Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:03 pm

Pitino nets deserving Hall of Fame nomination

By Jeff Goodman

Rick Pitino was nominated for the Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon. 

He's the only college basketball coach in history to have officially taken three programs to the Final Four, has a national title to his credit and has 618 career victories despite three different stints in the NBA.

"I'm extremely honored and grateful to be a finalist for the Hall of Fame," Pitino told CBSSports.com shortly after learning he was one of a dozen finalists.

I covered much of Pitino's forgettable tenure with the Boston Celtics, one that was a complete train wreck. The bottom line is that Pitino is one of the best college basketball coaches in my generation. However, he was far more suited to the college game than the pro ranks. 

Just imagine how many wins he'd have in the college ranks right now if not for his eight years in the NBA. Probably somewhere in the vicinity of 825 and he's still not yet 60 years old. 

The 59-year-old Pitino began his head coaching career in 1978 at Boston University, spent a couple years as an assistant with the Knicks before taking over a dismal Providence team. Two years later, the Friars were in the Final Four. Pitino then left for the head gig with the Knicks, where he was 90-74 in two seasons, before taking the job at Kentucky -- where he rebuilt a program that was on probation. 

The Wildcats went to the Final Four in 1993 and won the national title in 1996 with a loaded group that featured Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. 

Pitino took another shot in the NBA, this time asked to bring the storied Boston Celtics franchise back from the ruins. Pitino flopped in his three-plus years in Boston and made some ill-advised personnel decisions. 

Pitino is in his 11th season at Louisville. He took the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2005 and has led the Cards to Elite Eight appearances in 2008 and 2009. Louisville is 21-7 this season and a lock to make its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. 

The other finalists: first-timers Reggie Miller, Bill Fitch and Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain. Previous finalists include Mo Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and Red Heads. 

The Class of 2012 will be announced on Mon., April 2 in New Orleans prior to the NCAA national title game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The enshrinement ceremony is Fri., Sept 7 in Springfield, Mass. 

Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:18 pm

Cooley brings passion, defense to Providence

Cooley's first year at Providence has gone relatively well. (Getty Images)

By Jeff Goodman

Ed Cooley's Providence team had no business going toe-to-toe with top-ranked Syracuse last night. 

But that's exactly what happened for the first 35 or so minutes - when Providence somehow was in a two-possession game after Gerard Coleman's bucket with a little more than five minutes left. 

The first thing you notice with this Friars team is that they are attempting to guard. Keno Davis is a terrific guy, but his teams couldn't -- no, make that didn't - check anyone. 

Cooley has a rebuilding job in Providence, but he's exactly what this program needs - a high, energy native who will get his players to go hard and also become a face in the community. 

He inherited a team with a couple of Big East guards in Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman, but not much else. There was virtually nothing up front. 

Cooley managed to land two elite recruits in point guard Kris Dunn and local talent Ricky Ledo, so the perimeter could be loaded next season -- if Ledo qualifies and is cleared by the NCAA (he's attended multiple schools). 

Cooley's passion, though, is unquestionable and contagious. Because he was an assistant under Al Skinner at Boston College, there was a perception -- one that was completely off-base -- that he would being a similar approach to PC. 

While Cooley did learn from Skinner, he couldn't be any different from his former boss. He's high-energy, enjoys interacting with the fans and loves to get out on the recruiting trail. 

Syracuse shot 61 percent from the field and 58 percent from beyond the arc in Wednesday night's 87-73 victory that wasn't nearly as lopsided as the score indicates. 

Cooley only played six players: Council, Coleman, tiny guard Bryce Cotton, freshmen bigs LaDontae Henton and Brice Kofane and sophomore Kadeem Batts. 

Henton went for 11 points and 13 boards and while Batts (14 points) played well, Cooley is one big man away from potentially becoming a factor in the Big East. 

But much of that could rest on the shoulders of Ledo. 

Ledo's talent level is unquestionable. He's a big-time scorer, but he has maturity issues. Cooley maintains Ledo has made significant progress in that area -- and if that's accurate (nothing would make me happier), the Friars could soon have the talent to match Cooley's passion. 

That could be a scary combo. 

Posted on: December 7, 2011 6:20 pm

Santa Cooley's coming to town!

By Matt Norlander

If you gave me my pick for any head coach in college basketball to dress up as Santa Claus, Providence's Ed Cooley would definitely be No. 1. (Last on the list: Xavier's Chris Mack.)

So I'm now filled with holiday cheer thanks to the cheesy-but-fulfilling video of Cooley donned up in ruby. It practically looks like velour, which I can totally see Cooley rocking on a lazy Sunday (I know I do). The only downside to the video: the Providence mascot, which may be some sort of ghost of Christmas past that's come back in tangible form. Either way, stay out of my nightmares, thing.

