ScoutFriar's Interview With Ed Cooley

Ed Cooley knows Rhode Island, and he grew up a Providence College basketball fan. Now he sits in the seat once occupied by the likes of Joe Mullaney, Dave Gavitt and Rick Pitino. Providence's native son is now in the process of bringing his brand of basketball to Friartown, and that means a lot of changes are on the way as far as how things are done both on and off the court.

Coach Cooley speaks about his plans for Friar hoops in a exclusive.

Part I

Q: You've said that the Providence head coaching position was your dream job when you got your start in this profession. Now that you've made it here and to the Big East as a head coach, how does the reality so far match up to the dream?

EC: Obviously, as you grow up here, you hear so much about Providence basketball. I've probably been to over 200 Providence basketball games over the years. So I always was close to it, but now I'm learning what the infrastructure of the College is. I'm learning how I am going to go about selling and making Providence College basketball successful from a strategic standpoint. How do I sell our brand to players, to our fans, to our students and the alumni. From the dream to the reality, I know that I need to learn more about who we really are, and that's the biggest thing I've been learning since I've been on the job.

Q: There was a comment printed in the Providence Journal inferring that "Ed Cooley has figured out that the PC basketball situation is worse than he thought". Is that the case?

EC: That's not quoted from me at all. I'm pretty sure people have their opinions. Something may have been misconstrued. The job is what it is. I think every job is a tough job at this level. Obviously, with some of the issues that this program has had, there are things need to be addressed. As a staff and as a college, I don't want to complain about the things we don't have. I also don't want to spend time talking about things that have happened in the past.

I want to be a solution and not part of the problem. That's the way I coach and how we go about our business as a staff. I'm here to tell everybody that I'm here be a solution, and I need everyone else to be part of the solution too. There's so many times you hear from people ‘well we don't have this or we don't have that'. Well, what do you have? Let's look at what we have and who we are and grow from there.

Q: So you've been here for a little while. What is the overall State of Providence Basketball?

EC: For one thing, the facilities are probably better now than they've ever been. That's a huge upgrade. I also think we have some good kids here. I really do. The perception, which becomes people's reality, is that there aren't good kids here. I totally disagree with that view. I think we have some wonderful young men that are dying for leadership. We have players that are looking for structure. I know they want to be good, and it is now our job to help make that happen.

Q: So is it fair to say that the players are "buying in" to your approach?

EC: We don't really know yet because we haven't really rolled out the balls yet. I've only had a few workouts because of NCAA regulations. We're in an ‘identify and feel out' process, talking about what their view is and what we've done and how we're going to do it going forward. It's not tug of war; it's a feeling out process. We're learning. Everyone is learning. After all, I didn't recruit any of these young men. Not one. So they have to transfer their trust from one staff to another.

I think the last staff left some good kids, and I appreciate that. Now these kids need a little bit of guidance and a more structure. We will monitor what our young men do. We will be held accountable for what these young men do. That's why you build trust during the recruiting process. During the recruiting process, you have to let players know who you are and what your expectations and philosophies are, you can't just sell them on a basketball philosophy. Your basketball philosophy may get them in the door, but what keeps them there is their character.

Q: How long did it take you to build the character, talent, and program you wanted at Fairfield?

EC: Three years. Three years. You have to change mindsets, behaviors, characteristics. You can't change that overnight. So you're trying to change the past norms of your players, your fan base, your student body, your alumni, your administration. There is a lot of frustration out there…and everybody is looking at me saying "so what are you going to do?"

Q: I call that battered fan syndrome. It's been a long drought here and the fan base is a little beat up.

EC: This is my hope. It is my hope that our loyal fans, and I'll take fair weather fans…it is my hope that they all come out for our team and we play our games in front of a sold out crowd every time we play at the Dunk. It is my hope our student body will be willing to walk to our games because they are excited about our brand of basketball. It's 1.8 miles to Dunk from here – maybe closer if you know where you're going. We need our fans to give us chance as a staff to reestablish a brand of basketball here that this town deserves.

I'm not a coach that will hide from anybody. I'm too big. I'm not a coach who at the end of the day is going to put blame on the players. At the end of the day, I say great coaches have great players, good coaches have good players, and bad coaches have bad players. If you have bad players, there is a character flaw there. I associate values and character, and when you have that, you create a foundation of trust, a foundation of we, together, us, family, community, all of that.

Q: So you're really looking to recruit character as much as talent?

EC: We look for those things in players, and we try to build on it from the first conversation. Let's face it though, we're late in the recruiting process this year, so you can't just take anybody or you'll hamstring yourself. You've also got see what you've got on your current roster and who really wants to be here wants to do the right things. We've got a lot of work to do.

Q: How long does that take?

EC: I don't know. I'm still working on that. We'll find out lot of things soon and other things will take some time. That's all part of the cultural change. I'm not a dictator by any means. I heard someone say "Hey, Coach Carter!", you know from the movie? That's not who I am. I am going to absolutely love our players and I'm going to be there for them, but there is going to be accountability to doing the right thing.

That's why we're here. That's why a change institutionally was made, because I don't know if they thought things would change without action. When you go through change, some things can get a little worse before they get better and that's what our fan base has to understand.

I came here because I believe in Providence College. It wasn't just a dream. I came here because I believed that I could see us succeeding here. I wouldn't have left a potential Top 25 team at Fairfield University if I didn't believe in this place. I was choked up leaving that school and I loved my kids there. 90% of my friends told me don't come here. The same exact 90% said don't take the Fairfield job too. I enjoy challenges. Everyday I wake up I want that challenge. I enjoy that edginess and ask myself "Why not us?"

Q: Did you ask yourself ‘Why Not Us' when a team like VCU made the Final Four?

EC: Sure, and besides having a good team, you need some luck to do that, no question about it. However, you have to put together a special group of players; you have to find your niche. Unlike most of the coaches who've been here, I was raised here. I'm going to bring a different view to this job because I was raised here. The ball hasn't gone up yet, and we don't know how many games we'll win when we start off. I'm here because I fit. Sometimes people don't understand how important fit is.

So, when you combine the right fit along with right players who combine talent and character, you really can do some special things. I'm convinced we will do those things here.

End Part 1

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