When Providence hired Keno Davis as head coach in April 2008 its president, Reverend Brian Shanley, called him a “Godsend.” As they say, God works in mysterious ways. While mysterious is not the word most Friar fans would use to describe Davis’ tenure, that is just what happened. Shanley turned out to be right. Just not quite as intended. Davis was a Godsend because his hire and tenure represented the mistake Shanley, along with Athletic Director Bob Driscoll and the other decision makers at Providence College, learned from. It was a painful and public lesson, but one that led to Ed Cooley.
The Friars, albeit against a soft non-conference schedule, at 9-2 are off to an encouraging start under Cooley. Providence was predicted to finish near the bottom of the Big East, and while wins and losses always matter, the overall record may not carry its customary weight this season. It is about progress. Player development is important but the cultivation of young men is paramount. It is about discipline. It is about defense. It is about bringing relevance and respect back to Providence College basketball and Ed Cooley is the face of the resurrection. Cooley’s compelling story will be recounted during virtually every Providence broadcast this season. He grew up in a tough section of Providence, seemingly raised by the neighborhood. As an All-State performer for Central High School, he won a state championship in the building where the Friars still play their home games. He was a Friar fan, aspired to wear the black and white as a player, and calls the Providence head coaching position his “dream job.”
Although he may not have known the full extent of it, Cooley knew he was inheriting a program in shambles. In his first season, Keno Davis took a veteran team comprised of Tim Welsh recruits to an expectation-meeting 19-14 campaign that included a win over #1 Pittsburgh and was capped off by a loss to Miami in the first round of the NIT. It was the next two years that exposed Davis’ shortcomings as a coach, and more importantly. as a leader. On the court the Friars put up back-to-back 4-14 Big East records and became a defensive laughingstock, giving up 75.3 and 82.2 points per game over the last two years. They put up similarly swollen numbers on offense (75.8 and 82.4 PPG) but there often appeared to be no structure or flow on offense other than to get shots up early and often.