Providence rode Marshon Brooks to a couple of big Big East upsets over Louisville and Villanova last year. Unfortunately, those two games accounted for half of the Friars conference wins. As a result, after just three years the former AP Coach of the Year Keno Davis was let go. Let this be a warning for Athletic Directors. Don't hire your next coach after just one season as a head coach. Davis took Drake to a 28-5 record and a Missouri Valley Conference title in his first year after taking over for his dad. Providence immediately snatched him up in what looks like a huge blunder. Davis was never ready for the big time. His teams lacked control on and off the court; they played very little defense and had a number of off-the-court issues.
Providence now brings in Ed Cooley of Fairfield. Cooley at least has ties to the area and a five year track record to evaluate his career on. His teams at Fairfield have gotten better every year culminating in a 25-8 season last year and a MAAC regular season championship. It's unclear how much of an upgrade Cooley will be, but at this point I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
So will the Friars be improved next year under their new coach?
Graduating: Marshon Brooks (24.6pts, 7.0rbds, 2.5asts), Ray Hall (1.1pts, 2.1rbds)
Early Entry: None
Transferring: Duke Mondy (7.7pts 3.3rbs 2.1stls)
Sophomores: Kadeem Batts (7.1pts 5.8rbds) (RS sophomore), Dre Evans (1.4pts, 0.7rbds), Ron Giplaye (1.6pt, 1.6rbds), Gerard Coleman (10.3pts, 3.1rbds), Brice Kofane (RS), Lee Goldsborough (0.6pts, 1.1rbds), Bryce Cotton (4.0pts, 1.5rbds)
LaDontae Henton 6'5" SF NR
Kiwi Gardner 5'8" PG NR
Marshon Brooks was Providence last year. He was also the leading scorer in the Big East. Ray Hall was best known for looking like Ben Roethlisberger. Losing Brooks is obviously a huge blow to the Friars. The team wasn't great with him even though he was an incredible player. He led the team in points and rebounds. In addition Providence will now lose what was going to be it's probably starter at SG as Duke Mondy was just released from the team this afternoon. Mondy led the team in steals and was the 4th leading scorer.
All that being said, there are a lot of nice pieces on this Providence team. Council is one of the better point guards in the Big East, averaging close to six assists a game. Batts and Dixon are solid big men. On the wings is where Providence is going to need players to step up. Coleman and Cotton need augment their games and at least one of them is going to need to be able to consistently knock down three pointers. Coleman will probably start at the three spot and is much more of a slasher. He needs to work on his jump shot to become a major player in the Big East.
The two recruits who have currently inked with the Friars are relatively unheralded, which is to be expected recruiting this late in the game.
- LaDontae Hentonis a strong high energy wing. He has a decent mid-range game and will rebound and defend. Unfortunately he's not the answer to Providence's lack of perimeter scoring as his 3pt shot and handle are not ready for the big time.
- Kiwi Gardner is a diminutive, mercurial point guard. He's super fast but often to the point of being out of control. His decision making can be lacking at times and he doesn't possess the ideal size to play in the big east. But this mighty mite can be a pest on defense and will at least provide the team with some depth and a change of pace.
It's difficult to fully evaluate the Friars for a couple of reasons. For starters, there is likely to be additional roster changes after this article is completed(told you so). The Friars still have one scholarship to give out and Cooley is actively recruiting multiple players for 2011 so the assumption is at least 1 player currently on the roster will transfer. It's always hard when a new coach is hired. All of Providence's original 2011 recruiting class decommitted when Davis left and left Cooley scrambling for recruits. Secondly, a change in coaching staff can have huge effects.
In a league where almost all the bottom teams appear to be getting better Providence appears to be getting worse, at least personnel wise. That being said the coaching change could counteract the loss of Brooks. If Cooley is able to get more out of his players than his predecessor or at least get them to play defense then the Friars might not fall to the very bottom of the pile. The Friars are still sure to be in the bottom four of the Big East the question is will they be able to avoid supplanting DePaul in last place.