This is why Cooley made so much sense to bring in as the new coach. He's a Rhode Island guy, is one of the most affable men in the game, and he's brought something better than gifts to Providence this year -- wins. Providence is 7-2.

If at all possible, can we get Cooley to dress like this Dec. 20 at home against New Hampshire, or the Dec. 23 game against hated rival Rhode Island?

Friar Blog also has something called "Elf Yourself," which features Cooley and his three star players. Yeah, I will be doing this for our foursome on the blog soon. Check back during one of the Wakeup Calls next week. Need to get it so Parrish and Borzello's elves are down to size.

Who wouldn't want this man in their living room during the wee hours of Dec. 25? OK, other Big East coaches not included.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:00 pm

Your SEC/Big East Challenge guide

By Matt Norlander

What do you want in a preview? I've been self-assigned (is that even possible?) to give you the rundown on all of the SEC and Big East games coming up over the next 72 hours, and I wasn't quite sure where to go with this. After all, these are early-December games, half of them are afterthoughts, and preview material is usually come-and-go outside of preseason and NCAA tournament talk.

So I looked at the games and decided I'll just give you whatever random thought comes off the top of my head. A conversational tone works best here, since there are no real true tilts of consequence involved outside of the fantastic ones going on Friday night Louisville and Syracuse. (I'll be at the latter.) If there's a stat sited, I do not have it memorized. Those I looked up. I'm not huge on predictions, so you won't find those here.

All this said, I do expect these 12 games to be better than what the ACC and Big Ten gave us Tuesday and Wednesday night, by the way. If you have any other curiosities that go beyond this post, check our SEC/Big East Challenge page, which has the history of this event and stats that go along with it.


Providence at South Carolina (7 ET): Oh this is just bad. Providence is a few years away from true relevancy, and Darrin Horn is already coaching for his job at South Carolina. NEXT.

St. John's at Kentucky (7:30 ET): Wildcats get the Johnnies tonight, less than 48 hours before Carolina comes in. I'd say St. John's would have a chance, except they're playing Kentucky. Kind of a problem. SJU doesn't have one senior on its roster and head coach Steve Lavin will not be making the trip. Kentucky will be looking ahead to UNC, but the 'Cats should win by a minimum of 23.4 points.

Ole Miss at DePaul (9 ET): Have a sick interest in this game if for no other reason than I want to know how many people show up to watch it. Have to say, the fact these teams are a combined 9-2 is a welcomed surprise.

Georgetown at Alabama (9:30 ET): Best game of the night, period. Are you sure what Georgetown is yet? We do know the Hoyas take care of the ball very well. That early trend could be bucked in Tuscaloosa, though, because Alabama is on its way to being a top-five defensive team in the country. Teams are shooting a 35.7 effective field goal percentage against the Tide. Second-worst in the country.


Florida at Syracuse (7 ET): I'll keep this strictly to basketball, because I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do that one I get there to cover the game. Basically, I'm intrigued as hell. I love Bradley Beal's (right, with Billy Donovan) game. I'm still not sold on Florida's four-guard look, even if Patric Young gets his chances to play janitor when that happens. No Erik Murphy for the Gators means they're less dynamic. I like Syracuse is a really fun one. With the Orange, you're just never sure who's going to be the player that has the big game. Looks like someone's going to need to decidedly have a huge night to beat a team a lot of people like to make the Final Four.

Cincinnati at Georgia (7 ET): Car-wreck factor has be interested. When will Cinci start playing at a level that's indicative of the talent it has on this team? Georgia's in a third-gear year, I think.

Vanderbilt at Louisville (9 ET): What do you think about this one? Vanderbilt certainly not expected to win it (I haven't checked, but I'd put the Cards at about -4.5 here). Louisville's still not at full strength, nor is Vandy. Goodman's going to be at this game. I think this one adds up to little, even if it's nice in the moment. Because come late February, both these teams will have personnel on the floor that didn't play in this game. If Vandy/'Ville are vying for the 3-seed line and you want to give the winner of this the bid, by all means, but beyond that there won't be much long-term effect from this game. I think John Jenkins struggles in this one, too.

Auburn at Seton Hall (9 ET): Oh, get it out of my face, please.


Arkansas at UConn (3:15 ET): The Hogs are without Marshon Powell and so I don't see how Mike Anderson's new team keeps this within 20. UConn's due for a really impressive, really big win. I want to see how Alex Oriakhi plays in front of the home crowd in Hartford. Oriakhi's been public with this playing-time situation. UConn will grow and stumble a little more in December, but I'm betting we're putting this team in the highest echelon by New Year's Day.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee (5:15 ET): I'd call this game the biggest true toss-up of any listed here. I'm down on Pitt this year in regard to most others. A win here would be very uplifting for Jamie Dixon's team. Same can be said for Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee, who's probably still punching the pillow after his Vols couldn't steal that game against Memphis in Maui.

