Friar Basketball

The Friar Podcast is a Must Listen


Creating something innovative can be quite the challenge in the oversaturated world of college basketball coverage, yet that’s just what Bill Ricci did this year when he started The Friar Podcast.

Ricci, a Providence native and class of 2014 PC graduate, has found a way to turn his passion for the Friars into something completely unique. Ricci has provided a forum for former Friar players, current media, and those working in the athletic department to share their stories about what Providence’s program has meant to them.

What I love most about his podcast is how much I’ve learned about men like God Shammgod, Jamel Thomas, Kyron Cartwright, Marcus Douthit and several others who have appeared on the pod since it debuted in late-November. We learn about their lives prior to coming to PC, what led them to Providence, and how their basketball (and personal) lives unfolded since.

There is an ease with which Ricci hosts his podcast. He’s a natural who makes his podcast all about his guests. I caught up with Billy to learn more about it:

KF. Billy, first off, I LOVE your podcast. When I talk to Friar fans about your pod I always say, “He created the podcast that I wanted to start for the longest time!” It’s great hearing from so many former players and those who support the program. You have found a unique niche in helping them tell their stories. What led to you starting this podcast?

BR: Like many great ideas, Kevin, they finally come to you when you have the time to build a plan. I had been trying to figure out ways to get involved with PC Basketball for quire some time before I co-created The Friar Podcast. After finishing my tenure as PC’s New Student Orientation emcee last year, I found myself with some extra time and interest to create my own platform. My goal from inception was a little bit different than a standard podcast talking about the team though. I knew I wanted to create an interview style podcast. To highlight the great media, staff, and former players we have been lucky enough to follow through the years, and have that content accessible all in one place.

KF. For those who haven’t listened yet, who are some of the guests you’ve had on and when did you start this pod? 

BR: November 22, 2020 I started the pod. I will never forget it as our first guest, the legendary long-time voice of the Friars John Rooke, also happens to be the in-stadium voice for the Patriots. I remember watching the Pats lose a close one that day to the Texans, but I was too excited for our first episode to debut the following day.

For those who haven’t listened, some of our more well known guests in the first 14 episodes have been God Shammgod, Vincent Council, and Kyron Cartwright. Three generations of amazing Friar floor generals! But I would also like to shout out Brian McKenzie for being our first former player to come on the show and for being a part of my favorite PC win of all time when we knocked off #1 Pitt at the Dunk.

We also have had guests on who are part of the coaching staff (Bob Walsh), front office (Steve Napolillo), and Fox play-by-play (John Fanta).

KF. How have you gone about deciding which guests to invite on?

BR: My goal when planning the guest schedule is first and foremost to keep it as fresh as possible and to mix things up. I like rotating from media to former players, to front office, to players still playing overseas, to basketball operations and everything in-between to share as many perspectives as possible. Initially I started with some friends of mine (JR, Steve Nap, NBA Trainer Rob Mac) and then I knew it was time to try to get some former players involved. Now after recently having Bob Walsh and John Fanta on, my next two goals are to have members of the women’s team on as well as more players who are playing overseas. A little sneak peak for the listeners out there!

KF: Your listeners know of your background as a Friar fan and alum, but for those who don’t, can you tell us more about yourself?

BR: This all starts for me with both sets of my grandparents hailing from the Renaissance City. My dad grew up down the street from PC and my mom is from Federal Hill. My grandmother used to listen to PC games on the radio while making treys of Italian cookies. PC basketball goes much deeper for me than just going to PC. I remember my first game at the old Dunk with my dad back over 20 years ago now. When I got into PC, that was an amazing moment for my direct family as I became a first generation college student in my hometown. After PC I started my career in professional sports with the Red Sox in their ticket office, and then three and a half great years at TD Garden where I was an account executive for both the Bruins and Celtics. I currently work over at “The Mecca” of Big East basketball and reside in Hoboken, NJ.

