slides: 12 Biggest Sports Stories in RI in 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
#12 PC Men's Basketball
The entire book has yet to be written on the 2012-2013 season for the Providence College men’s basketball team. However, the start the team got off to this fall was nothing short of amazing! Playing with as few as 6 players on any given night, Ed Cooley’s team managed to go (7-2) before the end of the first semester with a legitimate chance to be (9-0). The “Iron Men” gave Cooley everything they had night in and night out and it showed. Now, with the addition of Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to the mix and the return of Vincent Council just around the corner, Friar fans are thinking that this program may be ahead of schedule and could possibly compete in the top half of the Big East this year. We shall see if that is, indeed, the case. A loss to a weak Boston College team before the Christmas Holiday has dampened some of the enthusiasm but all eyes are on the Big East schedule which starts in January.
Watch PC's Ed Cooley discuss the year on video, here.
#11 Brown AD Switch
There were some big changes on College Hill in 2012. In addition to hiring a new school President, Brown University hired a new Athletic Director and men’s basketball coach. (Read GoLocal's Exclusive scoop, here.)
East Greenwich native, PCD and Providence College grad Jack Hayes (left) was hired to replace the retiring Mike Goldberger as AD. Hayes had most recently served at Hofstra’s AD. (Watch Scott Cordischi's interview with Hayes, here.) Brown also fired men’s basketball coach Jesse Agel and hired Mike Martin. (Read the story, here.) As a player, Martin (Brown class of 2004) was part of the only class in Brown basketball history to have 4 consecutive winning seasons. A former assistant at Penn, Martin hopes to recreate that winning atmosphere at Brown in due time. His hiring energized the Brown basketball fan base. Photo: Brown Athletics.
#10 Pawsox Magic
While their parent club struggled through a miserable season in Boston, the Pawtucket Red Sox put together a magical campaign in 2012 which resulted in a Governor’s Cup Championship. It was their first Governor’s Cup Championship in 28 years. Manager Arnie Beyeler did a masterful job all year long with a constantly changing roster. The title was a long overdue reward for one of the classiest organizations in all of professional sports.
Read about the Governor's Cup win, here.
#9 NHL Lockout
While hockey fans in Providence have the AHL’s Providence Bruins, there is no NHL hockey this winter because of a second lockout in 8 years. With the owners crying poverty and calling for a sweeping reform of revenue sharing, neither side has gone far enough to create a compromise. In fairness to the players, they have moved a lot closer to the middle than have the owners. Still, with games cancelled through at least mid-January, it appears very likely that the entire season will soon be lost. (Read about the lockout, here.)
This is a shame for fans of the Boston Bruins who, again, would have had one of the better teams in the league. With the success of the Patriots, the NHL lockout hasn’t received much play in these parts. However, once the NFL season ends, that void will be felt.
#8 LaSalle Lax Emerges
The bad news for LaSalle was that they lost the Division One state championship in football. The good news is that they finally won the Division One boys lacrosse state title. For the past few years, the Rams had the most dominant regular season team in Division One going 44-3 over a four-year stretch. However, they always managed to some up just short of winning the state title. That was not the case in the spring of 2012. As head coach Steve O’Donnell said when it was over, “we’re not the Buffalo Bills anymore.”
For the story, go here.
#7 Hendricken Surprise
After a perfect (8-0) run through Division One for LaSalle Academy, it appeared to be a given that a state championship would be in the cards for the Rams. Bishop Hendricken had other ideas. The defending state champs were thought to be rebuilding a bit and were young at many positions. That didn’t stop the Hawks. Despite a 28-7 loss to LaSalle toward the end of the regular season, Hendricken shocked LaSalle 26-20 in the title game.
Photo: Bishop Hendricken
#6 PC, Ledo & Dunn
Ed Cooley and his staff put together one of the nation’s best recruiting classes late in 2011 with the commitments of Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo. The big question in 2012 would be, would Ledo be eligible to play for the Friars as a freshman? It took quite a while to hear from the NCAA’s Clearing House which eventually ruled him ineligible to play his freshman season (read the story, here). However, Ledo told GoLocalProv.com just days before the ruling that he was committed to the Friars regardless of the ruling and that he would be willing to sit out a year so that he could play as a sophomore at PC. While there has been much speculation about whether Ledo will ever play a single game at PC because of the lure of the NBA, we take Ledo at his word that he will be in uniform for what should be a very dangerous Friars team next fall. Photo: friarbasketball.com.
