Sit-down with Friars Head Coach Ed Cooley
A Reload for Next Season
Liam Tormey ’22
We are now into the month of May, and it has been over a month since the Providence College men’s basketball team had their historic year come to an end against the eventual champions, Kansas University.
It ended with the first Big East regular season title in program history, the first Sweet Sixteen in 25 years, a couple of shots and stops away from an Elite Eight, and head coach Ed Cooley winning the Naismith Coach of the Year.
The 2022-23 season will be Ed Cooley’s 29th in coaching. He began at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as an assistant in 1994, then made his way to Stonehill College, University of Rhode Island, and Boston College before grabbing his first head coaching job at Fairfield University in 2006. Since 2011, Ed Cooley has had the chance to coach the team he grew up rooting for as a kid from South Providence.
Last season was a dream for Ed Cooley and the Friars. He spoke about what it meant for him and his program: “Any time you have team success, it starts at the top. Coaches win games, administration wins championships. Everyone was aligned, the stars were aligned with our personnel.”
All Friar fans know the additions of Al Durham ’22GS and Justin Minaya ’22GS propelled this group to the next level this year. Cooley commented, “I thought our staff did a great job of identifying players that fit our style of play. I thought everything fell in place at the right time.”
A 13-1 start to the season for the Friars made it feel like everything was in the right place at the right time.
“The players were hungry and eager. We never had one issue on or off the floor. It was just one of those special seasons that came together at the right time.”
Cooley and the program will now say goodbye to Durham, Minaya, Nate Watson ’22GS, Noah Horchler ’22GS, and A.J. Reeves ’22 – the entire starting lineup from last year. This particular starting five left a legacy for a lifetime.
“When you’re in the locker room with us this season, we always used to write on the white board before the game, ‘Leave Your Mark.’ I think that’s something they did. Not many times can you hang a banner, wear a ring. This group left a mark. This group left a legacy. This group left an impression on all of Providence College. What a special season and what a special group that will be talked about for years to come.”
The Friar fanatics made the special season what it was. Every game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was loud, energetic, and everything the program wished for before going 16-1 at home. Cooley knew how important the fans were: “What it did for Providence College, not just for the city, but the state–how it was just energized at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Everywhere you would go in our area, they knew about Providence College men’s basketball. As the coach, from someone who’s from here, I can’t be more proud to represent Providence College at that stage.”
From the iconic sing along to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” late in the second half to the court storming after defeating Creighton University to win the first regular season Big East title, the Dunk’ was at a different level, “I go back years of being a Friar basketball fan and seeing the crowd there and all the things that have happened as a head coach, but the energy this year was a different level.” Cooley went on to say, “The fan participation from our students, thank them a million times over. They created an atmosphere, and thankfully it’s for years to come, and it was set by the 2022 class.”
Cooley also added: “It was amazing — the energy that our students brought. They were the identity of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. There was a total shift this year in energy and I hope it continues into next season.”
When looking at the season to come, the Friar fans are not going to be expecting a down year. With the transfer portal having over 1,400 college basketball players in it, Cooley and his staff were all over bringing in the right personnel, and quickly. The Friars have already added Noah Locke ’23GS, Corey Floyd, Jr. ’26, Clifton Moore ’23GS, Devin Carter ’25, and Bryce Hopkins ’25, the definition of a reload.
Just like last year, Cooley admitted he wanted to add players who were going to be good fits for his program, but also fit for representing Providence College. He said, “We hope whoever we bring in they understand it’s about the team, it’s about representing Providence College at the highest level. We want whoever follows moving forward, and I think we’ve had some continuity and consistency, we want whoever we bring in to have those values which last team’s year set.”
Many within college sports have the belief the transfer portal is way out of control. Cooley says it has been “disruptive” and has taken away from those in high school, and although he doesn’t have the answers to the problem, what he does know is “We’re doing the best we can to adjust. No matter what my opinions are, and I don’t know what I can do about it as a single coach, and we will make the adjustments necessary to be competitive in the Big East and on the national scene.”
With five players coming in through the portal, a few left the Friars as well. Matteus Case ’25, Brycen Goodine ’23, and Legend Geeter ’25 all entered the transfer portal to find a new home.
But with Jared Bynum ’23 and Ed Croswell ’22 returning for another season, Cooley is going to lean on them to help in the transition of the newcomers.
