Friar Basketball

Friarbasketball’s Postseason Catch-up with Ed Cooley Part II

Coach Ed Cooley

In part II of’s sit-down with Ed Cooley, the coach shared with Kevin and I what Vincent Council learned last season, how Josh Fortune is the “silent weapon” of the incoming class, the challenges the frontcourt faced a season ago, and how he hopes to continue to build the atmosphere at the Dunk.

November 10, 2011 marked one of the most important dates in recent Providence College basketball history. It was on this date that Ed Cooley officially announced the 2016 class that includes Ricardo Ledo, Kris Dunn and Joshua Fortune.

In the midst of a seven year drought from the NCAA tournament and an eighth apparently on the horizon, these three prospects finally give Friar fans a sense of something that has been lacking recently: hope.

The mantra in Providence had too often been that the Friars were a year or two away, yet with the additions of Ledo, Dunn and Fortune, that phrase has never been as close to fruition as this year.

When Ed Cooley took the PC job his impact locally was immediate, but it was the commitments of this class that made the nation take note. Fueling the buzz surrounding PC hoops was the added coverage that the school was receiving from major news sources such as ESPN and CBS. With these additions comes a series of new questions for the head coach.

When Ledo and Dunn step on the floor for the first time how will Cooley incorporate them into the new roster? With Gerard Coleman, Ron Giplaye and Bilal Dixon all transferring, who steps into the available minutes? Last season, Cooley was forced to play four of his top players almost an entire game’s worth on most nights. Now, with Ledo, Dunn and Fortune, Cooley will no longer have to tax players like Vincent Council, Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton. For Council specifically, Cooley noted that he will not be playing the amount of minutes that he did last year (36.7). “Less will be more for Vincent,” Cooley said, and he foresees his shooting percentages improving next year as a result.

“Last year we had one ball handler.  One decision maker.  Vince was never the recipient of a pass.  He was always the deliverer, never the accepter.”

With the addition of Dunn, Cooley can now go to him for some of the ball handling duties – which will in turn, open things up for Council to move without the ball.  “He had to make every play for us and I think that’s made him an NBA prospect.  For him to have to go through the year he had to go through – to think for the team – was critical to his development.  Gerard was a finisher.  Cotton is a finisher.  LaDontae is a finisher.  The weaknesses they had were ball handling and decision making.  I think he’s one of the top, if not the best point guard in the country.”

The “less is more” idea for Council will be very interesting to watch for when the season begins. Many have questioned his defensive ability as his years at Providence come to an end after this season and he looks to play professionally.   Cooley has made it known how he feels about Council’s overall skill, calling him “one of the best point guards in the country”, but as he makes a push to become the second NBA player from Providence in three years, NBA scouts will certainly be looking at both his defense and shooting ability during his senior year.

With Dunn now on the scene Council looks to be the biggest beneficiary of his arrival. With less expected minutes as well as decreased pressure to make nearly every play on offense, Council should be able to put more emphasis on defense and his outside shooting; valuable assets in a competitive NBA draft. Equally important, with the arrival of Dunn, Council should expect better shot opportunities.

All this being said, what makes Council one of the best in the country is his knack for putting teammates in good scoring positions. Last season, Council led the Big East in assists with 7.5 a game – good enough to put him fourth in the entire country for that statistic. Adding in shooters like Ledo and Fortune, he will now have even more weapons to dish off to.

Much has been said about Ledo’s ability to fill it up from the field, but Friar fans have been left wondering how much a guy like Fortune can contribute. Coming in as the least publicized recruit in PC’s class, Fortune has been overshadowed by his two future teammates. Because of this, Cooley calls Fortune his “silent weapon” of this year’s freshmen.

“Our fans have been able to hear and read so much about (Ledo and Dunn) because of their national notoriety, but Josh is someone who can play in a Bryce Cotton type of role.  He’s a shot maker, he’s a long defender, and he’s a high IQ player.  His personality isn’t as rough as I want it to be as far as the intensity level he has to learn, but I think he’s the silent, silent weapon of this class.”

Finishing his senior year at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA, Fortune averaged just under 14 points per game. Standing out from his senior season was a 35 point explosion in a game against Gloucester High School.  While playing under head coach Boo Williams in an AAU game the summer before his senior season, Fortune scored 36 points which included 18 coming from three-point land. PC will now have more than just Bryce Cotton to threaten defenses with the three point shot. Both Ledo and Fortune have the ability to score from deep and this will certainly help to spread opposing defenses and open up driving lanes for Dunn and Council.

