Even going to a school that does not compete in the Division I NCAA Tournament, it is hard not to notice its effect on everyday news in the month of March. While college basketball has delivered with the competition between the white lines, a coaching carousel in one of the country’s most competitive conferences has taken up a lot of headlines.
In the midst of an eventual NCAA Tournament, the landscape of the Big East shifted. After losing to John Calipari’s Kentucky side in the tournament’s first round, Providence College was forced to turn the page in men’s basketball. After a historic 12 seasons at the helm of the Friars’ men’s basketball program, the Providence native Ed Cooley moved onto a new challenge in the same conference.
In over a decade in charge since coming from Fairfield University, Cooley rebuilt the program back to what it was in the late 1980s and 1990s. Cooley led the Friars into the field of 68 teams seven times during those twelve years on the sidelines. Seeking to head a school with a more storied past, Cooley departed his hometown to take the job at Georgetown University. Cooley replaced Knicks legend Patrick Ewing at GT, attempting to improve on the past two seasons in which the program managed a dismal total of two conference wins in 39 Big East contests.
Having reached the Final Four five different times throughout its history, Cooley chose to take his talents to a school that will now pay him an astounding $6 million per year. Providence needs to find a way to afford that. Cooley got what he deserved, and while Rhode Island’s capital is up in arms over how he left, there should be nothing but appreciation thrown his way.
The former national coach of the year kept it honest when reflecting on why he chose to depart his hometown:
“Sometimes in life, change is needed for emotional stability and wellness, and just because [you are] at a place, doesn’t mean everything is forever”, Cooley stated.
He continued, “Providence has always been my dream job and I’ll continue to say that. Sometimes circumstances change and it has nothing to do with administrators, nothing to do with athletic directors.”
According to reports, the now-former PC head coach put his house up for sale before he even accepted the job in Washington DC, moving away from a place he called home and won 242 games in is a decision that could put his former team back in the depths of the conference for years to come. It was by no means his intention, but the entire Big East as we have come to know it recently is about to look a whole lot different in 2023-2024. Two teams that finished in the bottom four of the conference made a leadership decision that could result in a much more competitive conference than it already is.
Just this past week, the college introduced its newest men’s basketball coach, former George Mason head man, Kim English. English becomes the 16th head coach in the program’s history. He has been praised for his leadership and ability to develop players over the course of their college careers. He brings along with him two of his players from GM including former four-star recruit Justyn Fernandez.
Despite it being quite a quick decision by the college, it seems like PC has done its homework on which person should fill the shoes of the great Cooley. The former second-round selection by the Detroit Pistons seems to have a personality that fits PC. Even though he is just 34 years old, English looks hungry to prove himself at a stage much higher than the Atlantic-10.
English challenged a potential departing freshman Jayden Pierre to a game of one-on-one to get him out of the transfer portal. The Maryland native defeated Pierre, announcing the result via Instagram Live. Pierre did not seem too content with the result, but the vivacious coach made it clear the rising sophomore guard was going nowhere. Whether or not Pierre decides to stick with his decision to leave PC or not, these are the kind of things that can win over a fanbase. English is well on his way to establishing a new culture starting next season.
Despite the addition of some recruits, the Friars are already losing recruits who were expected to head to Rhode Island in a few years, and there does not seem to be an end in sight. Both 6’10” Drew Fielder and 2024 four-star guard Kayvaun Mulready, who originally planned on attending Providence, have flipped their commitment to the Hoyas in the wake of Cooley’s in-conference switch.
While the students at PC and the city of Providence have expressed their disgust on how Cooley exited, you have to look back on how much this man changed the program. The hometown man reinvented it. PC had a seven-year NCAA tournament drought before Cooley took the reins. The Friars have had just nine twenty-win campaigns since 2000, and seven of them are with Cooley in charge. The people of Providence had the chance to see ten whole seasons of 18 or more wins. It was not the way the city would have wanted him to go, but that should not take away from all the success that was created over those twelve memorable seasons.
This man brought a desire to connect himself with the college community. His passion for the city showed in the way he coached the Friars, and while English is the new man in charge, Friartown will always consider Cooley as one of their own.