He says, “We need those guys to be leaders. We need them to be demanding. We need them to do the right thing, say the right thing, carry themselves the right way. I want them to talk to our players who are not here yet and have them be engaged in our community, in the dorms, in Ray dining hall, in Alumni hall, have visibility, be approachable, say please, say thank you, appreciate the people you’re in school with because one day you never know, you may work with that person, you may marry your person you just never know where relationships build.”
The Friars will also have two freshmen, Quante Berry ’26 and Jayden Pierre ’26, coming into a team with expectations for next year. Breaking into the rotation with the addition of transfers is tough these days in college basketball, but Cooley commented that, “Whether it’s Quante, or Jayden, or any player coming through the portal, we have to have guys who are totally bought in to having a common goal of success for the group. If we do that, we’ll find ourselves with a good shot at success.”
He added, “The biggest expectation I have for any player, regardless of class [year], is to hold them to the standard. They have to meet the standard and exceed it if they can. Buy in. You have to buy into success. You have to buy into your role, buy into the team, buy into the community, buy into preparation.” It will take some meshing with the addition of seven new players to the Friars program, but this is what college basketball has become in today’s age.
As he should be, Cooley is excited about the upcoming season, but he also expressed some of his own personal goals for the future. Providence College will remain in his DNA forever, and he wants to give back.
“I still want to see Providence College grow. I want to be connected to Providence College as long as I can. I want to give men and women, regardless of religion, ethnicity, the belief that you can be special, you can do it. There are so many times people dwell on the negative and the past, but I want them to look at the present and look to the future because there’s something bright ahead of you, you just have to be chugging along. There’s going to be disappointments and failures, but the more I can have a presence and inspire young men and women to take care of the present and look at opportunity, I want to stay connected to Providence College as long as I can in whatever capacity that may be.”
He knows it is a grind, but he still loves what he’s doing as the head coach of the Friars. “I’m starting my 29th season in coaching next year and you do get burned out, you do get tired. I’m not there yet, but just like anything else, there comes a time and a place where it’s hard to say goodbye, yet, you’re going to say hello to something different.”
Providence College men’s basketball is what it is at the moment because of Ed Cooley and his staff. He is the man that lives and breathes Providence College, and everyone on campus and beyond knows who he is. With the most successful season in 25 years for the Friars program, Cooley and the rest of the Friar family will hope this is just the start of a long run of success.
Best Season in 25 Years Has Come to An End
Men’s Basketball Wrap-Up
Will Murphy ’23
What a ride. The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team won close game after close game this year, captivating fans across the country. Although their season came to an end following their defeat to the Kansas University Jayhawks in the Sweet 16, this season will be remembered fondly by many for a long time.
It was a season of firsts for the Friars, most notably the first-ever Big East Regular Season Championship win for Providence in their 43 years as members of the conference. Their 27 wins were one away from a program-best, and their 14 conference wins surpassed their previous best by two. If not for an untimely COVID pause in the middle of the season, both of these numbers could have been added to. The Friars were among the nation’s best at closing out tight games, which is a credit not only to the players, but also to the job that head coach Ed Cooley has done. Last weekend, Cooley was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year for the 2021-22 season. Experience was key for Providence, as their starting lineup was one of the oldest in the country, consisting of three graduate transfers, a fifth-year senior, and a senior.
The Friars started the year off hot, picking up several key wins in non-conference play including wins at the University of Wisconsin, at home against Texas Tech University, and at home against in-state rival University of Rhode Island. Excitement built with each win as fans started to believe that something special could be brewing at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. By the time conference play was kicking off, Providence was receiving votes as one of the top 25 teams in the country. However, the road ahead was not an easy one for the Friars, who were scheduled to play two of the top 25 teams in the nation in their first two Big East games, but they were up to the challenge.
Providence knocked off the University of Connecticut on the road and Seton Hall University at home, two teams respectively ranked 20th and 15th in the country. After winning handily at DePaul University, Providence was dealt their first loss in conference play by Marquette University, and many wondered how they would respond. The resiliency and experience shone through in their next outing against St. John’s University, as they bounced back with a solid ten-point win at home.
Unfortunately, the Friars had to postpone their next three games due to COVID issues within the program. Providence responded admirably to the adversity, rattling off seven consecutive wins, two of which were against ranked opponents.
