Cooley Rounds Out Busy First Month

In the month that Ed Cooley has been head coach of Providence College's basketball team, there's been much to do. His checklist has included overseas trips to recruit, outreach to students on campus, finish assembling his staff and the annual end of year basketball banquet. What follows is a brief look at the first month in the life of a Friar coach.

On Monday, Providence announced the hiring of Andre LaFleur to round out Ed Cooley's staff. LaFleur assumes the role of Associate Head Coach, moving to Providence from an assistant's role at the University of Connecticut. He spent three seasons as the director of basketball operations at UConn, before moving into a recruiting assistant slot in 2004.

Recruited by Jim Calhoun to play point guard at Northeastern in 1984, LaFleur spent 11 seasons playing pro ball in Europe before joining the UConn staff, where he participated in two national championships. Parting ways with Calhoun was not easy. Sources close to the program indicated to the Hartford Courant that LaFleur felt overshadowed on the staff at UConn, felt that his role had diminished with the arrival of Kevin Ollie and felt that Calhoun was not pushing him enough for a head coaching job. In fact, when Calhoun was asked about LaFleur's departure, he tersely responded, "You should talk to Andre about that."

While LaFleur has denied these feelings, unquestionably he was prepared to leave and now finds himself in a situation where he can shine. LaFleur is considered an excellent recruiter and was lead on Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, Gavin Edwards, Ater Majok, Ryan Boatright and Kemba Walker. LaFleur also is considered a top teacher of the game. In fact, Walker says, "Coach LaFleur was the one who took my game to a whole new level, and he helped me mature as a basketball player."

Clearly, Cooley has deep ties in the game. His first call was to an old friend, Jeff Battle, associate head coach at Wake Forest. When Battle decided to remain with the Deacons, Cooley quickly turned to LaFleur. But this was not a case of settling.

"I feel Andre LaFleur, like the rest of this staff, is a future head coach," Cooley said. "Andre brings a championship attitude. We are very excited to have him as an associate head coach as he is a high-character individual and a person who is destined to bring Providence College to a championship level. I believe we have brought together a staff that will move our program forward and help us compete in the toughest conference in the nation. Anytime you bring together a staff with this much ability, talent, experience and strong values, good things are destined to occur."

The rest of the staff forms a strong nucleus, with a few twists. Bob Simon had been Associate Head Coach under Cooley at Fairfield for five years, and moves to a recruiting assistant role. Brian Blaney, son of George Blaney, had been rumored to be coming as a non-recruiting assistant, but steps into the third recruiting assistant slot. Carmen Maciariello, who spent the past three seasons as a recruiter at Fairfield, assumes the coordinator of basketball operations role at PC.

* Also on Monday, the Friars held their end of season basketball banquet at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence. About 175 attendees had a chance to mingle with players and members of the coaching staff. All players were present, with the exception of Marshon Brooks, who is in New Jersey, training for the upcoming NBA team workouts and draft. Fans saw the following awards given:
Jimmy Walker Most Valuable Player - Marshon Brooks
John Zaninni Coaches Award - Kadeem Batts
Ernie D. Team Leader Award - Ray Hall
Marvin Barnes Defensive Player of the Year - Duke Mondy
Ryan Gomes Most Improved Player - Vincent Council
Coca-Cola Most Promising Prospect - Gerard Coleman
Lenny Wilkens Hustle Award - Bryce Cotton
Thomas Ramos Academic Award - Chris Carter

* Recruiting, as always, has taken a high priority with Cooley and staff. Reportedly, the coach has taken more than one trip overseas in an attempt to add depth to the 2011-2012 roster. Speculation has centered around three big men and one guard, all of whom play for the Canarias Basketball Academy. The leading candidate appears to be Marek Soucek, a 7-footer from the Czech Republic. More of a finesse type player and shooter than a banger, Soucek brings outstanding skills. The other top prospects are Joey van Zegerin, a 6-10 power forward from the Netherlands and Charlon Kloof, a 6-3 point guard from Holland.

Other names have emerged as well for 2011. Swingman Kelvin Amayo ahs the Friars on his radar, and point guards Elijah Carter and Kiwi Gardner are also considering the Friars. Strong in-roads have also been made with Class of 2012 prospects, such as guard Kris Dunn and power forwards Jake Layman and Georges Niang. With LaFleur on board, and the staff now complete, watch for PC's recruiting efforts to step up dramatically. Expect the Friars to attempt to add one or two additional players.

* Finally, the recruiting saga of PC's two signed recruits for next season seem to be moving toward resolvement. Markus Crider, a 6-6 small forward from Ohio, will be released from his letter of intent. Crider indicated that Coach Cooley wanted him to either redshirt or prep, and the senior preferred to move on. Meanwhile, point guard Kyan Anderson, from Texas, appears closer to joining the fold. Cooley has spent time watching tape and speaking with Anderson, and indicated at the banquet that he's liked what he's seen. EDIT: In news from Tuesday afternoon, Providence has released Anderson from his letter of intent. The Friars can choose to continue to recruit Anderson, or go in another direction.

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