After Providence’s 80-72 road victory over Fairfield on Nov. 14, Friars first-year head coach Ed Cooley described the win as “bittersweet.”
In first five seasons as a head coach, Cooley turned a 13-19 Fairfield team in his first season into a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference-best 25-8 in his final year, and had the Stags within two wins of an automatic birth to the NCAA Tournament. The way he turned around Fairfield is exactly why Providence wanted Cooley to return to his hometown this spring to coach his beloved Friars.
“It was brutal to leave Fairfield, but at the same time it was situation that was hard to say no to come home,” said Cooley. “When that opportunity came it was a dream come true for me.”
Cooley’s homecoming isn’t going to be an easy one. Providence is coming of a 4-14 Big East record last season. In 2011-2012 the Friars are projected to finish 15 of 16 in the Big East this season.
But soon, Cooley plans to have Providence back atop the Big East.
“Hopefully we can establish an identity,” said Cooley. “Hopefully put our school on a national level.”
Some of the attention Cooley has garnered since being hired in March is his recruiting prowess. Providence already has a great incoming class for next year, headlined by a backcourt any coach would want with Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo both committing to suit up for the Friars.
“We’re really, really looking forward to continue building a recruiting base on a national level,” said the Providence native Cooley.
Cooley credits his 2012 class to relationships he has established and is ready to continue to do the same in the future in New England.
“You got to be able to recruit in your backyard,” he said.
Even though Cooley is producing a promising future, he has his team 3-0 to begin the season.
“He’s a demanding and strict coach,” said junior guard Vincent Council. “He wants perfection and he always wants to be at his best.”
The season is off to a good start early, but the Friars still have another rigorous Big East schedule ahead. And Providence returns four of its five starters from a season ago, but the missing starter is Marshon Brooks, who averaged 24.6 points per game last year.
“We really haven’t brought up Marshon much,” said Cooley. “We haven’t talked about last season. It was what it was.
“All we’re trying to focus on is who we are today and how we’re going to get better moving forward. We have a long, long way to go.”
This season is going to be a rebuilding season, but teams should get their shots in when they can because Cooley is going to have the Friars delivering the blows soon.
“Coming to the Dunk [Dunkin’ Donuts Center] is going to be a brutal place to play,” said Cooley. “You’re going to play against a team that is determined and willing to fight for every victory. Every possession is going to mean something.”
Regardless of how the Friars finish this season, teams beware, Providence is on its way back to prominence.