Jared Bynum ’23 knocked down the game-winning shot against Xavier University as the buzzer sounded. The following game was a memorable one, in which the Friars took on Marquette University a day later than scheduled because of a monstrous blizzard. Providence battled back in that game with the help of the electric atmosphere, despite the treacherous conditions.
That stretch of seven straight wins perfectly set up a showdown between two of the top 10 teams in the country at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center: Providence and Villanova University. Although the Friars came up short in that game, the showing was still impressive, with the team putting up 84 points against one of the best teams and defenses in the country.
After their battle with Villanova, Providence would have to face Butler University on the road without star senior guard Al Durham ’22 because of a back injury. Despite falling behind early, the Friars displayed impressive resilience in an overtime victory, maintaining their spot atop the conference standings. Providence then took on Xavier, looking for the season sweep and was given all they could handle by this tough team. The Friars were taken to triple-overtime in a game of the year candidate but pulled it out in the end.
This win put the team in the position to clinch their first-ever Big East regular-season championship with a win in their upcoming matchup with Creighton University. Providence took control early and coasted to a comfortable 20-point victory in a storybook ending for the seniors on their senior night. Providence closed the regular season with a hard-fought loss against Villanova but was heading to Madison Square Garden with the first seed in the Big East Tournament.
The Friars were immediately challenged after arriving in New York with a tough game against Butler in the quarterfinals. Al Durham ’22 nailed a clutch three with just over 30 seconds remaining to put Providence ahead and advance to face Creighton in the semifinals. Creighton came out hot in the semifinals, and Providence was never able to catch up.
Providence then turned their attention to the NCAA tournament to prepare for their sixth trip under coach Cooley in his 11 seasons at the helm. They were awarded the fourth seed in the Midwest Region, with South Dakota State University awaiting them with one of the most high-powered offenses in the country. Coach Cooley did a tremendous job game-planning for South Dakota State’s offense, and Justin Minaya ’22 put on a defensive display against star guard Baylor Scheierman. Providence held South Dakota State to their lowest offensive output of the season and advanced to face 12-seed Richmond University.
The Friars started fast and built a comfortable lead early, shooting the ball efficiently from behind the arc, especially Noah Horchler ’22, who shot four of six from three. Providence kept their foot on the gas and won by 28, the largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament game in program history.
The win sent the Friars to their first Sweet 16 in 25 years, where one-seed Kansas University awaited. Providence could not get any shots to drop early, but their defense kept them in the game, going into the half down nine. All year Providence proved they were a resilient bunch, not afraid to go head-to-head with the best of the best, and this trait shone through in the second half. They clawed their way back little by little, eventually taking their first lead of the night with a Horchler bucket with just under six minutes remaining. Kansas responded with a run of their own, and, despite an admirable effort, Providence was unable to overcome the Jayhawks in the end.
This team will be remembered as one of the best in Providence College’s history, and rightfully so.
Men’s Basketball Continues to Shine
Friars Complete Strong Winter Break
Liam Tormey ’22
Winter break came in the middle of December for the students of Providence College, but the Men’s Basketball Team continued their hot start to the season.
The Friars started Big East conference play on Dec. 18, the last day of finals, against the No. 20-ranked University of Connecticut. Before conference play began, coach Ed Cooley’s team was 10-1 and looking to start off conference play on the right foot.
The Harry A. Gampel Pavilion would host old rivals in the Huskies and Friars to kick off conference play. PC was looking to win their sixth consecutive game and, thanks to the help of AJ Reeves ’22 and his 16 points, the Friars were victorious in a 57-53 game.
Reeves, a senior, went 4-8 from three-point territory and was crucial in opening up their biggest lead of the first half where they led 31-22 after 20 minutes of play, and Reeves was responsible for 12 of them.
Ed Croswell ’22 would add 11 points and four rebounds, while the other big man Nate Watson ’22GS had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Jared Bynum ’23 returned to play after missing four games with a leg injury, and he would be a spark off the bench adding nine points and six rebounds.
After the game, Ed Cooley said, “We knew coming on the road would be a challenge for us. I couldn’t be more proud of our men.” This would be the best start to PC’s season under Cooley since the 2015-16 season, a year the Friars reached No. 8 in the polls and won an NCAA Tournament game.
After a statement win against a ranked opponent, the Friars were looking to extend their six-game winning streak 11 days later when they would host No. 15-ranked Seton Hall University Pirates.
