Tag:Ed Cooley
Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:18 pm

Cooley brings passion, defense to Providence

Cooley's first year at Providence has gone relatively well. (Getty Images)

By Jeff Goodman

Ed Cooley's Providence team had no business going toe-to-toe with top-ranked Syracuse last night. 

But that's exactly what happened for the first 35 or so minutes - when Providence somehow was in a two-possession game after Gerard Coleman's bucket with a little more than five minutes left. 

The first thing you notice with this Friars team is that they are attempting to guard. Keno Davis is a terrific guy, but his teams couldn't -- no, make that didn't - check anyone. 

Cooley has a rebuilding job in Providence, but he's exactly what this program needs - a high, energy native who will get his players to go hard and also become a face in the community. 

He inherited a team with a couple of Big East guards in Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman, but not much else. There was virtually nothing up front. 

Cooley managed to land two elite recruits in point guard Kris Dunn and local talent Ricky Ledo, so the perimeter could be loaded next season -- if Ledo qualifies and is cleared by the NCAA (he's attended multiple schools). 

Cooley's passion, though, is unquestionable and contagious. Because he was an assistant under Al Skinner at Boston College, there was a perception -- one that was completely off-base -- that he would being a similar approach to PC. 

While Cooley did learn from Skinner, he couldn't be any different from his former boss. He's high-energy, enjoys interacting with the fans and loves to get out on the recruiting trail. 

Syracuse shot 61 percent from the field and 58 percent from beyond the arc in Wednesday night's 87-73 victory that wasn't nearly as lopsided as the score indicates. 

Cooley only played six players: Council, Coleman, tiny guard Bryce Cotton, freshmen bigs LaDontae Henton and Brice Kofane and sophomore Kadeem Batts. 

Henton went for 11 points and 13 boards and while Batts (14 points) played well, Cooley is one big man away from potentially becoming a factor in the Big East. 

But much of that could rest on the shoulders of Ledo. 

Ledo's talent level is unquestionable. He's a big-time scorer, but he has maturity issues. Cooley maintains Ledo has made significant progress in that area -- and if that's accurate (nothing would make me happier), the Friars could soon have the talent to match Cooley's passion. 

That could be a scary combo. 

Posted on: December 7, 2011 6:20 pm

Santa Cooley's coming to town!

By Matt Norlander

If you gave me my pick for any head coach in college basketball to dress up as Santa Claus, Providence's Ed Cooley would definitely be No. 1. (Last on the list: Xavier's Chris Mack.)

So I'm now filled with holiday cheer thanks to the cheesy-but-fulfilling video of Cooley donned up in ruby. It practically looks like velour, which I can totally see Cooley rocking on a lazy Sunday (I know I do). The only downside to the video: the Providence mascot, which may be some sort of ghost of Christmas past that's come back in tangible form. Either way, stay out of my nightmares, thing.

This is why Cooley made so much sense to bring in as the new coach. He's a Rhode Island guy, is one of the most affable men in the game, and he's brought something better than gifts to Providence this year -- wins. Providence is 7-2.

If at all possible, can we get Cooley to dress like this Dec. 20 at home against New Hampshire, or the Dec. 23 game against hated rival Rhode Island?

Friar Blog also has something called "Elf Yourself," which features Cooley and his three star players. Yeah, I will be doing this for our foursome on the blog soon. Check back during one of the Wakeup Calls next week. Need to get it so Parrish and Borzello's elves are down to size.

Who wouldn't want this man in their living room during the wee hours of Dec. 25? OK, other Big East coaches not included.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:37 am

Cooley's homecoming an emotional, relieving event

By Matt Norlander

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Monday night was the toughest game Providence coach Ed Cooley ever had to endure at Webster Bank Arena -- and he did it on an opposing sideline. The former Fairfield coach, who went 92-69 with the Stags (his only other job as a head coach) the past five years, saw his Friars upset -- yes, upset; the Stags were 7.5-point favorites -- the home team in front of a crowd of 6,375 people.

It was the regular-season attendance record for Fairfield. Cooley, who is beloved in the area despite never making an NCAA tournament, coming back was a large part of it, in addition to the fact Fairfield's considered an elite team in the MAAC, with Iona. 

Cooley's team played well against his former one. Twice the Friars gave up double-digit leads, but the third time they put a barrier between themselves and the Stags, it didn't get close again. Providence 80, Fairfield 72. Cooley was so relieved the game had come and the day was finally over.

“I’m so happy today’s over,” Cooley said. “Just all the dog-gone questions. It’s about the players, it’s not about me. Make it about our players.”

