12 to Watch in 2012: Ed Cooley
January 03, 2012
His return to Rhode Island made national sports news, and all eyes remain on Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley as the man to watch in 2012 as he looks to take the Friars back to a place of rebuilt respect.
Cooley, never one to shirk a challenge, set the bar high in his introductory press conference back in March when he acknowledged that he had to "win and win big." No doubt.
It was smooth sailing until Tuesday night, when the Friars opened up their Big East schedule at St. John's, coming in with 11 wins and a 7-game win streak, but were badly upset 91-67. Cooley had gotten credit for setting up a soft, non-conference schedule up front to build confidence. But now things get serious, and national attention is focused on how the Friars will perform under pressure.
Cooley's hometown start makes his return--and the expectations--somehow even higher. Born and raised in Providence, Cooley was named Rhode Island High School Player of the Year while playing at Central High School in the late 80's. It doesn't get more local than that and everyone wants a Cinderella story.
He went on to play at Stonehill College from 1990-1994 before becoming an assistant coach at UMass-Dartmouth in the fall of '94. From there he spent a year at Stonehill as an assistant before landing at URI with Al Skinner from 1996-1997. Cooley then went to BC with Skinner from 1997-2006 before landing the Fairfield job in 2006, which is where he was when PC made the grab to fill Keno Davis' shoes.
At Fairfield, Cooley has built a program that has enjoyed tremendous success over the past two seasons in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Stags won the MAAC regular season title last year but were upset in their conference tournament by St. Peter's.
Last year, Cooley won the inaugural 2010 Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award presented to the top minority men's basketball coach in the nation each year.
With the Friars back in action to take on Georgetown in the afternoon Saturday of New Year's Eve, the season picks up steam into 2012. Let's see how much magic Cooley's got in him.
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