PROVIDENCE – There was only one candidate Providence College officials had its sights set on to become the school’s next basketball coach. Apparently Ed Cooley felt that warm embrace to the point that the Providence native is ready to take on the challenge of reversing the Friars’ fortunes.
Tuesday saw Providence officially sign off on the 41-year-old Cooley as the Friars’ new coach. Terms of the deal were not announced, though it’s not too far-fetched to think Cooley received something comparable, in terms of length and compensation, to the package Keno Davis was awarded three years ago.
PC will officially introduce Cooley at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that fans are encouraged to attend. The festivities at Alumni Hall are scheduled to get under way at 1:30.
“I’m excited for Ed and Providence College,” said St. Andrew’s head coach Mike Hart, who played against Cooley in high school and has had many dealings with the former Central High star on the recruiting front.
The courtship involving Cooley and Providence was seemingly swift and effortless, with an agreement reached two days after Cooley’s Fairfield team was eliminated with a second-round defeat in the National Invitational Tournament. PC’s search to find a new head coach after firing Davis 12 earlier was also much shorter and less publicized than the school’s last coaching search three years ago, when roughly a month elapsed between Tim Welsh’s dismissal and the hiring of Davis.
“I had thought about Ed for some time, so it wasn’t like we were falling in love with a stranger,” said Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll when reached Tuesday night. “Obviously we waited until he was done with his season, but I had done my due diligence and talked to a lot of people who knew him personally. Once myself and (PC president) Father Shanley sat down with him, it was clear that he had passed the expectations I had for him.”
A former All-State player at Central who would go on to play at Division II Stonehill College, Cooley spent 10 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level – one at URI and nine at Boston College, all of which he spent under Al Skinner – before becoming the head coach at Fairfield in 2006. In five short years he took one of the worst programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to one that finished this past season with a school-record 25 wins, capturing the league’s regular-season title. He leaves Fairfield with a 92-69 record.
When asked to pinpoint the most striking aspect of his face-to-face meeting with Cooley, Driscoll replied, “He’s got a very charismatic personality and has a tremendous amount of confidence and self-belief that we can be successful. He’s had success and I think success breeds success.”
Cooley takes over a PC program that has struggled to find its way since the Big East Conference expanded to its current 16-team arrangement in 2005. Since then the Friars have finished over .500 in league play just once and coincidently produced as many NIT appearances as fired coaches (two). Under Davis the Friars posted consecutive 4-14 league records and were bogged down by a host of off-court troubles. It was those unnerving results that prompted Providence to make a change and seek out the advice of former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who was asked by Driscoll to serve as a consultant during the coaching search.
“We’re pretty pleased given how the last process went. This one went according to plan and we got the person, after looking at the criteria, who we felt was the best person for the job,” Driscoll said. “We did it efficiently and that’s perhaps from some of the mistakes I made the last time.”
Cooley takes over a program that includes 10 returning players, though that number may change depending on what PC decides to do with sophomore guard Duke Mondy, who sat out the final games due to a “coach’s decision.” There have been whispers that Providence would like to have Chris Driscoll and Kevin Gamble, two assistant coaches during Davis’ tenure, join the new staff, but that figures to be Cooley’s decision to make.
Cooley, who becomes the first African-American head coach in PC's basketball history, leaves behind a Fairfield squad that includes Rakim Sanders, the Pawtucket native who sat out the 2010-11 season after transferring from Boston College. Given that he has just one year of eligibility remaining, it seems highly unlikely that Sanders will follow Cooley to Providence.
“He’s at a good school and he needs to finish his career,” said Hart, who coached Sanders at St. Andrew’s.