Thinking out loud: Recapping Ed Cooley's past week

Providence coach Ed Cooley
Photo credit Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports
Thinking out loud…while wondering if St. Louis gets tired of facing Boston in the playoffs…

  • Let’s start out by stating the obvious: “Never say never.”

 

  • Yes, I am surprised that Ed Cooley considered another college program to coach.  Even if it was almighty Michigan.  Even if they offered a salary increase doubling what he currently earns.  And that’s something that would get your attention, or mine, if it happened to either of us.

 

  • But here’s the real surprise:  I’m not certain how much of this had to do with $$$.  Based on what I’ve read, heard and seen over the previous eight years of Coach Cooley’s tenure, this dalliance with Wolverines may also have had something to do with Cooley’s current teammates.

 

  • Not the athletes he coaches and mentors, but his bosses.  How much has Ed Cooley praised his superiors, Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll and college president Father Brian Shanley, as “his teammates” over the years?  The sentiment has been mutual. 

 

  • While Driscoll hasn’t yet made public overtures toward his retirement, Father Shanley is stepping down from his post after the next school year, in June of 2020. 

 

  • Why?  Because he wasn’t asked to return.  The College Board of Trustees recommended Shanley be given a fourth consecutive five-year term.  It was Shanley’s superior, the Very Reverend Kenneth Letoile, deciding against his renewal. 

 

  • Why he did that isn’t known – yet.  We might never know.

 

  • But it’s safe to say that with the uncertainty coming from within upper management, Cooley (and hockey coach Nate Leaman, too, for that matter) could have been – and may still be in some areas – uneasy about the future, and the future direction of athletics at the college. 

 

  • He does have a new contract extension, however.  Announced Tuesday and reportedly for 10 years, that could be the reassurance he needed to move forward.

 

  • Can’t say that I blame him for showing interest in Michigan, even if he’s always said Providence was his “dream job.”  He’s helped to build that “dream job” quite a bit during his tenure.  Would you want to see your work neglected – or worse yet, even dismantled – under new management?

 

  • Hence, the decision to dabble outside of not-quite-as-Divine-as-we-may-think Providence.  And that’s a shame.  Especially when you consider what Shanley, a Warwick, RI native, has also done to re-energize his campus – and then save, revive and strengthen the Big East Conference, Providence’s athletic home and foundation. 

 

  • Cooley thinks the world of Father Shanley and Bob Driscoll.  Undoubtedly, his relationship with them played a large part in this week’s events.

 

  • Someone will need to explain to the thousands of alumni, fans, donors – and media – why the move to replace Shanley is necessary, which may have kick-started this story in the first place. 

 

  • With all due respect, it’s time to enter the 21st century, Father Letoile, and stop relying upon or hiding behind ideals and practices that originated 800 years ago.

 

  • If anything, Father Shanley has been a champion for the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans and their mission of study, prayer and preaching.  It’s ridiculous when you think about it, isn’t it? 

 

  • But wait, there’s more.  Letoile, ironically, is a Providence native and a graduate of both LaSalle Academy and – Providence College.  He was elected Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, NY (one of four Dominican provinces in the US) in 2014, which includes New England and extends through Virginia and into Ohio.   

 

  • And he could be on the precipice of launching his alma mater right back toward the Stone Age with a giant misstep here.

 

  • Ed Cooley may or may not ever depart for greener pastures.  That’s his right, and Nate Leaman’s, too.  And perhaps the college makes a solid, if not athletically friendly, choice to replace Father Shanley. 

 

  • But if you ask me, in this instance the PC coaches have been given a not-so-subtle sign within their governing body…a religious order that has become myopic with regard to today’s realities in the modern, athletically inclined business world we live in.

 

  • The question remains – do sports really matter?  Do they matter at PC?  There are literally billions of reasons globally as a definitive answer to this question.  The higher-ups are either blind to this truth, or ignorant of it, or both.

 

  • Cooley’s told the ProJo this week: “I know who I am and where I fit and there’s still a lot to be done at Providence. Our mission isn’t complete at Providence.” 

 

  • Soothing music, no doubt, to Friartown’s collective ears.

 

  • His withdrawal from consideration at Michigan – reportedly without a concrete offer on the table from the Wolverines – had Cooley trending nationally on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. 

 

  • And in one of those “strange but true” twists in this tale, the head of the search firm in charge of finding a coach at Michigan, Turnkey Sports, is none other than ex-Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo.  Cooley assisted for Al Skinner at BC for nine seasons while DeFilippo ran the program, and then ran them right into the ACC before running out of the AD biz.

 

  • It stands to reason Cooley’s turn-down of Michigan could be a turn-on for prospective recruits looking at the Friar program.  Regardless of the reality of it all, that’s part of the perception on the outside – he turned down Michigan to stay at Providence.

 

  • If he doesn’t go to Michigan – a big name, big-monied, Big 10 power – does he ever go anywhere else?  I said here last week, unaware of the details that would soon follow, it made more sense for him to look into the pros rather than another college gig.  Or move into TV work.  Someday, perhaps.  But today is not that day.  Tomorrow doesn’t look promising, either.

