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Cooley, Friars Needs Complete Buy-In

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

 

As the Providence Friars get set to host 17th-ranked Cincinnati at the Dunk on Wednesday, there are some issues surrounding the team that bear watching.

The first is the status of Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson. Johnson hasn’t played for the past two games after scoring a career-high 14 points in a loss at Marquette.

Johnson was with the team on the bench for their overtime loss to UConn Thursday night but did not accompany the team to Villanova where the Friars beat the Wildcats Sunday. It was before that game that the school released a statement saying that Johnson “has taken a voluntary leave of absence from the team.”

Sidiki Johnson

There have been rumblings over the past year that Johnson has not always done all that was asked of him much to the consternation of Ed Cooley and his staff. If that is indeed the case, it seems strange that someone seeking a fresh start would get off to such a bad one with his new team.

There was also the issue Thursday night before the Connecticut game where Cooley decided to not start Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton for not doing what was asked of them.

In the case of Council, he compounded matters by Tweeting before the game that he and Henton were not starting that night which further angered his coach. Thus, while Henton missed the first two minutes of the game, Council missed the first ten.

It’s no secret to those close to the program that, at times, some of Cooley’s players haven’t completely bought into the program. That’s a problem. And it’s one that Cooley has and will continue to address.

Cooley is in year two of a seven-year contract and is going nowhere. This is his program to build and he is trying to do it the right way. If players aren’t buying into what he’s selling, then he should impose disciplinary measures.

There’s an old saying that a coach’s best friend is the empty seat next to him on the bench. The implication being that if a player isn’t doing what is asked of him, he will find himself sitting in that seat until he does decide to fall in line.

By sitting Council and Henton for a few minutes, one could argue thay Cooley is being too kind to his players.

The most important thing for any head coach to do when he takes over a program is to establish a culture and a way of doing things. And when he does that, he MUST have complete buy-in from every person in the program. If not, players should be released from the team or spend time on the bench until they are committed to the program 100%.

Basketball fans in Rhode Island don’t even need to look beyond the state border to find two great examples of this.

At Brown and the University of Rhode Island, Mike Martin and Dan Hurley have been able to get all of the players in their respective programs to completely buy-in to what they are selling and it shows.  One of the most important aspects of getting a team to buy-in to what a coach is preeching is for the seniors on the team to fall in line.  While this may not be the case at PC, at Brown and URI that has certainly been the case.

Martin’s Bears play hard for 40 minutes each night out and have gone from one of the worst defensive teams in the Ivy League to one of the best because of the effort they put in on that end of the floor.

The same can be said for Hurley’s Rams. They may not have enough talented players to put the ball in the basket this season, but they are playing extremely hard defensively which is why they find themselves in most games to the very end.

Vincent Council

This has not been the case for Cooley’s Friars who have been sporadic at best when it comes to playing solid defense.

Maybe Cooley and his staff haven’t emphasized it quite enough in practice. Given the way Cooley talks about it after every game I find that hard to believe.

So if there are players who are not playing defense up to the level expected of them, they should find themselves spending much more time on the bench than on the floor regardless of who they are and what that means to the team’s chances of winning.

At this stage, it is more important for Cooley to establish a culture of hard work for his program than it is to win games. The wins will come eventually if he can get all of his players to do what is asked of them.

Keno Davis’ run-and-gun style of play which paid little attention to defense may have been fun for the players, but it didn’t result in many wins. And when it comes right down to it, nothing is more fun than winning.

So if Sidiki Johnson isn’t doing what is asked of him, let him transfer somewhere else. If Vincent Council is concerned more about showcasing his offensive skills with an eye towards playing professionally, then he can sit and watch freshman Kris Dunn develop.

Will this prevent the Friars from winning many games for the remainder of the season? Probably. But how many was this team going to pick up anyway? And the program will be a lot better in the long run by getting everyone on the same page today.


NOTES:

-Will Ricky Ledo ever play a game in a Friars uniform? That’s the million-dollar question that everyone would like the answer to.

Ultimately, only Ledo knows the answer to that question.

Ricky Ledo

Ledo told GoLocalProv.com before the start of the season that he was committed to sitting out the year if the NCAA did not rule in his favor and that he planned on playing for PC as a sophomore.

Since that proclamation, many have questioned whether or not Ledo will stay at PC for his sophomore season or simply turn pro at the end if his freshman year.

CBS Sports college basketball guru Jeff Goodman suggested for months that Ledo would likely turn pro without ever playing a game for PC but has since softened his stance suggesting that there is a real possibility that Ledo will return to Smith Hill next fall.

Whatever the case may be, consider this.

While Ledo is extremely talented, no one really knows where he will be projected in the June NBA Draft. If it were a foregone conclusion that he would be first round pick, he may very well decide to turn pro. But there seems to be more than a little doubt that he would be a first round lock.

Another thing to consider is the fact that Ledo may not necessarily be the Friars savior if he does decide to stay.

While no one doubts his superior talent, the fact that he hasn’t played competitively in almost two years suggests that there may be some rust in his game which could lead to some inconsistency when he does return to the floor.

Whatever the case may be, this story won’t go away until Ledo himself definitively proclaims his intentions which he is unwilling to do right now.

 

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