Former Richmond men's basketball players, Ryan Butler and Peter Thomas, are using their experience playing for coach Chris Mooney helps them relate to current players, Thomas said.

Thomas played for Richmond from 2003 to 2007, and he was a junior when Butler came in as a freshman in 2005. Butler red-shirted his freshman year and played at Richmond until 2010.

They were friends immediately and have been close friends ever since, Thomas said.

"[Working with Butler] is pretty cool because in practice some of the same things the [players] are going through now, we went through together," he said. "It brings up old stories about us, and it's easy to relate to what the guys are going through."

Butler oversees all of the film and edits it for scouting purposes. Thomas is responsible for daily tasks in the basketball office, such as team travel, equipment, alumni relations, practice schedules, and community events. Both Butler and Thomas attend the team's practice every day.

The biggest shock was seeing how much goes on behind the scenes of a basketball program, Thomas said.

"When you're a player, you kind of think that things just happen," he said.

Butler and Thomas had other jobs in basketball programs before they were hired at Richmond. Butler was an assistant coach at his high school, Douglas Freeman, in Richmond, while also working as a substitute teacher and at a property management firm. Thomas held a job in basketball operations at Eastern Kentucky University before returning to Richmond. The comfort level established from playing for Mooney made the transition to working at Richmond easy, Thomas said.

Butler said that because some of the current seniors were freshmen when he was a senior, it was weird going from a player to being looked upon as a coach. He said there had not been much difference between the program now and when he was a player, besides the specific players and maybe running different tactics on offense. The way Mooney runs the program is still the same, he said.

"It's weird to think of [Butler] as a coach, but it's also good to have him around," said Greg Robbins, one of the current seniors who played with Butler.

"Everyone looked up to him. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be like."

Because Butler and Thomas played for Mooney, they know what Mooney wants and what he expects out of the team, Robbins said.

Both Butler and Thomas said they would ultimately like to become head coaches.

Butler said he was currently focused on learning as much as he could about the behind-the-scenes side of the game.

Thomas' goal is to be promoted at Richmond, but he said in the college-coaching world, one had to go where the opportunities were.

Being an alumnus does not changed his perspective on this coming season; players and coaches talked about their expectations very openly, Thomas said.

He said everyone had been a little disappointed with where the team finished last year, and they wanted to be better than that this season, he said. The experience gained by players who were first-time starters or in first-time leadership roles will be a great dividend this year, he said.

Contact reporter Chrissy Wengloski at chrissy.wengloski@gmail.com