With the added players and the departure of several others, Cooley will now have to implement a much different rotation from what was seen last season. Some coaches across the country have established certain systems at their programs and we now look to see how Cooley handles this new Friars squad. Cooley spoke about his plans in that he doesn’t necessarily coach a certain system, “I coach our talent, and if you’re great at doing something, we want to put you in a position to have success for yourself, but, more importantly, for the team. Every team is different every year.  We have certain philosophies, but every year is different.  And I want to coach to our talent.  You limit guys’ production when you pigeon hole them into a certain system.”

After hearing this from Cooley it got me wondering what our starting lineup would look like on opening night. At first thought I would say Council, Cotton, Ledo, Henton and Kadeem Batts but the question arises – with Dunn’s talent, how does he not crack the starting five? It’s very intriguing to think about what direction Cooley will take, in terms of minutes and player groupings as next season draws closer. “My system is going to be the talent I have, and I think we can have a lot of success with that.” The second intriguing piece from the starting five is Kadeem Batts. Cooley expressed to us how he felt Batts was affected by missing out on last year’s first semester in saying “the suspension hurt him tremendously.  When you sit out that many games your preparation isn’t game preparation, but mental preparation – it’s more to keep you sane.” With the addition of three guards, the frontcourt remains very thin.

With Dixon and Giplaye exiting, Batts is the only remaining frontcourt player that really saw significant minutes last season. Cooley brought in Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson, however he won’t be available until the second semester. Cooley will still have Brice Kofane to bring off the bench, but he has yet to show that he can be a reliable go-to low post player. If Batts can become more consistent and put up games like he did against Louisville (27 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks), the worries about our big men could certainly decrease.

Lastly, because of my involvement with the student run Friar Faithful fan group during my years on campus, I was very interested to find out how Cooley will look to utilize the student body as he continues to grow the basketball program.

Since the very first day on PC’s campus, Cooley has been preaching a theme surrounding family and togetherness, “Us, We, Family, Together, Friars”. This has been especially refreshing for me as I never really felt this from prior coaches like Keno Davis and Tim Welsh. During my freshman year I didn’t feel as though Welsh put an emphasis on the student body outside of aimlessly tossing tshirts into the student section every few games. When Davis took the job I thought things improved, somewhat, as he made himself available for several Friar Faithful meetings but there was still something missing.

My senior year, shortly after Cooley was hired, he met with Friar Faithful in McPhails. It was then that I truly knew Cooley was the real deal. He talked to us about how winning in Providence is possible, and it was very apparent that he truly believed this. This sense of confidence was what Davis and Welsh lacked. During that meeting he also made it known that he wanted to involve every student on campus and he wanted to learn every student’s name. “At first, I may not remember your name, but I’ll remember your face. Eventually I will get them all.”

In my final months on campus, Cooley could be seen walking through campus making random conversations with students and made sure he was visible to the student body; again this had never been seen before with Davis and Welsh.

What I look for most from Cooley’s theme of family and togetherness is how this can help student attendance at home games. Cooley expressed to Kevin and I that “At the end of the day, I don’t want our fans showing up when we play the name brand schools.  I would like our student body to cheer for Providence College and not against the high level opponent.  I want them to be there because it’s Providence College playing, regardless if we’re playing ourselves or Kentucky.”

This has been my hope for years and with the talent that Cooley is bringing to PC in combination with his sincere interest for involving the students it would be great to see this attitude translate into great attendance at home games. “What I want our student body to do, is enjoy their four years.  It’s going to go like that (snaps fingers).  Enjoy it, embrace it, because when our student body is there it’s a totally different feeling at the Dunk.”

In addition to how Cooley would like incorporate the students, he also spoke to us about how important former players are to his program. He told us that he has reached out to every living player to ever put a PC uniform on. He added, “Think about today’s kid, if you don’t know who you are then you don’t know where you’ve come from, as far as respecting the tradition that you’re in. As a staff we have to educate kids on relationships with our past players.  When we played Louisville I had the entire ’87 team in our locker room.  Any time there’s a player that comes back, they’re in our locker room before the game, after the game – that’s family.  I think you have to continue to preach that because you always want them to feel like Providence College is a place they can call home.”

This emphasis that Cooley puts on family will never show up in a box score, but will certainly play dividends as his years continue at Providence College. Ed Cooley is the full package and I am extremely excited to find out where he can take this program. It was a pleasure to sit down and talk to him for as long as we did, and both Kevin and I are extremely appreciative of him meeting with us.




You must be logged in to post a comment Login