On Sunday, Ed Cooley was named the Naismith Coach of the Year, winning the award over Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd and Wisconsin’s Gregg Gard. Cooley becomes the first Providence coach to receive the award and the 4th African-American to take home the award since it’s inception in 1986.
While all three of these coaches were deserving in their own right, we think Cooley really deserved the award. Arizona getting a 1 seed under a first year coach is certainly impressive, but Lloyd did inherit a talented roster and Arizona was projected to finish top-4 in the PAC-12. Gregg Gard had a similar story to Cooley as his team was projected to finish 10th in the Big Ten. The Badgers ended up getting a 3 seed in the tournament and won a share of the Big Ten title. However, Cooley’s run seemed a tad more impressive.
The Friars were projected to finish 7th in the Big East and yet won the whole league outright. PC wasn’t even considered a tournament team yet Cooley and staff propelled them to a 27-6 record and a 4-seed in the dance. Under Cooley, the Friars captured their first Big East regular season title in program history. He also did so without a first team all-conference player or a legit NBA prospect. Wisconsin, for example, had a 1st team All-American in Johnny Davis.
For Providence, it’s a big deal that Cooley was able to take home this award. It will only help in recruiting future Friars. With Cooley taking home the hardware it brings him to his next challenge: sustained success. If Cooley can bring the Friars to new heights and become a Gonzaga or Villanova-lite, it will only solidify his position as the greatest coach in Providence history.