Mayor Dwight C. Jones called for a citywide celebration on Tuesday, April 12, to honor the Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond men's basketball teams and their success in the NCAA tournament.
Hundreds of students, athletes and fans arrived at 4 p.m. at the James Center Plaza in a crowd of black, gold, red and blue for the Hoopstown celebration.
"Isn't this a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as Richmonders?" Jones said to his guests. "I've never been more proud in all my life to be a resident of the city of Richmond. These teams have put Richmond on the map like never before."
Because the city is proud of both its teams, Jones said, the Hoopstown celebration would show the nation it is big enough to honor not only one great Richmond school, but two.
"To the University of Richmond and to VCU," he said, "We want to say thank you for an amazing run and a great season. You took us to the very top. We have shouted more than we have ever shouted before - we are hoarse from shouting.
"And we are tired from traveling. I'm the Texas Ranger - I've been all over the state of Texas - and everybody knows our story."
Jones presented VCU coach Shaka Smart and Richmond coach Chris Mooney with "The Pride of Richmond Award," which he said had been created as a result of the day's milestone and would recognize all future achievements that unified the city.
In a grand finale, two bursts of air showered the crowd with white confetti, and both teams' bands and cheerleaders honored the players for the last time this season.
Mooney said he had been touched and surprised by how big a deal the Hoopstown celebration had turned out to be. It is really rare for a city to have two division one teams, he said, and the fact that each team was so successful in the same year is just tremendous.
Senior guard Kevin Hovde said it had been a wonderful experience to celebrate with VCU, not as rivals, but as members of the same community.
Among those waiting for autographs from the players and coaches, Megan Hassett, 11, said she had been a Richmond fan her whole life. Her favorite players this season, she said, were "all the Kevins."
Megan's dad, Bill Hassett, who earned both his Bachelor of Science in Business and his Master of Business Administration at Richmond, said he and other alumni had come to the Hoopsday celebration to show their continued support for Chris Mooney.
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"It's great he is staying," Hassett said. "It's almost like Mooney is part of the family, so we've got to support him and let him know we will be there for him next year."
Jones said the Hoopsday celebration would only be the start of something greater. Mooney and Smart are here to stay, he said, so the best is yet to come.
(This article has been revised since its original publication.)
Contact staff writer Kaylin Politzer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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