 

  • Cooley’s staying is also a big win for the Big East perception-wise, after losing Xavier’s Chris Mack to Louisville a year ago, and Butler’s Chris Holtmann to Ohio State before that.  Jay Wright has turned Villanova into a ‘blue-blood’ by sticking around, Kevin Willard (a recent Virginia Tech coaching candidate) could be performing similarly at Seton Hall. 

 

  • Can it also be done elsewhere, like at Providence? 

 

  • Certainly, now’s the time to continue working on that task.  Starting with next season.

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted this week the Friars would face Florida in New York next December, but the Gators released their non-league schedule this week without PC on it.  There is a December 17 date for the “Naismith Hall of Fame Game” in NYC, with an opponent to be determined, however.

 

  • And, NJIT will apparently be on the non-league schedule at the Dunk.  At last count, PC likely needs three more home games finalized to round out a total of 13 (Home vs. Texas, Penn, Stony Brook, NJIT; at URI, at Big 10-Gavitt, 3 in Anaheim, Florida in NYC) for next season.

 

  • Would love to see former Friar assistant (under Tim Welsh) Steve DeMeo jump back into the Big East at St. John’s, where he is a candidate to join Mike Anderson’s staff.  D-Mo has a Juco national title to his credit at NW Florida State.

 

  • Yes, that was Ed Cooley in a PC graduation gown last week, walking across the stage at the Dunk with his wife, Nurys, a former Providence police officer.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the school.

 

  • Alpha Diallo continues to find out if he has what it takes to move onto the pros, working out with the Knicks this week.  He has until the end of this month, May 29th, to decide on staying at PC or turn pro.

 

  • This will make my buddy Edward in East Providence stand up and take notice – The Athletic has hired beat writers to cover every WNBA team – all of them female – and two writers to cover the league nationally. 

 

  • What once was old, is new again – and CCRI (26-10) is back in the JUCO World Series for the first time in seven years, taking place in Greenville, TN beginning this weekend.  Coach Kevin Rix and his Knights take on the top-seed, Rowan Gloucester (NJ), Saturday night.

 

  • URI took the 6th seed in the Atlantic-10 baseball tournament this week but was knocked out by Davidson Thursday night.  The Rams finished up at 24-29 overall.

 

  • The top-seed in the NEC baseball tournament, Bryant, whitewashed 4th seed Sacred Heart 4-0 in their conference tourney opener Thursday, moving into a winners-bracket final late Friday.  The Bulldogs took home Pitcher of the Year (Steve Theetge), Coach of the Year (Steve Owens) and had eight players earn all-league honors.

 

  • James Holzhauer’s Jeopardy! winning streak continues after a two-week production break.  It even got Tom Brady to tweet this week he’d eat a strawberry (ICYMI, he hates them) on an Instagram livestream if he lost.  He didn’t.  Ratings for the game show are up almost five million viewers per week since his run began in late March.

 

  • Don’t know how much money is involved, but cool nonetheless for Conference USA to sign a four-year deal this week with NFL Network to air 10 football games per season.  Prestige and exposure?  Check.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @Gil_Brandt: “50 years ago today (May 17) Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland all agreed to move from the NFL to the AFL, which broke a 3-year impasse of the merger of the two leagues. It was Al Davis who proposed that three teams move, and only when $3M was placed on the table were volunteers found.”

 

  • See?  ‘Show me the money’ worked then, and still works today. 

 

  • Happy birthday, Julian Edelman.  Turned 33 this week, got himself a contract extension that basically allows him to (potentially) retire as a Patriot.  Got a nice raise, too.

 

  • Now, could we figure out something for TB12 here before too much longer?  Jules is signed through 2021, when Brady will be 44.  Hmmm.  That works out, doesn’t it? 

 

  • Gerald McCoy?  For pennies-on-the-dollar, yes please.  And thank you.

 

  • Boston for the 2022 NFL Draft?  Since we’re not likely to ever see a Super Bowl game here, I can describe what this experience would be like in three words:  Off the hook.

 

  • As Patriot OTA’s began this week came the news of offensive tackle Jared Veldheer’s retirement – two weeks after signing with the Patriots from Denver.  He started in 12 games last fall for the Broncos before an injury – and would have made $1.25 million this year even if he were cut in training camp.  Whoa.

 

  • I don’t know about you, but it never seems to me the Patriots are hurt by waiting out TWO WEEKS between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.  Amiright?

 

  • Which makes the Stanley Cup wait for the Bruins – even after the sold-out intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night – much ado about nothing.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @DarrenRovell: “The last time the St. Louis Blues played in a Stanley Cup Final game, the top story the next day was…the Vietnam War.”

 

  • If you haven’t already, you’ll see the storylines begin pouring out on the St. Louis Blues’ 1st Cup final since 1970 (against the Bruins), Bobby Orr scoring his iconic, most-photographed goal and others.  But the one you should follow – this is a match-up of the two best teams in hockey since Jan. 1 of this year.