#5 Celtics Pride
The aging Boston Celtics made all of New England proud in the spring of 2012 with their terrific showing in the NBA Playoffs. After disposing of the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the opening two rounds, it set up for a dream match-up with LeBron James and the Miami Heat. After losing game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami, the Celts looked like they were poised to take game 2 were it not for some very poor officiating. A Dewayne Wade face-rake of Rajon Rondo was a critical non-call that helped the Heat beat Boston 115-111 in overtime. Heading back to Boston down 0-2, the Celts demonstrated what Kevin Garnett called “grit and balls” taking games 3 & 4 to go back to Miami tied at 2-2. Boston grabbed game 5 to take a 3-2 lead heading back to Boston where LeBron James had the game of his career scoring 45 points and pulling down 15 rebounds in game 6. Boston would eventually fall in game 7 but Celtics fans were very proud of their men in green.
For the story, go here.
#4 Red Sox & Valentine
When the Boston Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine to be their new manager, the idea was to have him reel in an otherwise loose clubhouse which had gone awry in September of 2011. Unfortunately, Valentine was never empowered by ownership to be that man and he never had the respect of the players he managed. That lethal combination led to his one-and-done campaign which was an unmitigated disaster in 2012. A (69-93) record was good enough for a last place finish in the AL East and was the third word record in the American League. Valentine was critical of some of his players who were also critical of him. That oil and water mix ended in his firing immediately following the season and the eventual hiring of John Farrell who had served as the team’s pitching coach under Terry Francona. Read the story here.
#3 URI Coaching Turnover
After 11 seasons with no NCAA Tournament appearances at the University of Rhode Island, URI Athletic Director Thor Bjiorn decided to fire men’s basketball coach Jim Baron. And, like Providence College did a year earlier when they targeted Ed Cooley, Bjiorn and URI set their sights on one man – Dan Hurley – whom they hired away from Wagner College (read the exclusive breaking of the story, here, and more coverage, here). The former Seton Hall guard led the Seahawks to a 25-win season in just his second season on Staten Island and, along with star brother Bobby, arrived in Kingston in the spring energizing Ram fans. It didn’t take Hurley long to upgrade the talent in the program with both college transfers and top-notch high school recruits. It appears that the future is very bright for URI basketball. Photo: URI
#2 Patriots Falter
After a (13-3) regular season and wins over Denver and Baltimore in the AFC Playoffs, the Patriots found themselves in Super Bowl XLVI where they would have a rematch with the NY Giants. Just 4 years earlier, the Giants upset the Pats in Super Bowl XLII spoiling what would have been a perfect season. With revenge on their minds, the Pats suffered the same fate again falling to the more physical Giants 21-17. Like Super Bowl XLII, there were missed opportunities for the Pats. Wes Welker dropped a pass that could have won the game for New England. New England played the game with a hampered Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots all-world tight end injured his ankle and was clearly hampered by the injury. After three straight Super Bowl wins, it was the Pats second straight loss in the big game making for an offseason of discontent. Read the story, here.
#1 Big East Break-Up
For many years, Providence College has been sitting around and watching football schools like Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Louisville leave their conference. Finally, PC and the other 6 basketball schools had seen enough. Late in 2012, the “Hoop Seven” decided to be proactive and announce that they would be leaving the conference to pursue a conference free from big-time football. While these schools may still play in the Big East for another year or two, they will eventually go out on their own to create a new conference. What will that new conference look like? In addition to PC, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul, there will likely be 3-5 schools added to the mix. Xavier, Butler, Dayton, St. Louis, Virginia Commonwealth, Creighton and others have been mentioned as possibilities. We will soon find out what PC’s future conference will look like and who we can expect to see at the Dunk on an annual basis. For the article on the overall break-up, go here.