But it was about Cooley and about one player: Fairfield's Rakim Sanders. Sanders is the fifth-year forward at Fairfield with the NBA game who was recruited by Cooley way back when. Back when Cooley was an assistant on the grind with Boston College, working toward his first head-coaching job, which he did get in 2006 at Fairfield.

Sanders transferred out of Boston College to Fairfield two years ago. The goal was to play for Cooley, for just the one year of eligibility he'd have left. Sanders scored more than a thousand points in ACC play. The two had become close over the years, and it was believed they'd reach the NCAA tournament together. He took his mandatory redshirt season last year and waited it out, watched a Fairfield team win the regular season in the MAAC but fall in the semifinals -- at home -- of the conference tourney.

After the season, the Providence job opened up, and Cooley had to take his hometown, dream gig. Marriage of coach/recruiter and player never came to be. Monday night, it was a bit awkward, as Cooley had to coach against a kid he brought closely into his life.

“I could say a thousand things about the guy,” Sanders said. “Great guy. Just, somebody you could talk to on a personal level. Growing up without a father figure, watching how he worked, went home to his family and kids -- he’s a beautiful person.”

Cooley did his best to answer all the questions one more time, but to make it more about his current kids. He acknowledged how much Sanders meant to him, but, really, the win was more uplifting than symbolic at this point for him.

“It was an emotional day for me, all-around,” Cooley said. “Today was about Providence College. … I’m very proud of the community coming out to support both teams. I’ll forever be a part of this (the Fairfield) program."

Sanders was a monster Monday night. He looked like an NBA draft pick, scoring 25 and grabbing nine boards despite being hampered with foul trouble and only getting 28 minutes of playing time. He certainly wasn't distracted -- but his team looked lackluster when he wasn't on the floor.

“I think I focused on the game well,” Sanders said. “It was about us, and what we did. It’s not about Cooley coming back and what he was going to do. But I’m sure a lot of our guys were a little more emotional, a little more up to play. It’s like any other game, really, for me. It’s not about me -- it’s about how we played and this new chapter for us.”

What's more, it was the first Providence road win in nearly two years (Jan. 14, 2010 against DePaul), a fact Cooley was unaware of until it was pointed out to him earlier in the day. He and his team were also aware of how they weren't expected to win this game.

“I told my team. We played a veteran team, we’re young, they’re experienced, they earned that line to start the game,” Cooley said. “I definitely told my team about that. There’s no secrets, no secrets in that locker room.”

And no secrets about what Cooley meant to Fairfield, what Fairfield meant to him, and what Sanders and Cooley still mean to each other. But those relationship can continue to grow well after this season has past. The two programs got their shot at each other, the former coach one, and now everyone can move on. After seeing the body language in the hall afterward, it's definitely what everyone is ready for, almost as if this was an irritating chore that needed to be taken care of before each team's season could really begin.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 14, 2011 10:38 pm

Video: Cooley, Sydney Johnson postgame interviews

By Matt Norlander

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Ed Cooley's homecoming went as well as he could have asked for tonight. The former Fairfield and first-year Providence coach came back to Connecticut and coached his team to an 80-72 win in front of a record-setting regular-season crowd at the Webster Bank Arena.

For Cooley, it was emotional not only because he used to coach the Stags ('06-'11), but also because he coached against a player he knows well, recruited to Boston College and envisioned coaching this year at Fairfield: Eagles transfer and fifth-year player Rakim Sanders. Sanders scored 25 in the loss for FU tonight. I'll have a post up in a bit on the night for everyone involved, but here are the two one-on-one interviews with the head coaches from tonight.

First, Cooley.


Posted on: September 5, 2011 8:02 pm

Friars best scenario? Ledo never steps on campus

By Jeff Goodman

Ed Cooley had no choice. He had to go after local star Ricky Ledo.

Ledo is one of the most talented scorers in the entire country, a guy that the new Providence Friars coach can normally only dream of landing. CBSSpports.com broke the news on Monday afternoon that Ledo committed to Providence.

But, in essence, the ideal scenario for Cooley may be the following:

Ledo never, ever steps foot on campus.

``It's absolutely the best thing for Cooley," said one source extremely close to the situation.

It sounds nuts, but hear me out.

Ledo is at his fourth school - which is a major academic red flag for not only the NCAA, but also for those who track the success rate of those who have established a clear track record of instability in high school. This is his second pledge to the local school, the first coming when Keno Davis was at the helm.

Many of those who have suited up alongside Ledo aren't enamored with him because of his unwillingness to be a quality teammate - and the attitude he often displays. His pledge could wind up hurting Providence with some local targets.

Also, there are plenty who feel as though Ledo playing so close to home in the fishbowl that is Providence may be ultimately setting him up to fail. 

