Lost amidst Ed Cooley’s departure from Providence College is an appreciation for everything Mr. Cooley has done to elevate the Providence Friar basketball program. While I personally disagree with how he handled this entire saga, and I think he will reflect back later and agree, there is no question that the Providence Friar program he took over today is night and day different from the Providence Friar basketball program he took over when he first joined from Fairfield in 2011. Where we sit today is directly because of the efforts of Ed Cooley during his tenure as Head Coach.
When Ed Cooley took over as head coach, the Friars were at the bottom of the Big East. There were physical altercations with players and the student body on and off campus, arrests being made, and a general apathy around the basketball program from the student population. The Providence basketball program couldn’t sink much lower than where it was in the Keno Davis era. That is the truth. Now, Providence basketball games have become THE go-to social event for students and all of Rhode Island makes watching Providence basketball a must-see sporting event. The AMP is one of the best home court advantages in all of college basketball, with games routinely sold out. We have Ed Cooley to thank for that.
With the shifting landscape of conferences due to football money, the Big East was essentially left for dead. ESPN even did a damn 30 for 30 on the death of the Big East. Coaches like Jay Wright and Ed Cooley elevated the Big East conference when it needed it the most. With their infectious personalities and incredible ability in front of the camera, Big East basketball slowly but surely became appointment television. Now, the Big East is one of the preeminent conferences in all of college basketball with arguably the best assortment of head coaches in any conference. Ed Cooley played a massive role in that transformation.
The facilities for the basketball team prior to Ed Cooley were subpar relative to other high level Division One basketball programs. Now, Providence has a basketball-only facility that measures up to any program in the entire nation. Providence pays their basketball staff like a Top 10 program and has all the amenities that you’d expect of a program at the top of the college basketball food chain. The Ruane Center is a culmination of the efforts of Ed Cooley, Bob Driscoll, and Father Shanley raising money and dedicating money to elevate the Providence Friar program.
Prior to Cooley, postseason success wasn’t in the vernacular of Providence fans. Under Ed, Providence fans expected to be competing for conference titles and NCAA berths. Providence won its first ever Big East Conference regular season championship under Ed Cooley. They won the Big East Tournament under Ed Cooley. They made a Sweet 16 run. NCAA berths are now common place. Ed raised the expectations of this program to be a consistent Top 25 team.
This one stings because Ed Cooley was more than just the basketball coach. He was the face and spirit of Providence College for the past 10+ years. When people thought of Providence College, they thought of Ed Cooley. He has a larger than life personality. Him being from Providence and understanding the idiosyncracies of PC basketball made him being at the helm all that much sweeter.
Seeing him leave for Georgetown is akin to your significant other leaving you to go be with your best friend. He’ll never be forgiven for leaving his “dream job” for a conference rival where he will routinely be trying to defeat Providence College on the court and in recruiting battles. His legacy is forever tarnished, and I think he deep down already realizes that. What makes it worse is that these negotiations were likely happening in the middle of this season. Providence deserves better, and Ed Cooley knows that.
With all that said, please do not overlook everything Ed Cooley has done for Providence College. It may take some time, but appreciate all that he did to elevate Providence College. PC is in a much better place athletically, academically, and financially because of Ed Cooley.
Thank you, Ed. Go Friars, Beat Georgetown.