Ed Cooley’s 10th Friars Anniversary: Memories And Milestones

Ed Cooley became the 15th head coach of the Providence College Friars mens basketball team ten years ago this coming week.

“It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting in Alumni Hall, a soon-to-be graduate of Providence College, waiting for the press conference announcing new Friars head coach Ed Cooley to begin.”

That would be one way to start this article. But saying “it feels like only yesterday” is a bit dishonest.

It’s been ten years since Ed Cooley became the head coach of the Providence Friars, and it’s felt like ten years have passed since that press conference – in all the best ways possible. There are ten years of program-defining wins, memorable moments, challenges overcome, and positive changes to the culture of Providence basketball.

Now, ten years later, thinking about what comes next, I find myself reflecting on all that’s changed. Here are just some of the things that come to mind.

THE WINS THAT MATTERED

Right off the bat: there is no list I could write that would be complete. It feels like in the ten years that Cooley has been here, there have been so many important wins that have shifted the culture of the program. This list isn’t meant to be definitive, nor rank them from least to most important, but rather it highlights some of the wins that stand out most in my mind.

PROVIDENCE DEFEATS USC IN THE NCAA ROUND OF 64:
It’s a story every Friar fan knows.
It’s a win that fans had been desperate to earn. I don’t need to tell you all about the inbound pass from Edwards to Bullock that allowed for the go-ahead layup with seconds on the clock.
Instead, I’ll always remember this game for where I was: at a Providence bar in Bucktown, Chicago, shoulder to shoulder with fans, everyone holding their breath during that pass. I remember the beer from everyone’s pint glasses going up in the air first, all of us jumping in celebration almost as if to catch the beer in mid-air. I remember the cheering, the hugging, the first pumps and the joy.
It will be a moment in Friar history that will be brought up often, but living that moment with Friar fans, feeling the weight of that win, that’s something you can’t replace.
Ed Cooley and Vin Parise – Video from Cox’s “Friars All Access” 2013

 

PROVIDENCE BEATS CREIGHTON, WINS THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT:

This win needs no explanation.

Not only was it significant for it’s place in Big East and Friar basketball history, it got Providence back into the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. But you know what I’ll remember? Sitting sidelines at MGS, camera in my shaking hand as the seconds started to tick off and the thing we all hoped for but dared not speak out loud came into existence.

I remember trying to change the lens on my DSLR because I decided I was going on that court and getting every picture I possibly could. And when I did just that, I would pause after every few clicks of the shutter to just be in that moment and remember as much as I could possibly absorb.

It’s a game that will stick with me the rest of my life, and not because of a score or a stat line, but because of the opportunity to be there.

THE FRIARS DOWN THE BLUE DEMONS TO FINISH THE 2019-2020 SEASON:
In an up-and-down year, the Friars put it together just in time to make their push for the NCAA Tournament bid they desperately wanted.
This was a thread-the-needle demand on the Friars – one slip-up, one lost game, and the season would have likely been lost.
Finishing the regular season against DePaul wasn’t a guaranteed win, but the Friars came out punching and didn’t relent, cementing their place in the Big East for the season and making the case for an at-large bid. I remember believing in the Friars so much, and seeing that belief confirmed was validating enough.
Unfortunately, the season didn’t end the way anyone wanted for reasons we all know, but circumstances beyond our control can’t take away the hard fought and well-earned season the Friars attained.
ED COOLEY NOTCHES A WIN OVER FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON IN HIS COACHING DEBUT:
It’s not the most glamorous win in terms of opponent prestige, but who cares about that when your new head coach wins his first game? That mattered a lot after seeing Keno Davis lose his debut opener against Northeastern a few years earlier.
A win right off the bat not only sets the tone for the program, it sets a sense of pride and assurance in the fans. Cooley didn’t come to take a job, he came to win – and he made that happen from night one.
Ed Cooley and Vin Parise – Video from Cox’s “Friars All Access” 2013

Ed Cooley and Vin Parise from Cox’s “Friars All Access” 2013

 

CULTURAL CHANGES

When Ed Cooley became the head coach, he wasn’t hired just to win games. Providence as a program was on the brink of irrelevancy – and that was if they were lucky. The program off the court was in desperate need of reform, and Cooley was the man to get it done. Ten years later it’s an entirely different look to the program both on the court and, especially, off the court.

It’s hard to make a list of how far this program has come under Cooley. I’m sitting here trying to explain something like the mentality of the team evolving. The on the court mentality starts off the court, and Cooley has instilled a no-quit, play-with-pride attitude.

Yes, there are games where players may struggle, but Cooley is able to get them back on track rather than let them slide.

Ed Cooley and Vin Parise – Video from Cox’s “Friars All Access” 2013

 

There’s a culture of accountability. Cooley takes responsibility for coaching faults. He makes adjustments where needed, and sends messages when needed. He understands his players, and earns their respect by showing them trust. We see a bit of this in press conferences and interviews, and considerably more of it happens behind the scenes. Players leave the program stronger and more confident, not just about basketball, but about themselves.

As I write this I’m thinking about the rougher-than-average year the Friars had this year.

But even in a down year we saw growth in our guys on the court and off the court, so much so that Cooley may have made his best recruiting effort of the season by bringing Nate Watson back for a fifth year. When asked, Watson talked about the feeling that he has unfinished business.

It’s that drive to win and succeed that Cooley instills in his players, and fosters it to success. It’s made the program respectable, even in losses, and makes me proud to be a Friar fan.

ed cooley
Ed Cooley – Courtesy PC Athletics

Things Yet to Come

Cooley has a no quit attitude. It’s what I respect about him. Win one Big East Tournament? He’ll push for another. Get to the NCAA Tournament? Go back and win more. Bring in great recruits? Get them to the NBA. He’s building something, to borrow a phrase from him in his opening presser, brick-by-brick.

After ten years, it’s both impressive and exciting to think that Cooley has built a strong foundation that he’s continuing to add layers on. Providence is competitive, it’s exciting, and it’s not done growing yet. Cooley is striving for deeper NCAA Tournament runs, more Big East Tournament trophies, and success for his players. Winning isn’t easy, but Cooley is constantly finding ways to win and grow his program, which makes me excited to see what comes next.

Make no mistake: through all the ups and downs, Cooley is the right man for the job. He’s instilled a culture of success that few coaches could have at a school like Providence, and we are lucky to have him as our head coach.