RICHMOND, Va. (WIVB) — One of the coaches heading to Buffalo for the NCAA tournament saved the day for a Buffalo native and his wife by offering to have their wedding at his house.
Chris Mooney is the coach of the Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team, which will play at KeyBank Center on Thursday afternoon. In 2020, he hosted a Buffalo man’s wedding in his backyard after the wedding was almost further delayed due to COVID.
Jimmy Maiarana is a Buffalo native and Richmond alum who served as a team manager for the Spiders as a college student. He and his wife, Tess, were inconvenienced by COVID-19 when their wedding was postponed.
However, the couple ended up getting married, as Coach Mooney came to the rescue and offered to hold the ceremony in his backyard. Mooney said he and Jimmy stayed in touch after Jimmy graduated, which is how he heard the wedding plans were starting to fall apart.
Coach Mooney passes
While Jimmy is from Buffalo, Tess is from Philadelphia. They live together in Nashville and were supposed to be married in Raleigh, NC Jimmy said that due to COVID restrictions at the time, anyone traveling from New York and Pennsylvania would have had to quarantine for 10 days upon their return , meaning their families would’ve been put in a bind if the wedding had taken place in North Carolina.
The original plan called for 200 guests. This was reduced to a much smaller plan, but that plan also failed. At that time, Jimmy contacted Coach Mooney to see if Mooney knew anyone in Richmond who could possibly help him and Tess plan their on-campus wedding.
“We’ve stayed in touch over the years,” Mooney said. “He comes back to Richmond once in a while for a game, so I kind of knew that obviously they were engaged [and] knew that their first wedding had been postponed.
When Jimmy wanted to try having his wedding on campus, Mooney came up with something better.
“He ended up saying, ‘Why not do it in my garden, outside?'” recalls Jimmy. “We couldn’t say more good things about him and his wife and all the wonderful things they did, not only for our wedding, which was huge, but also just for my stay in Richmond.”
Jimmy’s praise for Mooney and his family continued, as he discussed what their gracious welcome meant to him.
“It just speaks to the heart that he and his wife Lia have. They opened their house and gave us the chance to have a wedding,” he said. “So I think that shows how selfless they are.”
Mooney shared a similar sentiment about his former team leader, reasons why he was happy to host the wedding.
“[Jimmy] is one of the best people I have ever met. He’s incredibly smart, conscientious, kind,” he said. “He’s just an amazing person.”
Prior to the week of the wedding, Tess had never been to the Richmond house, so Mooney’s wife Lia texted and FaceTimed with her to help the couple get a better idea of how to put together and organize things for the ceremony.
She also helped the week of the wedding, as she connected the couple with a caterer the Mooney family had used for basketball events, a videographer who worked for Richmond before getting a job at the Atlantic 10 conference. , and others in the area for configuration assistance.
Mooney said the wedding was great, although he couldn’t attend, even though he was the host.
“We didn’t go there. We put him up, but because of all the COVID madness – we have two sons and their school was starting next week – and school, if you remember, was a big deal to open on time , and they wanted everything to be fine, they were asking everyone not to quarantine, but not to socialize as much as usual, ”he said. “When we wanted to go, we kind of just opened the doors.”
Mooney reflected on his assessment of the ceremony.
“So I don’t really know how the wedding went,” he said with a laugh.
So what did the Mooneys do for most of the day? Chris Mooney said they spend a lot of time away from home, doing things like hitting the gym and having a long lunch.
That day, the men prepared in the basement of Mooney’s house, and the women used the first floor.
Tess Maiarana also expressed her gratitude to the family. She reflected on how the disappointment of losing their hometown in North Carolina quickly faded as she realized the Mooneys’ backyard wedding was better than the couple’s original plan.
“All the time we decided to change in Richmond and we were planning, I had in mind, and our plan was, ‘We’ll do a year-long celebration, because it’s not going to be like the wedding we had planned’. , she said. “Because of the space the Mooneys gave us, and because of the people we were able to have there, we ended up deciding not to do a year-long celebration. The whole thing was like a dream, and it was the best day and much better than anything I had originally planned.
love and basketball
The Maiaranas met in Richmond during their senior years of college, although Tess did not attend Richmond; she went to UNC Wilmington. They met through Tess’s best friend in high school, Lindsay Flanagan, who studied chemistry with Jimmy in first grade. The couple fittingly met at the Richmond Spiders’ basketball apartment.
“For three years she kept telling us, ‘You have to meet, you’re going to get married,'” Tess said. “And we were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, okay. Whatever.'”
Jimmy said Lindsay and Tess showed up at the apartment one day while he was hanging out there. He said as he walked through the door he decided to introduce himself to the woman who would later become his wife, using Flanagan’s famous words.
“I showed up and said, ‘Hey, you’re the girl I’m supposed to marry,'” he recalled. “We haven’t spoken for six months because it’s kind of weird if someone says that to you.”
Six months later, the three went to a cover band concert, and the Maiaranas began dating soon after.
Richmond Men’s Basketball secured the 6th seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament this year, beating the 11th-seeded Rhode Island Rams in the first round and then toppling the top three seeds in ascending order.
The Spiders beat the No. 3 VCU Rams, No. 2 Dayton Flyers and No. 1 Davidson Wildcats to win their first A-10 title and first appearance in an NCAA tournament since the 2010-11 season, when Jimmy Maiarana was a freshman. The team reached the Sweet Sixteen as the 12th seed that season.
Mooney said after winning the A-10 he was congratulated via text message by former Richmond men’s coach John Beilein, who most recently coached Michigan from 2007 to 2019. Beilein also coached at Canisius College in the 90s and was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2021. Naturally, Mooney then asked if Beilein had any recommendations for things to do in the area. He said Beilein told him to get Duff’s team wings, and also recommended Chef’s and Anchor Bar.
Present at this A-10 final were the Maiaranas, who drove 10 hours from Nashville to Washington for the match. Jimmy said they’ll try to get to the game in Buffalo on Thursday, but since they’re both working pediatrics, that might not work out for the first round. He said they would be more likely to try for the second round on Saturday if Richmond moves on.
Thursday’s game will see the No. 12 Spiders face the No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes at 3:10 p.m. This will be the first time in Mooney’s 18-year Division I coaching career that he will coach at KeyBank Center. He and the Spiders have been studying the Hawkeyes as they prepare for Thursday’s denunciation.
“I think Iowa is great. They are still great on offense; this year, they seem exceptional. They have a potential lottery pick, and traditionally these guys are pretty tough to defend. They shoot the ball extremely well and overall are the champions of the Big Ten,” Mooney said. “They’re coming off a great conference tournament, so we’ll try to prepare as best we can for a great opponent.”
Iowa has gone 26-9 this season, but Jimmy Maiarana has faith in his alma mater and former coach heading into the game.
“I think any time you have, A., Coach Mooney at the helm, and B., just the experienced seniors that we have, you have a chance,” he said. “And I think that’s what they’ve shown this year, it’s just resilience to be so experienced in some of these tougher games. Obviously Iowa is a very tough and very good opponent, but I think we are too. It should be a good game.”
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.