Friar Basketball

The Challenge Facing Ed Cooley

Cooley Georgetown

Ed Cooley has himself quite the conundrum eight games into the 2019-20 season.

At the Big East Media Day in October Cooley said he thought this team had a chance to be special — maybe the best he has coached at Providence.

Cooley wasn’t alone.

CBS’ Matt Norlander was all in, ranking Providence #15 in his preseason poll and picking PC to win the Big East. The Stadium’s Jeff Goodman ranked the Friars in his top 25, while others like Andy Katz had them on the cusp of theirs.

After yesterday’s 63-55 loss to Charleston, PC fell to 4-4 on the season. They have lost three straight to less than imposing opponents (Penn, Long Beach State, and Charleston).

Now Cooley faces the type of challenging decision no one anticipated he would have to prior to the calendar turning to December: what to do with his senior class?

Providence’s issues run deeper than one or two individuals, but Cooley could not have anticipated getting so little from his veterans in the early going.

Alpha Diallo is a returning All Big East performer. He was named 1st Team All Big East by the league’s coaches in the preseason and a 3rd Team All American by Street and Smith’s in the fall. While even the most ardent PC supporters had a hard time justifying an All American selection over Seton Hall’s Myles Powell, Diallo was assumed to be the constant on a deep roster.

Cooley lauded Diallo for the work he put in on his jump shot in the offseason, but his shooting numbers have plummeted to start his senior season. More accurately, his perimeter shooting percentages have fallen.

Diallo remains a potent presence on the interior. He has made seven of nine shots in post up situations this season and has been terrific on attempts near the rim (58%). His problems have come when stepping outside of the paint.

Diallo is shooting 21% from 3-point range. He has made 3-7 from deep when shooting from straight away, but his numbers fall to 4-26 when not taking deep ones from beyond the top of the key. Maybe his 3-point shooting should not be a surprise. Prior to making 33% from deep last year, Diallo shot 24% and 21% from 3-point range his first two seasons at Providence.

His troubles at the free throw line are more puzzling. Diallo was a steady 73% his freshman and sophomore seasons, but has seen that percentage fall to 67% last year and 57% as a senior. Diallo shot nearly 47% from the field as a sophomore, but that number has dipped as he has expanded his game beyond the arc (42% last year, 41% this season).

Diallo’s turnovers have also spiked to 3.5 this season, up from 2.7 as a junior.

One of the more underplayed aspects of the offseason, and one that I certainly glossed over when evaluating this team in the preseason, was the risk Cooley took in bringing in Luwane Pipkins last spring.

Pipkins reputation was that of a gunner at UMass. A gunner on bad teams who brought a big personality to Friartown. The horrible point guard play of Providence a season ago combined with some of the monster performances in Pipkins’ past was enough to sell this writer on the move. I did have questions on adding such a big personality to an already deep roster — a roster filled with plenty of mouths to feed offensively — but there was enough upside there to support making the move.

Pipkins was an All A-10 performer two years ago. He scored over 30 points five times that season, shot over 40% from 3, and he put up numbers against good teams throughout his career (38 vs. VCU, 27 against URI, 30 vs. PC, 31 vs. Davidson, 36 vs. Harvard, 30 vs. Nevada).

His numbers dipped last year as he played through a hamstring injury, and perhaps it should have been a bigger red flag when both knee and hamstring injuries crept up this offseason. Pipkins simply doesn’t look to have the explosiveness he showed when he torched PC for 70+ points in three games the past three seasons. He is really struggling to finish at the rim (7-19 — 36%). He made 47% of those two shots years ago, and saw that number fall to 41% last season when the hammy acted up.

Pipkins is shooting 29% from the field this season and 28% from 3. I don’t think he’s a bad shooter, despite up and down career numbers. He hasn’t missed a free throw this season, and while his 3-point percentage fell last year, a bad shooter can’t make 42% of his threes while taking nearly eight a game — as Pipkins did two years ago.

The question regarding Pipkins is if he can be effective as a lower volume shooter.

The biggest challenge for Cooley going forward will be to find some semblance of consistent offense.

To do so, he will likely have to reign in the shot selection of his seniors. That may fly in the face of the free wheeling offense that Cooley wanted to play heading into this season, but for a Friar team that suffered two seven plus minute scoring droughts that essentially cost them games against Long Beach and Charleston, finding consistency on offense is a must.