 

  • I really like both teams’ sweaters.  Not uniforms, not jerseys.  Sweaters.  Always liked hockey calling them ‘sweaters.’  Even if they’re not sweaters anymore and haven’t been for decades.

 

  • Oh, and back in ’70, the Bruins swept the Blues.  It says here it’ll take six games this time around for the B’s to make most of America really, really mad at us.  Again.  Cue the duck boats.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @MarkDivver: “14 players in Bruins lineup last night (May 16) spent time in Providence on way up, from Brandon Carlo (1 game) to Brad Marchand (129 games).”

 

  • And not for nuthin’, but best wishes to Divver, who was let go by the ProJo this week in yet another cost-cutting measure. Damn pencil-pushers wouldn’t know good journalism if it jumped up and bit them in the *ss.

 

  • Former Mount Saint Charles product and NHL goaltender Brian Boucher is doing a solid job with his ‘on the ice’ reporting for NBC during the NHL Playoffs.  If he could keep from gushing just a bit too much when he interviews the star of the game, he’d be as close to perfect as you can get in that role. 

 

  • Tell us why something happened and ask questions we wish we could ask.  No matter the sport.  But essentially, that’s the role of a sideline reporter.  Boosh pretty much gets that done.

 

  • Got a new nickname for Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez – the ‘Big Enigma.’  For a guy who seemingly has good stuff, he sure does leave the ball over the middle of the plate to get hammered a lot, doesn’t he?

 

  • Oh. And Tyler Thornburg?  It’s over.  A hip impingement?  Nah dude, it’s a pitching impingement. 

 

  • Will always admire Koji Uehara, who retired from baseball this week.  Making the absolute most of his abilities, Koji’s fastball rarely got above 88-89 mph. And yet, he closed for the 2013 world champs with that sinker of his.  A polar opposite, really, of guys like Rodriguez on the current staff.

 

  • As mediocre-ly (yes, that’s a word I just made up) as this Red Sox team has performed, Michael Chavis has been a story worth following.  He has pop, he’s improving in the infield, and a swag that – dare I say – could replace Dustin Pedroia’s in the dugout.

 

  • Chavis is only 23, and has already played 1st, 2nd and 3rd base.  He is one of five Red Sox players to have 22 RBI in his first 25 games played (Ted Williams, Fred Lynn, George ‘Boomer’ Scott and the immortal Moose Solters).  He hit just .250 with four HR’s in Pawtucket last year.

 

  • Now two-time PGA champ Brooks Koepka is good for golf.  Even though golf isn’t his favorite sport.  He’s got an ‘everyman’ kind of personality, even though he clearly is not ‘everyman.’  Dude has his guns. 

 

  • Big ups and congrats to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Hall of Fame Class of 2019, announced last week: Dave Belisle, Will Blackmon, Brian Boucher, Ed Bradley, Linda Cimino, Jerry Dandeneau, Bill Falk (posthumous), John Gillooly, David Harrington, Bob Littlefield, Chelsea Marandola, Bill McCagney, Deb McMullen and Richard Stapleton.

 

  • Some familiar names, to be sure.  Induction comes Oct. 30th at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” was in one of those ‘here’s how to get healthy’ seminars listening to a doctor preach on about the bad stuff we eat.  “The food we put in our stomachs is enough to have killed many of us – red meat, soft drinks, Chinese food loaded with MSG – but there is one thing out there that is most dangerous of all,” he said.  “Can anyone tell me what it is?”

 

  • “Big E” raised his hand and answered, “wedding cake?”

 

  • Here’s the deal:  Boston and St. Louis are the only two cities to have met for a title in each of the four major sports’ championship events – NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.  This Stanley Cup will be the 11th time the two cities have ‘faced-off’ against each other.  The record in the previous 10?  Boston, 7-3.

 

  • The last time St. Louis beat Boston for any championship?  1967, the Impossible Dream season for the Sox…won by the Cardinals in seven games.  It’s a four-trophy winning streak for the Hub in the 51 years that have followed – the ’70 Stanley Cup, the XXXVI Lombardi Trophy and the ’04 and ’13 World Series trophies.

 

  • Thomas in Riverside, RI posted on Facebook this week in response to Ed Cooley’s decision to stick around: “You need to win in the NCAA tournament.  1 win doesn’t make a good coach, sorry.”

 

  • Thomas:  Clearly, success is ultimately determined by wins and losses.  But if they were the only things that defined success, life would be a bore.  You must put things in their proper context, which so many of us forget to do.  Getting to the NCAA’s 5 straight years – never previously accomplished in the rich history of PC basketball – is a great start on being a ‘good coach.’  Where was the Friar program before his arrival?  Where were PC Athletics before the Big East changed?  And where are they now with regards to the first two questions?  And as I have always maintained, Coach Cooley knows there is unfinished business in Friartown. 

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.