GREENSBORO, N.C. – As Ed Cooley sat and listened to Jared Bynum and Ed Croswell provide answers about what it’s been like to play for the Providence head coach, the man who may have coached his final game with the Friars became very emotional.
The postgame press conference following Friday’s season-ending 61-53 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament was on the verge of wrapping up when Cooley, having already deflected two questions concerning his future at Providence College, appeared on the verge of breaking down.
As Bynum spoke, Cooley rubbed the guard’s back. It was clear that Cooley appreciated Bynum’s choice of words – forever grateful, blessing, appreciative – struck a chord on a night when we saw three distinct sides of the coach who’s been at the helm for 12 seasons at the Big East school that’s located in his native city.
The Times/Call has learned that a very good deal is on the table for Cooley to become the next head coach at Georgetown. But like anything in life, we shall see if the allure of trying to resurrect a fellow Big East program that was once mentored by John Thompson Jr., an individual who means a great deal to Cooley, will be enough for him to pull up anchor at Providence.
Let’s first revisit the three sides of the coach that were on display Friday night after the Friars ran into the second coming of Dennis Rodman (Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe snatched 25 rebounds) and shot 36 percent for the game:
Side No. 1
With Cooley at the podium, he was asked if he would be on the Friars’ bench for the 2023-24 season.
“Next question,” said Cooley without a shred of hesitation in his tone.
Moving right along …
Side No. 2
Still at the podium, Cooley was asked if he coached his last game at Providence, the question coming on the heels of the question concerning him being on PC bench next season.
He proved to be more forthcoming in responding to the question about whether he's coached his final game at PC, yet Cooley did little to put to bed any chatter related to his name being linked to the Georgetown job – chatter that has gained traction as the week has progressed.
“There are all kinds of rumors and speculation, and I know you guys are trying to do your job. I get it. But after a game like this, I just think it's fair to talk about our players. I think it's fair to talk about the game,” said Cooley. “I'm right here right now. I think those are very hard questions when you just are going off of speculation. It's about this game [versus Kentucky]. It has nothing to do with my future or my present.”
Au Contraire, Coach Cooley. It has everything to do with your future.
Side No. 3
Standing outside the PC locker room in a hallway located inside the Greensboro Coliseum, Cooley peeled back the curtain just a tad when faced with another question regarding his next move – whether that’s staying put at Providence or finding a spot along the Potomac River.
“There’s a lot of decisions I have to make … a lot of thinking and reflecting that I need to do,” said Cooley. “I’ll definitely let you know what we’re going to do when this is all over.”
Talk about your cliffhangers. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if PC and Cooley iron out what would be the fourth contract extension between the coach and the school since 2016, or if he walks up to a podium that signifies him becoming the next head coach at Georgetown.
Instead of March Madness, the Friars felt nothing but March Sadness. The loss to the Wildcats was the fourth straight to close out a season that slipped off the rails at the worst possible time. It was shades of 2004 when PC closed that season with four straight defeats – back-to-back home losses followed by a pair of one-and-done showings at the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
“The last few games, I would say that we didn’t play our hardest,” said Noah Locke, one of four PC players who definitely won’t be back next season.
Usually, Cooley’s teams at PC get better as the season goes along. That wasn’t the case this time. The Friars entered February at 17-5 overall and 9-2 in Big East play. They ended up dropping seven of their final 11 games. Two of those victories came against Georgetown, a team that finished last in the Big East for the second straight year.
Asked if the rumors surrounding Cooley and his future proved to be a distraction in the days leading up to the matchup against Kentucky, Locke said, “We knew this was a game we needed to win. It was all on the line.”
It appears that PC has wrapped up its search for the school’s next women’s basketball head coach. That’s a good thing because a lot of time figures to be devoted to making sure Cooley continues to cash paychecks with “Providence College” on them.
Athletic Director Steve Napolillo sat in the front row of the auditorium inside the Greensboro Auditorium that was used by the NCAA to stage press conferences. He listened to every word that Cooley spoke while he was at the podium as a representative of Providence College. When Cooley met with the media outside the team’s locker room, Napolillo stood behind the scrum.
Given the opportunity to state his case and respond to what Cooley had to say, Napolillo came across as someone who’s prepared to leave no stone unturned regarding Cooley.
“I love Coach Cooley. We have a great relationship. We talk every day. We want him to finish his career here. He’s an amazing person. He’s an amazing coach. He is Providence College,” said Napolillo, “but at the end of the day, coach is his own man. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure the program stays at an elite level … invest in him, invest in facilities, invest in everything we can do for the program. That’s from myself, [PC President Rev. Kenneth Sicard], and the Board of Trustees. We’re all committed to doing this at the highest level and that includes Coach Cooley.”
The offseason is officially here for Cooley and the Friars. Buckle up.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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