Two years ago, Providence was among the best post up scoring teams in the country, with Nate Watson and Diallo ranking among the tops in the nation. With Watson still hobbling, PC needs to find a way to establish Diallo in the post again.

Diallo has taken twice the number of 3-pointers as the team’s best shooter (AJ Reeves).

It would be shocking to see Cooley scale back on Diallo’s minutes, and it is not in the best interest of the team to bench a veteran who also happens to be the best rebounder on a group that was just pounded on the glass by Charleston. Cooley seemed more disturbed by his team’s lack of toughness than its scoring ability following the Charleston loss. Say what you will about Diallo, but he will mix it up on the interior.

Cooley has a number of challenges ahead of him: helping Watson find his legs, getting Reeves more involved in the offense, finding minutes for impressive freshman Greg Gantt — and some of those changes could come at the expense of minutes and shots of his seniors. Diallo and Pipkins aren’t alone when it comes to this poor start, but they may be asked to adjust the most.

With the season now in full swing, Cooley will have to figure out how to do all of this on the fly. It will require buy-in from his veterans, while simultaneously re-establishing Watson and Reeves in games PC simply can’t afford to lose going forward.

On a team with nine players who have started a game and a freshman who could make a case for getting there eventually this season, effectively managing this roster and salvaging this season would be perhaps the best accomplishment in Cooley’s Providence tenure.

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar

24 Comments

  1. T. Becker

    November 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Hi,
    Excellent article and very lucid. Everyone wants to blame Coach Cooley or certain players and the lack of certain team qualities but it seems that for the moment the team lacks group chemistry. Additionally,several players are readjusting from physical setbacks of one type or another (i.e. E. Holt & others)and it could take awhile for these players to approach past productivity.

    Will Coach Cooley find a solution? I’m sure he will and I think it’s important for all the fans of P.C. basketball to hang together and support these young players & hardworking staff. Good luck Coach!!

  2. Jim

    November 30, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    There is something really wrong here off the court so I don’t see things getting better til next year.

    Bringing in Pipkins was a huge mistake imo.

  3. Vincent Tracy

    November 30, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Diallo needs to
    Play in the interior Pipkins needs to sit Ed needs to establish discipline Either you hustle play hard or sit Not much team chemistry Cooley has to be better in game His offense is pathetic Needs to get intensity up Press early Not sure Ed can do it His stock is plummeting

  4. Derec Lamendola

    November 30, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Procidnece College Mens Basketball Ed Cooley Has Know I Dear he is Talking About Has Last Night Game and what is going on with

    Providence College Mens Basketball Ed Coooley what is going on and this is NOT Right That All and what we Doing and come on every one we Need to win tommmerrrow Night at 6:00

    Providence College Mens Basketball is playing Pepperdine tommerrrow night at 6 :00 pm tommerrrow Night and we Need to Get reday and Start Reparing for tommerrrow Night game and Ges what I Made a Dusting jus now Derec Lamendola is NOT Going to The PC URI Game Next Friday Night is To Lourd and The URI Suetnes are Lourd and Thos NOS Bles are So Hi For me

    Providence College Mens Basketball Frisrs Mens Basketball Derec Lamendola is not Interested to GO So and i Say Lets All Meet AT A Sports Bar Something next Friday And Lets Figer it OUT see what We Doing and is NOT Providence This Year is AT URI This Year so This The Providence College Mens Basketball The Starting Line UP For The Procidnece College URI Game

    Luwance pipkins Graduate
    Emmitt Holt Graduated Stuent
    Kalif Young Senior
    Maliek Wight Senior
    Greg Gannt Ferahmin
    Nate Waston Junior
    Alphia Dallio Senior
    Jimmy Nicholes Sophomore
    AJ Reeves Sophomore

    Providence College Mens Basketball mens Basketball That We are Going somewhere this year And Becusee we Are NOT AT Providence this year is at URI This year and im am think we Can GO Somewhere near URI And is NOT AT Providence this Year

  5. Terence Miller

    November 30, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    This team needs to figure it out. Diallo is MIA. Watson is a shell of last year and pumpkins is pure garbage. Been a PC fan since the Pitino days. This team is one of the worst I’ve seen so far. BIG East play is gonna be brutal if something doesn’t change

  6. Patricia Howes

    November 30, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t know who or what the coaches are recruiting but I do know that none of them can shoot whether it be from the foul line or wherever! URI and the Big East will eat them alive. Very few victories in the Big East! Last place or close to it! I blame this on the coaching staff!