Ledo's record this past July, at one point, was 1-10. The last high-level guy who had a mark like that one was Renardo Sidney, and um, look what's happened with him.

Let's hope I am wrong about Ledo - and he winds up academically qualifying and buying into his role as a member of a team.

However, I'm skeptical.

Cooley has already reaped the reward of a two-week stretch in which he landed arguably the nation's top point guard, Kris Dunn, and another elite level wing in Ledo.

It's given him and the Providence program exactly the pop he needed to make the Friars "cool."

People are writing about Providence for the first time in years.

But Ledo - if he does wind up in a PC uniform - could set the program back instead of moving it forward.  

Ledo has already spent four years in high school and doesn't have a diploma. The plan is to have him get his GED, then add one core class and arrive in December or January.

I'll believe it when I see it.

And I just don't think that'll ever happen - and that may not be the worst thing for Cooley and the future of the Friars.
Posted on: June 13, 2011 2:15 pm

Ed Cooley already planning big things for Friars

By Matt Norlander

Who knows when the Providence Friars will get good, but they sure should be relevant in a hurry under Ed Cooley.

The new Friars coach, who grew up in Rhode Island, is not wasting any time in dreaming big and making promises for a program that's been down for the better part of two decades. Cooley told Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal that he wants the team's first game next fall to be a sellout. For a team like Providence, that's aiming high, considering the Friars play at the Dunkin' Donuts center, an arena with a capacity of 13,106 that often struggles to fill up half that number for non-conference games.

“I’d like to coach my first game as coach at Providence College in front of a sold-out building,” he said. “That’s my goal. We can do that.”

Cooley did not reveal who the opening night opponent will be, but rest assured it won’t be North Carolina, Kentucky or anything like a nationally ranked foe. Judging from previous PC slates, an opponent from the Ivy or Northeast Conference is more likely.

“We are changing the culture here at Providence and I know as an opponent coming into that arena so many times over the years that when the Dunk is filled, it’s a tough place to play. That’s what we’re after for every game,” he said.

"The Dunk." Cooley knows the audience he's speaking to. The locals will love him, win or lose, in the first season. After that, the pressure tightens.

Back to the goal at hand. Cooley wants to pack the joint against a Quinnipiac, Brown or Central Connecticut? Yeah, that's going to be particularly tough, but at least he's showing his passion and optimism early. I witnessed firsthand how Cooley can get a local fan base riled up in a great way. On Senior Night at Fairfield in March, the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard (where Fairfield plays) filled with students and fans, special shirts designed and a plethora of handmade, funny signs. 

Before and after the game, Cooley thanked the fans and students, and there was genuine love in his heart for what he'd built up there. (By that time, Cooley probably deduced his exit plan had already begun.) Cooley will again beseech the student body, insisting the faction of teenager and early-20s supporters to come out for every game to watch games for the home team that's on the court every time -- not make a decision based on the opponent coming into town.

Photo via Providence Journal
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 3, 2011 5:00 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 5:26 pm

March Stag-ness? Fairfield eager to break through

Posted by Matt Norlander

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — At last Friday’s Senior Night, 33 minutes before tip-off against Siena, Fairfield coach Ed Cooley bombastically thanked the families of his oldest players at the Arena at Harbor Yard, the Stags’ home venue. He did it from center court, over the facility’s loudspeakers, as hordes of students were conspicuously getting to their seats, no doubt psyched for their team’s nationally broadcast game on ESPN2.

The symbolic nature — beyond Senior Night — was what brought in the biggest crowd of Fairfield’s season. A win over Siena would mean a season sweep of the Saints — three-time defending champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Most students sported red shirts with bold-white font that said “BEAT SIENA.” The design was somewhat in the mold of the classic famous RUN DMC logo.

Cooley (right) continued on for more than just a few seconds, as he thanked the senior band members and senior cheerleaders. He showed gratitude to the scorekeepers and ball boys. He praised the fan base then, and multiple times after the 68-55 Stags win. The fifth-year coach is an affable man behind the mic, whether it’s in pregame, holding court to Stags fans, or in the postgame media room, where the usual press grouping is no more than six or seven deep — if that — when, sadly, a microphone isn’t required.

But Cooley and his 23-6 team have set themselves up for much more attention and amplification in the coming weeks, should they capitalize on the chances they’ve made for themselves.

“This is not our last home game,” Cooley said to the spectators last week. The reason: Fairfield finished in first place, 15-3, in the MAAC, two games ahead of Iona, a team the Stags lost to in the regular-season finale Sunday, 74-69. The conference tournament begins Friday in Bridgeport and culminates Monday night.

