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Cooley, Friars at a Crossroads

Sunday, January 06, 2013


Some say that you learn a lot about someone when they’re dealing with adversity. If that is indeed the case, we could learn a lot about Ed Cooley and the Providence Friars over the next few weeks.

After losing three games (at Boston College, at Brown, vs. DePaul) that they were not expected to, it would be wrong to say that the Providence Friars are a team in turmoil. However, they are a team in flux.

No coach was better at dealing with adversity than two-time Super Bowl Champion Bill Parcells. In fact, I remember a quote from Parcells while his Patriots were dealing with quite a bit of adversity. It went something like this. “I’m up to my ass in alligators but they’re not draining the swamp anytime soon!”

Bill Parcells

The message from Parcells was one where he acknowledged his team’s troubles, but made it clear that he was up to the challenge of seeing them through their difficult times.

Clearly, Ed Cooley will take the same approach. Cooley knows that his team is struggling both mentally and physically, and he will not back down from the challenge of turning things around. However, it is going to take a lot of work to right this ship.

After four straight losses, the Friars have more than their share of problems. Defensively, the team has struggled to stop opponents consistently. Offensively, the Friars are not doing a great job of taking care of the basketball (14 turnovers combined by Vincent Council and Kris Dunn vs. DePaul) and only Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton (when healthy) are scoring consistently.

From a defensive standpoint, Cooley may want to consider more man-to-man full court pressure as opposed to what has amounted to be an ineffective three-quarter-court zone press. When they applied that man-to-man pressure on DePaul in the second half Saturday night, they were able to claw their way back into the game. That type of pressure could create more turnovers leading to easy baskets for the Friars.

Offensively, it is clear that Vincent Council is slowly working his way back to the dominant point guard he was prior to getting injured against NJIT. Likewise, we need to understand that Kris Dunn is only a freshman and, despite being a McDonald’s All-American, he is going to struggle at times. Very few freshmen can come in play great, error-free basketball in college right away. Friar fans, and coaches must be patient with him for that very reason.

LaDontae Henton

Likewise, it may be just a coincidence, but PC’s LeDontae Henton has had arguably his two worst offensive games after being publicly lambasted by his head coach for not playing defense in the Brown game. Henton scored 7 points (3-10 FG) at Louisville and 6 points (3-7 FG) against DePaul. The film may show that his defense is better than it was against the Bears a week ago, but PC needs him to be much more of an offensive force than that.

Which brings us to the next point. Cooley’s biggest challenge will be trying to keep his team’s confidence up as the Big East season wears on.

Parcells was a master motivator who almost always knew which buttons to push for every player he coached. Parcells knew which guys needed a pat in the ass and which guys needed a boot in the ass and he made sure that they received it.

The Tuna was also outstanding at gauging the attitude of his team and he would handle them accordingly. For example, one might think that after a bad loss or two that Parcells would resemble an angry bear and ride his players hard or be happy go lucky after a good win. That was rarely the case.

In fact, Parcells was often times much harder on his teams after a win than he was following a loss. His rationale was that he didn’t want his players to get too high on themselves when things were going well and didn’t want to destroy their confidence by brow-beating them when they were down.

This will be Ed Cooley’s toughest assignment because right now it would appear that his team’s confidence is fragile at best.

And with 7th-ranked Syracuse about to invade the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday night, they’re not draining the swamp anytime soon!



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