In between the games, the Friars would be ranked No. 21 in the national polls, the first time since February of 2016. Since this week, the team has kept their Top 25 standing.
The Pirates came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center following the Christmas period and a time when they were dealing with several players in COVID-19 protocols. Seton Hall would be without Ike Obiago and Tyrese Samuel, and the Friars took advantage.
Noah Horchler ’22GS recorded his fifth double-double of the season, dropping home game-highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds in the 70-65 victory.
Nate Watson tallied 14 points and became just the 18th player in Providence College history to record 1,500 or more career points.
The Friars have five graduates this season and two seniors, and after the game, Cooley said, “We have a veteran group… You can go into every game expecting to win when you have an older group.”
A few days later, the Friars would travel to Chicago for a contest with DePaul University. From the very beginning, Cooley’s squad was ready to play and controlled every aspect of the game. At halftime, the Friars were up 42-17 after scoring 22 unanswered points. The Blue Demons were unable to overcome the deficit and the Friars defeated DePaul, 70-53.
Another game and another contribution for the veteran team. It was contributions from two transfers that helped the Friars to their eighth consecutive victory. Indiana University transfer Al Durham ’22GS and University of South Carolina transfer Justin Minaya ’22GS both had double-digit scoring numbers.
Minaya has been great defensively for the Friars and continues to guard every opponent’s best player.
Durham would end the game with 17 points while Minaya finished with a double-double, 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
After the game, Cooley said, “We were able to set the tone early. I thought we played a really good game today.” The Friars were now 13-1 and 3-0 in Big East play.
Then, the Friars traveled to play a desperate Marquette Golden Eagles team, and it was one everyone wanted to forget.
PC committed two turnovers on their first three possessions and the Golden Eagles were up to a 6-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, the Friars closed a double-digit deficit down to four, but then Marquette went on a 20-0 run and never looked back. At halftime, the Friars were down by 20 and then lost the game by 32, with a final score of 88-56.
The only positive light from the game was Nate Watson setting the record for the most games in program history with 137.
Cooley was still upbeat about his team after the blowout and before Saturday’s game against St. John’s University, he said, “I’ll have my team ready to play.”
The Red Storm came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center that weekend and although the Friars trailed at halftime by three, an explosive second half thanks to Watson’s 18 of final 22 points, the Friars got back to winning ways with an 83-73 victory.
This win was Ed Cooley’s 300th career victory. He was emotional after the game saying, “When you do something that you love, you’re at a place that you love, and you work with people that give you the opportunity to do this, it’s amazing.”
The Friars were feeling good heading into a big stretch of games, but COVID-19 ran rampant in the team before the matchup with Creighton University.
Three straight games would be canceled for the Friars due to COVID-19 within the program, and Coach Cooley admitted he tested positive along with some players and staff. The Friars would be off for 12 days before playing again on Jan. 20 against Georgetown University, a game which was rescheduled from earlier in the season after the Hoyas had COVID-19 within their program.
It was the first week of the second semester and the first game back for the Friars after the mini-hiatus. The Friars were the No. 21-ranked team, and the Hoyas gave them everything they had.
Ed Croswell recorded a season-high 15 points, going perfect from the field with seven shots taken. Al Durham had 15 second half points, and Noah Horchler added 14 points. The Friars won 83-75.
With different players stepping up every game, Coach Cooley has said, “Our team is very close and connected. This team has really bought into their roles.”
A noon tip-off against Butler University last Sunday saw the Friars at the top of the Big East standings. The team was 15-2 and 5-1 in Big East play for the first time since 2003-04 and had won 10 out of their last 11 games. They also went into the contest against the Bulldogs 11-0 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
A back-and-forth game is the tale of almost every Big East game, and this one was no different. After the Friars were up six at the half, the Bulldogs clawed their way back and took the lead in the second.
Once again, thanks to the force of Ed Croswell and Nate Watson who continue to get better, the Friars remained perfect at home with a 69-62 victory. The Friars improved to 16-2 for the first time since the 1977-78 season and 6-1 in conference play for the first time ever.
This win was Cooley’s 210th, and he surpassed the great Dave Gavitt for second place in all-time wins as Friar head coach.
There is a lot to be excited for with this team, but this is just the start, and Cooley knows it: “We’ve still got a long way to go, but where we are today is a credit to the players.”