Georgetown hires Ed Cooley from Providence to fill men's basketball coaching vacancy

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Ed Cooley, who has resurrected Providence College into a regular NCAA Tournament participant, is moving to Big East rival Georgetown, the school announced Monday.

Cooley, 53, replaces Patrick Ewing, Georgetown’s most famous basketball alumnus whom the school dismissed after the Big East tournament.

Cooley was 242-153 in 12 seasons at Providence, reaching the NCAA tournament seven times in the last nine years it was held. The Friars went 21-12 this season, losing to Kentucky in the tournament’s first round.

Cooley has been linked to the Georgetown opening since Ewing was let go on March 9. Iona men’s coach Rick Pitino and Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry were also mentioned as possible candidates for the job.

Cooley quickly emerged as the front-runner on the strength of his ties to legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. Cooley is a Providence native but grew up rooting for Thompson and the Hoyas. Thompson played his college basketball at Providence.

Providence coach Ed Cooley reacts during the first half of his team's NCAA men's tournament game against Kentucky at Greensboro Coliseum.
Providence coach Ed Cooley reacts during the first half of his team's NCAA men's tournament game against Kentucky at Greensboro Coliseum.

“I was more a John Thompson fan than I was a Hoya fan,” Cooley told USA TODAY Sports when Thompson died in 2020. “In our community, all young, Black males wanted to go to Georgetown because we could identify with the coach. There weren’t many Black coaches that we as youngsters could look up to.”

Thompson coached at Georgetown from 1972-1999, compiling a 596-239 record, reaching three Final Fours with Ewing as his star player and becoming the first Black coach to win an NCAA men’s basketball national title. He was followed as the Georgetown coach by longtime assistant Craig Esherick and then his son, John Thompson III. Ewing replaced Thompson in 2017 and was 75-109 in six seasons.

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Cooley first met Thompson when he was at Providence Central High in 1987 when Thompson’s team practiced at Cooley’s school before it played Providence. When Cooley later became an assistant coach at Boston College, they started to establish a relationship as Cooley attended meetings of the Black Coaches’ Association. When Cooley became head coach at Fairfield in 2006, he began to call Thompson to pick his brain and ask him questions.

According to Cooley, “the flood gates opened up” in their relationship when Cooley got the head coaching job at Providence.

“Coach was a very private man, yet he was loving, very caring,” Cooley told USA TODAY Sports in 2020. “We had a great relationship. I would call and just check on him as his son, John Thompson III, he and I became pretty close friends as well as competitors.”

Cooley spoke of a sometimes daily communication with Thompson when he was at Providence. He says his daughter, Olivia, who is now a senior at Georgetown, would always go say hello to the elder Thompson before games.

"He taught me a lot about the business side of college athletics," Cooley said. "He taught me about giving kids opportunity but also being real to who you are as the man inside and not just following what is being said vs. challenge the status quo and make things better for the people in your organization."

Cooley has reached as far as the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament after the Friars won the Big East regular season title last season. They won the Big East Tournament title in 2014.

"I deeply appreciate Coach Cooley’s immense contributions to the men’s basketball program and to the PC community over the past 12 years,” Providence president Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard said in a statement. “Friar fans everywhere will be forever grateful for this period of sustained excellence in our program, and I personally will continue to have the highest regard for Ed."

Georgetown won a Big East tournament title in 2021 under Ewing but compiled only 13 combined wins the following two seasons, leading to his dismissal.

Cooley had total compensation of just more than $3.75 million at Providence during the 2020 calendar year, according to the school's most recently available federal tax records. That amount includes all forms of compensation, including bonuses paid and the value of perks and other benefits. The school reported his base salary as $3.15 million and his bonus pay as $322,500.

Contributing: Steve Berkowitz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ed Cooley hired by Georgetown from Providence as basketball coach