Former CU star returns to alma mater as Memphis head coach

“I’m excited to be back, I really am,” said former Creighton standout Richard Mulrooney, who’s beginning his fifth year as the Tigers’ coach.

It was two decades ago that one of Creighton’s soccer legends first heard chatter about the venue that he’ll now, finally, get to see on a game day.

So there will be an emotional element at play for Richard Mulrooney when he leads Memphis from the sideline at Morrison Stadium on Friday.

But you don’t become a college All-American and a 12-year MLS pro without some sort of competitive fire. Mulrooney will definitely cherish the evening — but he’d certainly like for his squad to take down his alma mater.

“I’m excited to be back, I really am,” said Mulrooney, who’s beginning his fifth year as the Tigers’ coach. “We played at Tranquility Park when I was at Creighton, so playing in this stadium will be my first time to be in there for a live game experience. Hopefully it’s a good one for us Friday night.”

There’ll be a silver lining for Memphis, though, regardless of the outcome, according to Mulrooney.

The more his team gets exposed to the top tier of college soccer, the better it will be, he said — particularly as he works to build a Tigers program that’s suffered two losing seasons over the past four years.

Even for Mulrooney, a player who was in on the ground floor of Creighton’s rise to prominence (he played on the Jays’ first College Cup team), a road trip to examine CU’s growth first will serve as a reminder of what he’s working to create.

“I sort of lived that blueprint,” said Mulrooney, whose Creighton career spanned from 1995 to 1998. “Even though I wasn’t necessarily taking notes, nor did I know I’d become a head coach someday, it just sort of absorbs into you. I feel like I’ve got that blueprint in my genes.”

He hasn’t lost his passion, either. That trait seemed to define him at Creighton — just ask former teammate Johnny Torres, the CU assistant who played three seasons with Mulrooney.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet off the field — but on the field, he’s an absolute beast,” Torres said. “I got to see both sides of that. As a teammate and an opponent. He’s the type of player who will not take no for an answer and will do everything to win.”

But that mentality helped make CU better.

Torres said he and Mulrooney would battle for hours on the racquetball courts back in the day — only they played with a soccer ball to refine their technique. They had a game on the basketball court where they’d team up and try to juggle as they maneuvered down the length of the floor, then somehow guide the soccer ball into the hoop before juggling their way back. Over and over, without letting the ball hit the floor.

Those are the types of memories that’ll hit Mulrooney this weekend. After Friday’s match, his Memphis team will play Utah Valley in a neutral-site game Sunday at Morrison Stadium. He’ll make the most of every moment.

“I’m very proud of the university and I’m very proud to say I’m from there,” Mulrooney said. “I think I have the best of both worlds because now I’m coming back with my hometown team, Memphis. It’s going to be fun.”

Reporter - Creighton athletics

Jon covers Creighton athletics, the College World Series and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JonNyatawa. Phone: 402-444-6611

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