A Season in Review – 2022-2023 Friars & What’s Next

We wait all offseason for the season to arrive, seemingly taking forever. Once it arrives, it is a whirlwind and seems to conclude with the blink of an eye. That is one of life’s many ironies.

It is hard to find a Providence season that was as up and down as this one. The highs were certainly high (talks of a Big East repeat) and the lows were certainly low (ongoing rumors of Cooley leaving, player squabbles, etc.). With the season concluded, I don’t know if there has ever been a more highly anticipated offseason in Friar memory. The trajectory of Providence basketball is very much up in the air, and I don’t think that is being overly dramatic in writing that.

We break down below what this season meant for the future as well as what is at stake with the impending decision of Ed Cooley as coach of Providence.

This season was in many ways three seasons in one. Providence had the slow start, and you are left wondering if the replacement of 5 starters was going to lead to a true rebuild. Then, miraculously, Providence went on a hot streak of winning 6 straight Big East conference games. Hopkins had arrived as the next great PC Friar, Locke/Carter/Croswell were thriving, and there were talks of Providence repeating as Big East champions. The unexpected suddenly became expected. Then, the wheels seemed to come off rather abruptly with losses to St. John’s, Connecticut twice, and the disaster that was Seton Hall. Player personality issues popped up out of nowhere and a cohesive team fell apart at the seams.

The lack of energy and enthusiasm around the Kentucky team was a testament to Cooley’s tenure at PC in that NCAA berths are no longer a monstrous accomplishment in Providence; however, that same apathy to the game was directly correlated to the black cloud hanging over the program over the past week. There was more talk about Cooley’s future than an NCAA tournament game for Providence. Go figure.

Cooley did the team no favors by seemingly feeding into the rumors this past week. For somebody who has seemed to make every right move during his time at Providence, his behavior and approach to the coaching rumors was a massive misstep that won’t soon be forgotten by the Friar faithful, regardless of whether he stays or returns.

If there were no rumors around Ed Cooley’s coaching status engulfing the Friar program over the past few weeks, fans would look at this year as a stepping stone to a Sweet 16 (or better) type run in years to come. Ed has some of the best talent he’s ever accumulated at Providence, and he will be returning an All-American candidate in Hopkins, All-Conference player in Carter, and a healthy backcourt in Pierre, Floyd Jr., and Breed. The Providence administration and coaching staff seem to be in lock-step, which also can’t be overlooked. Finalize that with an infusion of talent in Santoro, Fielder, and Dual, and the future has never looked brighter for the Friars. Right? Not so fast…

All of these rosy thoughts must be put on pause as the Friar fans await the decision of Ed Cooley. If Cooley is to leave Providence, he leaves it in a much better place than when he came in. The basketball facilities are top notch and this school is now a destination job for coaches due to the fanbase, support of the school, and finances backing the program. Providence fans have Ed Cooley and former AD and President Bob Driscoll and Father Shanley, respectively, to thank for that.

With all that said, a potential jump to conference rival where he’ll be looking to beat Providence two times a year will forever tarnish the legacy of Ed Cooley at Providence College. I feel confident in writing that.

If Cooley does leave, the Athletic Director has his most important hire of his career. Providence is right on the cusp of being a perennial basketball power where NCAA berths are the norm, and anything less than a home run hire will set Providence back at a time when they cannot afford to regress. This isn’t the Providence of old that has run down facilities and hardly pays its coaches. Coaching candidates will flock to this opening.

The next 24-96 hours will be vital to understanding the future of the Providence program. If Ed Cooley does leave, a hire needs to be made quickly. With the popularity of the transfer portal, Providence is at risk of losing their entire recruiting class and a great deal of current players.

It will be a very interesting next couple of days in Friartown. All hands on deck are needed at every level at Providence College.

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