PROVIDENCE — Ed Cooley estimates that his coaching responsibilities account for “20 percent” of his duties at Providence College.
Ask him just how much that small slice in an otherwise demanding pie means to him and Cooley will tell you pointblank that coaching supplies a jolt that by and large remains unmatched. The time he spends on the basketball floor alongside his assistants and players or in the video room breaking down tape is pure nirvana – not to mention a prime chance to reinforce what his primary job entails.
“The other day I went over to one of my coaches and talked to him about how much I enjoy coaching,” Cooley said. “It’s like being in your own laboratory. You’re dissecting opponents and implementing things that accentuate your strengths as a team. I love practice and I love game coaching.”
In a time when college coaches give off the vibe that they’re constantly on the move – whether it’s attempting to forge relationships with recruits or rubbing elbows with donors or season-ticket holders at school-related functions – the art of gamesmanship often gets overlooked. To Cooley, how you go about preparing for an opponent means everything.
In the days leading up to Friday’s game against Fairfield, the head coach mapped out a succinct schedule that demonstrates the emphasis Cooley places in priming his Friars.
“For us preparation is key. (On Wednesday), we came in and watched film from 9:30 [in the morning) to quarter to 10. We walked through some of (Fairfield’s) sets before going back to watch more film,” was the checklist Cooley rattled off. “(On Thursday) we watched more film and practiced against their stuff. After eating turkey at my house, we’ll sit down and watch more film. We will continue the process again on Friday morning.”
While unearthing everything you possibly can about your opponent carries substantial weight, Cooley stressed the importance of making sure his own personnel takes a look in the mirror.
“Know who you are versus whom you’re playing against. Know your own strengths, but try to take away the strengths of your opponent,” he emphasized. “It’s about who’s going to be disciplined enough to follow instructions.”
For the first two years of his PC career, Ted Bancroft’s role on the scout team was clear and concise – mimic the opposition’s top player. Now as a junior year, the highly vital walk-on finds himself donning a black practice jersey – crystallizing his status as a first-team contributor – as opposed to a grey jersey with a foreign number taped to his back.
In the eyes of the East Providence native, the switch in job descriptions, mandated due the limited numbers Cooley currently has at his disposal, has gone relatively smooth.
“I used to love playing on the scout team because that’s actually how I got most of my confidence,” Bancroft explained. “Now it’s totally different. Instead of learning all of other team’s plays, I’m focused on our plays. I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure, but there is.”
Said Cooley, “He’s someone we’ve thrown into the fire and he knows what he’s doing on the floor. He understands basketball and he’s very unselfish. There are players who get it and players who aspire to get it. He was born with it.”
Bestowed with the nickname “White Lightning” by his coach, Bancroft has reached the stage where he’s no longer seen as an additional link, but as an important piece that’s seen roughly 19 minutes of floor time during Providence’s first five games.
“Even before (playing all 45 minutes in an overtime loss to Penn State down in Puerto Rico), the guys trusted me,” Bancroft said. “Every day as a kid, I used to go outside and pretend that I was a Friar. Now I’m realizing my childhood dream.”
After Friday, Providence will have three games remaining before the exam break. Cooley is still hopeful that the NCAA will clear 6-foot-8 forward Sidiki Johnson prior to the Friars’ last game of the first semester – Dec. 6 at The Dunk against URI). If a resolution doesn’t come between now and then, Johnson’s first action would likely come Dec. 18 against Colgate.
A transfer from Arizona, Johnson has been spending time with the first string during practice in an effort to make sure he’s on the same page with the rest of the Friars upon becoming eligible.
“We’re waiting to see what happens, but we’re looking forward to having Sidiki soon,” said Cooley.