  7. Anonymous

    November 30, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Very good article on this team. They were poor shooters last yr so why expect much more this yr. Pinkins big disappoint. Maybe need to forget his run and gun plan and instead have holt, Watson and Diallo work the inside every play and then when defenses collapses hopefully open guard for easy 15 footer. No excuse for bad defense. Size, quickness and athletic ability better than almost every team. No team chemistry at all.

  8. Richard Rocchio

    November 30, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    This team needs to fight harder for the ball on every play! Pass the ball quicker to get the opposing players out of sync. Look for each other consistently. Play every minute like it’s the last minute and your losing by two points! Step into the new facility at PC and shoot, shoot, shoot until your exhausted. You only get one shot in your life at college basketball. Be Better than the Best and Tougher than the rest! Go Friars!

  9. Wally

    November 30, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Great comments guys. I never thought I would say this, but Duke is the best point guard option. He is the face of the team, he seems to have done a 180 from last year and now exudes confidence. I would love to see Duke, Reeves combo in the back court. Gives Reeves more freedom, he is a gifted athlete and I believe he would attack the basket. I love Holt starting in the middle with Nichols (he must be in Cooley’s dog house) and Diallo on the wings. Gantt as the 6th man. All the above can score, have energy and play defense!!LETS TRY IT!!!! Have some fun out there!! GOFRIARS

  10. Derec Lamendola

    November 30, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Providence College Mens Basketball Frisrs Mens Basketball has to Get reday for tommerrrrow game so Lets Get Every One To Come out With US Next Friday i Dont Wont Eenney Providence College Mens Basketball Fans TO GO AT The Ryan Center and becusee we are PC So Lets Figer it out Were you wont GO Somewhere and we have to be Reday i wont Ed Cooley on The Tv Get Every one going in Rohde Island you Know

  11. Derec Lamendola

    November 30, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Procidnece College Mens Basketball Frisrs Mens Basketball PC Mens Basketball Has to do something and we Need To DO Somerhing and procidnece college mens Basketball has to Figer this out you know i meen

    Providence College Mens Basketball Frisrs mens Basketball Has To Figer this out i dont wont Eenney One TO GO AT The Ryan Center and becusee is Jus The URI Side i Say Lets GO OUT Somewhere Becuaee We NOT AT Providence this year what you think about PC Mens Basketball Shrd DO

  12. Carl

    November 30, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Chemistry can take time, especially in the college game with the yearly turnover of grads and transfers.

    But the best programs work through that with accountability. It’s one thing if players are hesitant on O; it’s another when you see a superior team play selfish, undisciplined ball and whining at refs for calls every time something doesn’t go their way.

    These guys were up on Charleston and decided to coast. Diallo has decided that jacking 3s for NBA scouts trumps winning basketball.

    This is the stuff that Cooley has to reign in. If he can’t it’s on him. Every time I see Duke or Reeves waving their arms at the refs after they screwed up I want to vomit. I’d bench them instantly. Cooley lets it go, and this is the poor product we’re seeing as a result.

  13. JohnJepsen

    November 30, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Put walk ons on the court. Cut Fool Cooley’s pay in half and FIELD AN NCCAA BASEBALL TEAM. I’M SERIOUS.

  14. Ralph Madonna

    December 1, 2019 at 2:30 am

    No one is happy being 4 and 4 at this stage. This coach, who’s taking this team to so many big dances, is the first coach in some time who with other opportunities available really has not used this job as a steppingstone to get to a bigger job. He’s been loyal to us so let’s chill and let this thing play out and be loyal to Coach Cooley. He deserves it. That is unless some of the geniuses want to see if Bill Self or Coach K want this job.

  15. Carleto

    December 1, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Ed’s new contract is worth 30-40 million over 10 years. Making that type of bank it’s all about what have you done for me lately? Ed you once told me we are all salesman selling something. What are you selling us tonight?