LSU at Rutgers (7 ET): Just a couple of truly nondescript, non-enthralling 4-3 BCS conference teams. I think I'd rather put away my summer clothes into storage.

West Virginia at Mississippi State (9 ET): The final game of the Challenge, it's the kind of game MSU should win without controversy if it wants to be top-20 caliber. WVU is down, considerably down, this season. The Bulldogs have twice as much talent on this team -- and a lot more size, even if Denis Kilicli will bruise it up down low with Renardo Sidney and/or Arnett Moultrie. The flip side: Huggins has been known to get his team to steal wins in these kind of spots.

Photos: AP
Posted on: November 15, 2011 12:37 am

Cooley's homecoming an emotional, relieving event

By Matt Norlander

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Monday night was the toughest game Providence coach Ed Cooley ever had to endure at Webster Bank Arena -- and he did it on an opposing sideline. The former Fairfield coach, who went 92-69 with the Stags (his only other job as a head coach) the past five years, saw his Friars upset -- yes, upset; the Stags were 7.5-point favorites -- the home team in front of a crowd of 6,375 people.

It was the regular-season attendance record for Fairfield. Cooley, who is beloved in the area despite never making an NCAA tournament, coming back was a large part of it, in addition to the fact Fairfield's considered an elite team in the MAAC, with Iona. 

Cooley's team played well against his former one. Twice the Friars gave up double-digit leads, but the third time they put a barrier between themselves and the Stags, it didn't get close again. Providence 80, Fairfield 72. Cooley was so relieved the game had come and the day was finally over.

“I’m so happy today’s over,” Cooley said. “Just all the dog-gone questions. It’s about the players, it’s not about me. Make it about our players.”

But it was about Cooley and about one player: Fairfield's Rakim Sanders. Sanders is the fifth-year forward at Fairfield with the NBA game who was recruited by Cooley way back when. Back when Cooley was an assistant on the grind with Boston College, working toward his first head-coaching job, which he did get in 2006 at Fairfield.

Sanders transferred out of Boston College to Fairfield two years ago. The goal was to play for Cooley, for just the one year of eligibility he'd have left. Sanders scored more than a thousand points in ACC play. The two had become close over the years, and it was believed they'd reach the NCAA tournament together. He took his mandatory redshirt season last year and waited it out, watched a Fairfield team win the regular season in the MAAC but fall in the semifinals -- at home -- of the conference tourney.

After the season, the Providence job opened up, and Cooley had to take his hometown, dream gig. Marriage of coach/recruiter and player never came to be. Monday night, it was a bit awkward, as Cooley had to coach against a kid he brought closely into his life.

“I could say a thousand things about the guy,” Sanders said. “Great guy. Just, somebody you could talk to on a personal level. Growing up without a father figure, watching how he worked, went home to his family and kids -- he’s a beautiful person.”

Cooley did his best to answer all the questions one more time, but to make it more about his current kids. He acknowledged how much Sanders meant to him, but, really, the win was more uplifting than symbolic at this point for him.

“It was an emotional day for me, all-around,” Cooley said. “Today was about Providence College. … I’m very proud of the community coming out to support both teams. I’ll forever be a part of this (the Fairfield) program."

Sanders was a monster Monday night. He looked like an NBA draft pick, scoring 25 and grabbing nine boards despite being hampered with foul trouble and only getting 28 minutes of playing time. He certainly wasn't distracted -- but his team looked lackluster when he wasn't on the floor.

“I think I focused on the game well,” Sanders said. “It was about us, and what we did. It’s not about Cooley coming back and what he was going to do. But I’m sure a lot of our guys were a little more emotional, a little more up to play. It’s like any other game, really, for me. It’s not about me -- it’s about how we played and this new chapter for us.”

What's more, it was the first Providence road win in nearly two years (Jan. 14, 2010 against DePaul), a fact Cooley was unaware of until it was pointed out to him earlier in the day. He and his team were also aware of how they weren't expected to win this game.

“I told my team. We played a veteran team, we’re young, they’re experienced, they earned that line to start the game,” Cooley said. “I definitely told my team about that. There’s no secrets, no secrets in that locker room.”

