Next up in our award-winning series of profiles on head coaching candidates is a familiar face: current Providence Friars head coach Ed Cooley. It would be an interesting move to acquire a coach from within the Big East, as he would be more familiar than most other candidates with the Hoyas recent scheme and struggles. Cooley’s teams are unfailingly competitive and, as was the case this year, meet or outperform preseason expectations.
After a four-year playing career at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, Cooley began his New England coaching journey with one-year assistant stops at UMass-Dartmouth, Stonehill and the University of Rhode Island before settling in for a 9 year stint at Boston College. He accepted his first head coaching position at Fairfield in 2006, improving their consistency while accumulating a 58-32 record in conference play and finishing at or near the top of his league in the final two years of his tenure. The Stags won the MAAC regular season title in 2011, their first since the mid-1980s.
After five years in that head coaching role, he returned to his hometown and took over the Providence College program from Keno Davis. The team had endured consecutive sub-.500 seasons and had only earned one NCAA Tournament berth in the previous decade. Attracting six top 100 recruits in his first three years along with a solid group of transfers, Cooley proved he could bring in skilled individuals at the high-major level.
Could he capitalize on these young men's raw talent and develop his players over the course of several campaigns? The first year he was running the show, the Friars were 15th in Big East play. Two seasons later they came in 3rd and have finished 3rd or 4th every year since, picking up a Big East Tournament championship in 2014. Cooley teaches his teams to play persistent defense, doing so while fouling at a much lower rate than the Hoyas. Overall, he has amassed a record of 123-80 (.606) at Providence, including those two rebuilding years. This proves not only that he can coach in this conference, but he also offers a pre-existing, comprehensive understanding of teams that will be Georgetown’s regular opponents.
There have been no significant rumblings of displeasure from the Providence fan base or administration to indicate that they would be looking to make any kind of coaching move at this juncture. Recent reports indicate that he is currently drawing a salary of $1.65M per year at Providence. Despite a series of injuries and a couple of unexpected departures, Cooley has shown a productive balance between passion and skill, fielding consistently competitive teams and taking the Friars to the NCAA tournament in four consecutive seasons. The only knock against his record is that he did not make it out of the second round with a lineup featuring NBA draft picks Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.
This interview with ESPN from yesterday (h/t @NationWideNolan) gives some insight into the way Cooley looks at building a program. He starts off by saying that he likes to build a squad around the best possible point guard- a strategy that should be music to the ears of Georgetown fans who have painful memories of Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn. The man has a plan for his roster and will pass on the best player to get the best fit.
Around the 8:00 mark, a four-minute discussion of the Hoyas situation begins. Cooley references his relationship with—and appreciation for—fellow Providence alumnus John Thompson, Jr, a man he describes as a mentor. Depending on your perspective, that connection could potentially be viewed as an obstacle to overhauling the system or a beneficial link to the most influential figure in Georgetown basketball history. Cooley does not project any frustration when asked about his current status, saying, “Providence has given me an opportunity. It’s a place that’s home, and all you want to do is your best while you’re there.” On the other hand, he also believes that you always answer the phone when someone you respect calls to talk about a job, noting that it does not hurt to have a conversation: “If they do [call], great. If they don’t [call], great.”
It would be very unusual for a coach to take a new position within the same conference. However, Cooley is qualified, energetic and well-respected, so the risk of a little extra fan vitriol from spurned Friars faithful twice a year could be an acceptable tradeoff.
Desirability Rating: 8 out of 10
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