“Coach Cooley said it best: If the crowd’s like that, it’s going to be tough to beat us,” senior guard/forward Yorel Hawkins said. “It means a lot. More than any of the other students or community, more than they know.”

This year represents the best chance in 25 seasons for the Stags to dance. Call it Cooley's culmination, as he admitted his window for reaching the NCAA tournament was five years when he took the job that long ago. He and his team are right on time, but the hardest work needing completion could still be on its way.

Being a favorite, having an expectation of a tournament berth: it's unfamiliar territory for the Fairfield program. The Stags have made three NCAA tournaments, the last one coming in 1997, but that was an 11-19 campaign that burst with life in the MAAC tournament. This run is no fluke. With two wins, Cooley and his players will set a new single-season school record for victories. It’s only going to make the Big Boy Bracket if it wins the MAAC, but by doing that, a 13 seed is definitely a possibility.

“Based on our experience from a year ago, we’re incredibly driven,” Cooley said. “When you look at our team, everyone says, ‘Who you gonna stop?’”

A year ago, Fairfield was on the brink of this sort of success, but Siena was just plain better. The Saints still had their core of players that had done damage in the previous two NCAA tournaments. It rode the ability of its senior class and won the league and got the advantage of playing the conference tournament on its home floor in Albany.

“Last year we had chemistry, this year we have it, but this year it feels like we’re more together,” Hawkins said. “No one cares who scores, no one cares who makes the plays — we’re just in it together.”

Now Fairfield is the new Siena, even if that’s a comparison Cooley graciously rejects.

“I know what you’re saying there, but we’re just Fairfield,” he said. “I don’t want to be compared to anybody. We are who we are. We’re trying to build a brand and get to a place we haven’t been to for a long time. Siena had a great run — we’re just Fairfield. We’re not new, we’re not old. We just are who we are.”

If Fairfield’s going to win, stud sophomore Stags standout point guard Derek Needham  (left) will need to play above everyone else, but Hawkins is also key. Hawkins is the open-shot assassin and a man who rebounds on the fly — literally. While Ryan Olander — brother of UConn freshman Tyler Olander — is cemented in the paint, Hawkins snares his rebounds only after coming in from 10, 15, 23 feet from the rim.

Cooley says whenever Hawkins goes to the basket, rebound or not, he’s getting his hand on the ball.

“With the MAAC tournament, we cannot pressure ourselves,” Hawkins said.

Needham, one of the quickest players in the conference, is best defined as a scooter. He can run the half-court offense, but sometimes he’ll choose to go from gear 2 to 5 just because he can. His numbers haven’t peaked this season, primarily, because Cooley wanted to make this team as spread out as possible.

“When you look at our stats, we’re not a great-shooting team, we don’t pass it great,” Cooley said. “One through nine.”

One through nine is the rotation Cooley has, which could be 10 if it were not for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which Greg Nero has. Nero, a senior, was expected to be a big contributor this year — perhaps making Fairfield better than it already is — but after Cooley and the coaches tried to make him a focal point, it just wasn’t working.

Needham, who was “sick as a dog,” (Cooley’s words) for last Friday’s game, still played and managed to keep Fairfield moving at a brisk pace. Fairfield’s transformation —both in team identity and shift into MAAC alpha — has gone largely unnoticed.  

“It was about Derrick early,” said Cooley, “but he’s so unselfish and wants to deflect all the stardom.”

He'll likely need to seek and embrace it for Fairfield to be a feared foe later this month. He can be that good and now is his chance to make good on Cooley's vision. In terms of Fairfield's reputation, what we’ve got here is a low-major team with a point guard who’s definitely capable and a group with a deep bench. It seems the Stags have the DNA of a group that can surprise people. Note that this isn’t what Siena was, when the Saints were chic upset picks each year they made the tournament. Fairfield’s sneaky and under the radar.

But Cooley can only remain unknown if he gets beaten on his home floor over the next four nights. He is a coach that will make the tournament better because he’s a great quote. He comes off as honest and embraceable to just about everyone. The man refers to his freshmen, endearingly, as babies.

“They’re bigger babies now,” he said.

And he’ll use anyone, no matter scenario, from here on out, he said. But they’re still just babies. Clearly this is a man and a team ready to embrace his moment.  

"I never feel any pressure. Zero," Cooley said. "Why? Because it's a game. It's 40 minutes. It's two rims, one basketball, and whoever wants it more is going to win that particular night."

By Cooley's terms, no team's wanted it as much in the MAAC as Fairfield has this year. With home-court advantage and a trip to the NCAA tournament four nights away, the desire should exceed the talent level.

Which means Fairfield should be going to its fourth tournament in school history.

Photos: AP

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