KF: I’ve loved hearing from former players across different generations. You’ve had guys like Jamel Thomas and God Shammgod from the 90s to more recent grads in Kyron Cartwright, Ray Hall, and Vincent Council. What have been your biggest takeaways in speaking with all of them? How is their perspective on the program similar, or different?

BR: Well first of all, the story of Friar great Jamel Thomas is as inspiring as any I have heard so please check out the Jamel episode and support his clothing collaboration with PC athletics, Friar fans.

My biggest takeaway from speaking with former players from the 90s, 00s, and 10s is that no matter the decade all of them shared the same two sentiments, and those were that they genuinely loved playing at the Dunkin Donuts Center, and they all stay in touch with the guys they played with. There hasn’t been a former player to come on who said the Dunk was anything less than an NBA type arena to play in, or that they don’t look forward to getting together or keeping in touch with their former teammates. For a lot of guys, playing for PC was the highlight of their basketball careers, even after playing professionally, just because of what it meant to play in a city that idolizes its college basketball team.

In terms of perspective, I would say Shamm and Jamel played during a time where the culture was centered around winning a national championship, whereas when Ray and Vince played that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. You can tell that the late 90s guys look back on that Elite 8 run as the ride of a lifetime. The early to mid 00s guys had some ups and downs, but viewed their time as a big part of the transition to what the program has become today. Lastly, I think Kyron did a great job of painting the picture on what it was like to play for Coach Cooley and how much the culture is geared towards Us. We. Together. Family. Friars.

KF: Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give is to say that I’ve learned a lot from listening to your pod. Specifically, hearing Cartwright break down Ed Cooley foreseeing things before they happen on the floor, and Bob Walsh sharing the staff’s struggles in trying to figure out why it wasn’t clicking this year. Has there been anything you heard that surprised you, or stood out?

BR: I mean, do Friar fans really know the story of God Shammgod? If you listened to Episode 6 with Shamm it was very interesting to find out he grew up with Ma$e and Cam’ron and was so engrained in NYC culture from an early age. His gym teacher was Celtics great Tiny Archibald. Biggie Smalls really came to a high school game of his! Shamm also shared how he used to dribble 6-10 hours a day growing up, how he helped Kobe with his handle, and how Michael Jordan gave him a hard time about Corey Wright missing a shot down the stretch against Arizona. What a true legend of the game God Shammgod is, and as he mentions on the pod he views going to PC the first time around and then coming back as a grad assistant as the two best decisions of his life.

There also have been a question I ask on each show to which I am always on the edge of my seat when it is being answered, and that is asking the guys who was the most talented Friar they played with. Some answers have been what I expected from LaDontae (Henton) and Kris (Dunn) to Ryan Gomes and Marshon Brooks, but some have been answers we could have only known if we were at Alumni Hall for PC practice. Everyone reading this will just have to tune in to hear for yourself what I mean.

KF: I know creating a podcast like this is a team effort. Do you have a producer that you work with?

BR: My best friend of over 20 years is the producer and co-creator of the show, Mike Whalen. Mike is huge into film, TV and sports and is an amazing audio engineer. Our friendship and partnership on this podcast often reminds me that to create something successful, you need a balance of challenging each other internally while also challenging the status quo externally. Mike has been instrumental in the development of our Twitter, Instagram episode photos and video content. Shout out to the one and only Producer Mike!

KF. Finally, what can we expect in the offseason and in the future?

BR: As I alluded to, my goals right now are to include future episodes with the women’s team as well as more episodes with recent alums who are still playing overseas. Our plan for the offseason is to drop episodes bi-weekly and work on some different collaborations, so stay tuned for that!

I would just like to end here by thanking everyone who has listened, gave feedback, and made the first season of the show really special. We have had almost 3,000 people tune in to a podcast that was simply made out of a long-time passion for the team. We are excited to continue to provide you the interviews and content you deserve as Friar fans, and please remember…being a Friar fan is like getting on a roller coaster you slightly regret once the lap bar comes down. But for many of us, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Go Friars Forever.

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