Coach Cooley: A Role Worth Modeling
That Providence College basketball has turned to a native son to turnaround it’s troubled program is not new news, but Kevin McNamara’s piece in today’s ProJo about new PC basketball coach Ed Cooley is one worth reading. He had a tough family life but was lucky to know a family that helped him out. Above all else, though, was his focus and drive.
To ease his mother’s burden, Cooley lived with the Searights off and on from the time he was 10 years old. He says he “never remembers not having a job. I was sweeping the sidewalk in front of Popular Market at Broad and Warrington when I was 9 years old. I helped at the Laundromat next door, too.”
By the time he enrolled at Central in 1984, Cooley was a budding hoop star. His mother had left Elma Street and moved into the Wiggins Village housing project, just around the corner from Central. Eddie moved back in with his mother, brother Timothy and two younger sisters, Margaret and Gloria.
In school, he credits an English teacher, Paula Milano, with steering him to the Upward Bound program at Rhode Island College. In his junior and senior years, he went to RIC for five hours every Saturday for classes and spent six weeks over two summers living on campus.
“Eddie was always focused on his education,” said Mariam Boyajian, the director of Upward Bound. “He was this big basketball player and his friends were all about being cool and the street but he handled all of it well. He found out that if he could do it here with us, he could do it in college.”
He moved onto college and worked his way into the coaching ranks. Now, back in Providence, he’s ready to accept the responsibility of turning around the the basketball program. And people are looking to Cooley to do more:
Cooley turns left onto Prairie Avenue, looks out over a wide expanse of playgrounds and says, “All this was projects. It was a tough spot. Roger Williams projects.” Up on the right sits Roger Williams Middle School, now one of the lowest-performing schools in the state.
As he tries to sneak past a group of kids waiting for a bus, the lone adult in the pack waves down his truck, “Cooley, I’ve been trying to get you!” He asks what’s up and she says, “You need to come in and talk some sense into these kids. They all show up to school with a ball under their arms and no books.”
To be sure, in the short term, Cooley is focused on his program. Yet, I think it’s safe to assume that Cooley will continue to be more to his hometown than just “Coach.”