  16. P. Joel

    December 1, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with T. Becker’s comments. I, too, believe that coach Cooley will find a solution! He, his staff and his players spend countless hours preparing for games. Discipline has always been a hallmark in his coaching career. It certainly does take some time to re-establish continuity, consistency and rhythm following injuries. Let’s stay united Friar fans and take it one game at a time. Hoping for a win this evening and my best, this season!!

  17. Anonymous

    December 2, 2019 at 6:17 am

    Friars 2020 Big East Champs

  18. rayi

    December 2, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    A win but still had 14 point lead midway second half and had to hang on. This team cannot easily finish off even bad teams. At least reeves good game and Watson getting into game shape.

  19. Anonymous

    December 2, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    I have been watching the Friars for 18 years.
    All I feel is disappointment this year. This was supposed to be the year we made a deep tourney run. Looking at BE schedule- i predict an 0-3 start. Sucks.

  20. Derec Lamendola

    December 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Providence College Mens Basketball has to do something and get reday for this year and get reday For The Rams this Week i wont Every one have good week Providence College Mens Basketball has to Win All the away this year the Providence College Mens Basketball have good Week Every one and see you Friday

  21. Derec Lamendola

    December 2, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Hi this derec Lamendola is aomrst my Birthday soon December 22 i wont the basketball Players Providence College Cherladers
    Come to MY Birthday this year December 22 on a Sunday This Year
    And i wont Providence College Mens Basketball win All The Were this Year and so get reday

    Providnece collge mens Basketball The Starting Line UP For the Providence College Mens Basketball

    Luwance pipkins Graduate
    Emmitt Holt Graduated Stuent
    Kalif Young Senior
    Nate Waston Junior
    Makiek Wight Senior
    Alphia Dallio Senior
    AJ Reeves Sophomore
    Jimmy Nicholes Sophomore

    That is The Providence College Mens Basketball Staring Line UP For This Friday at The Ryan Center this fridsy Derec Lamendola is not going this friday Night and i jus wont the Providence College Fans come out when im am out on friday Becuae We NOT AT Providence College this year and we are. At The Ryan Center This year

    Providnece College mens Basketball has to get roling so get going and Havw a good Week i will tlak to you tonight Derec Lamendola is working tonight geting Reday sownds good Every One AT Providence College Have a Good Week and See you tonight Every one and Sownds Good

  22. EMac

    December 3, 2019 at 1:08 am

    Everyone likes Ed Cooley as the face of the program and he has raised the team’s national profile. The issue is , and has been for years, his players do not improve year to year. I’m not sure what goes on at practice but good shooters regress year after year I.e. Lindsey, Fazekas, Reeves etc.
    I see little improvement in this group of seniors since their sophomore year. They look confused, tentative and disorganized.
    I’ve said for years Cooley needs a true basketball coach as an assistant, not a group of young want to be coaches. All the issues I mentioned above are coaching issues. Think about Cooley’s background. He worked under Al Skinner who did a good job at BC but will never be considered a basketball tactician or teacher.
    Michigan was smart and hired Martelli to help coach the team and Howard while he learns gains experience.
    Cooley needs a similar mentor on the X’s and O’s. He may not agree but what we are watching speaks for itself.
    The only player I can think of who blossomed under Cooley was K. Cartwright.
    There are too many Bullocks, Young’s, Langfords and on and on.

  23. Thomas

    December 7, 2019 at 3:11 am

    Totally out played and out coached again tonight.
    No leader on the court thus far this year . This is not Friar basketball . Hopefully the players “Wake Up” soon and play with some heart, soul and grit. Lots of basketball left but like Yogi Berra said , “ It’s getting late, early!”
    Coach Cooley needs to also take a moment to re-examine what goes on in practice . Attention to details in practice matters.
    Friar Fans are a loyal bunch and have not given up on their coach or players , Enough is enough. Tonight should be the wake up call for this team.
    Let’s Go Friars.

  24. Anonymous

    December 7, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Give the coach a chance we are only paying him minimum wage he will build us into a power like URI and long beach state thankfully our AD had the foresight to sign him to a huge contact to keep him from going to Michigan.Can you imagine if he went there they could be ranked in the top 5

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