with how his team would rebound from its home loss with Saturday’s game at Yeshiva.
“The timing for me on every level just sucks right now,” Mooney said after the St. Joe’s loss. “If we go 0-2 in the conference, we’re in trouble, we’re in serious trouble, because some of these guys will feel like the season is over.”
Not to worry as the Dolphins responded to the Saint Joe’s loss with a clutch road victory of their own when they took down Yeshiva 92-82 as four Dolphins scored in double figures, led by Andrew Curiel’s 18 points. Alkhulaidi added 17 points, Raquis Harris had 16, and Jason Barrera chipped in with 10.
The victory over Yeshiva evened the Dolphins record at 1 in the Skyline Conference, putting them at 2-3 overall this season.
So it turned out to be a 1-1-1 weekend for the Mooneys — one win, one loss, and one new son. All in all, a winning weekend for the new coach and his family.
“Quinn Michael Mooney, 12/1/17 at 10:46 p.m.,” Mooney texted The Riverdale Press, before breaking into coach-speak. “Likes to go left. Shoots first, passes second. Unlimited range, like his dad.”