And no secrets about what Cooley meant to Fairfield, what Fairfield meant to him, and what Sanders and Cooley still mean to each other. But those relationship can continue to grow well after this season has past. The two programs got their shot at each other, the former coach one, and now everyone can move on. After seeing the body language in the hall afterward, it's definitely what everyone is ready for, almost as if this was an irritating chore that needed to be taken care of before each team's season could really begin.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 14, 2011 10:38 pm

Video: Cooley, Sydney Johnson postgame interviews

By Matt Norlander

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Ed Cooley's homecoming went as well as he could have asked for tonight. The former Fairfield and first-year Providence coach came back to Connecticut and coached his team to an 80-72 win in front of a record-setting regular-season crowd at the Webster Bank Arena.

For Cooley, it was emotional not only because he used to coach the Stags ('06-'11), but also because he coached against a player he knows well, recruited to Boston College and envisioned coaching this year at Fairfield: Eagles transfer and fifth-year player Rakim Sanders. Sanders scored 25 in the loss for FU tonight. I'll have a post up in a bit on the night for everyone involved, but here are the two one-on-one interviews with the head coaches from tonight.

First, Cooley.


Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 2:31 pm

Big East leadership questioned by coaches

By Jeff Goodman

Some guys just aren't cut out to be head coaches. They make better assistants.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto may be one of those guys.

"I firmly believe we would manage this a lot better with a different leader," said one Big East head coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He's a good man, a good right-hand man. But I think he's in over his head."

To be fair, Marinatto was thrust into an unenviable situation, following the late Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese as the leaders of the Big East.

Marinatto's resume reads as follows: A Providence kid who graduated from Providence College in 1979, then later went onto become the athletic director at the school for 14 years. He was the associate commissioner of the Big East from 2002-2009, when he took over for Tranghese.

"There's just no way it would have gotten to this point if Dave or Mike were still in charge," another Big East head man said.

One thing is for certain: Gavitt and/or Tranghese wouldn't have had the news of Syracuse and Pittsburgh's departure delivered to him in a football press box on Saturday - as has been reported to be the case with Marinatto.

"I'm not sure how it would have worked out, but it would have," a coach in the league said about the overall situation the league now finds itself.

``I doubt it," answered yet another when posed the question whether this would have occurred under previous leadership.

However, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh departing for the ACC at some point (likely prior to 2014) and UConn begging and pleading to join the exodus, Marinatto has come under fire.

While there are certainly those who are skeptical, Marinatto does still have his share of support.

"I think eventually this would have happened anyway," one coach said. "Everyone wants to put it on Marinatto, but this is a league that's been built on instability."

Now the future of the Big East - and the way it'll be comprised - is in jeopardy. Will it add a couple members to replace what is has lost - and may lose - and move forward? Or will it re-shape itself for improved long-term stability and go the route of the "basketball-only" schools, thus going hard after Xavier and Butler?

We'll see what Marinatto does - and whether his fate mirrors that of outgoing Big 12 commish Dan Beebe, who's at left of Marinatto in the photo above.

Photo: AP
Posted on: September 5, 2011 8:02 pm

Friars best scenario? Ledo never steps on campus

By Jeff Goodman

Ed Cooley had no choice. He had to go after local star Ricky Ledo.

Ledo is one of the most talented scorers in the entire country, a guy that the new Providence Friars coach can normally only dream of landing. CBSSpports.com broke the news on Monday afternoon that Ledo committed to Providence.

But, in essence, the ideal scenario for Cooley may be the following:

Ledo never, ever steps foot on campus.

``It's absolutely the best thing for Cooley," said one source extremely close to the situation.

It sounds nuts, but hear me out.

Ledo is at his fourth school - which is a major academic red flag for not only the NCAA, but also for those who track the success rate of those who have established a clear track record of instability in high school. This is his second pledge to the local school, the first coming when Keno Davis was at the helm.

Many of those who have suited up alongside Ledo aren't enamored with him because of his unwillingness to be a quality teammate - and the attitude he often displays. His pledge could wind up hurting Providence with some local targets.

Also, there are plenty who feel as though Ledo playing so close to home in the fishbowl that is Providence may be ultimately setting him up to fail. 

Ledo's record this past July, at one point, was 1-10. The last high-level guy who had a mark like that one was Renardo Sidney, and um, look what's happened with him.

Let's hope I am wrong about Ledo - and he winds up academically qualifying and buying into his role as a member of a team.

However, I'm skeptical.

Cooley has already reaped the reward of a two-week stretch in which he landed arguably the nation's top point guard, Kris Dunn, and another elite level wing in Ledo.

It's given him and the Providence program exactly the pop he needed to make the Friars "cool."

People are writing about Providence for the first time in years.

But Ledo - if he does wind up in a PC uniform - could set the program back instead of moving it forward.  

Ledo has already spent four years in high school and doesn't have a diploma. The plan is to have him get his GED, then add one core class and arrive in December or January.

I'll believe it when I see it.

And I just don't think that'll ever happen - and that may not be the worst thing for Cooley and the future of the Friars.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com