On March 20, 2023, Georgetown announced Ed Cooley as their next men’s basketball head coach, ending his 12-year tenure as head coach of the Providence Friars. The announcement came weeks after Georgetown and former head coach Patrick Ewing parted ways after six years.
When he arrived on the Hilltop, Cooley was ready to hit the ground running. When asked in an interview with the Voice how long it took for his new situation to feel real, Cooley said, “March 22, 2023. It became real, and man, did we get right into it.” March 22, of course, was the day of his introductory press conference.
The hire was groundbreaking in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it was a major assertion by Georgetown Athletics that they want to return Georgetown men’s basketball to its rightful place among the great programs in college basketball. They would not have paid Cooley what is rumored to be a top-10 contract in the entire sport by annual salary if that was not the case. Secondly, it is very uncommon for any BIG EAST basketball head coach, or any other conference’s coaches, to leave town for one of its in-conference peers. This fact should not be taken lightly—it’s something reporters flocked to ask Cooley about on BIG EAST Media Day, and something Hoya fans can expect to hear ad nauseam throughout the course of this season.
Cooley has coached as either an assistant coach or as the head man at six different colleges since 1994. This will be his 18th year as a head coach. He has compiled a 334-222 (.601) head coaching record throughout his career, and led the Providence Friars to appearances in seven of the last nine NCAA tournaments.
He comes to the Hilltop with an excellent track record of rebuilding programs that have gotten off track. In his first head coaching job, at Fairfield University, he took the Stags from a record of 13-19 in year one (2007) to a 25-8 record in year four. He replicated this success at Providence College, where he took them from 15-17 in year one (2012) to 22-13 and an NCAA tournament appearance in year three.
Suffice to say, Cooley has been in the business a long time. In the past, he has talked about his admiration of Georgetown legend John Thompson Jr., but when it comes to learning how to lead and build a program, Cooley attributes a lot to former Boston College coach Al Skinner. (Cooley was an assistant of his at Boston College from 1997-2006.)
“This now being the fourth organization that I’m part of, rebuilding from basically the roots up, that has incredible tradition and legacy. I’ll carry some of those things that Coach Skinner taught me, and what I’ve learned along the way as a leader myself,” he said.
As for his approach to his opening days on the Hilltop, he recognizes the need to be patient. “I need to first learn what Georgetown is as an employee. I know what it is as a parent, given that Olivia [Cooley’s daughter] graduated this year,” he said.
Through the portal, of which Cooley is a known savant, and through the high school ranks, Cooley has built a roster with very few holdovers from last year. That being said, this rebuild is going to take more than just success on the court, and Cooley knows that. It will also take community engagement and culture-building off of it.
“Being part of the community is important to me,” Cooley said. “Making sure that we grow every single day and, you know, we’re meeting new people. Well, on the court, does it continue to get better every single game? Let’s not look at our win-loss, but are we getting better with our culture? Are we getting better with our transparency, with our alignment infrastructure? That’s going to sustain success.”
While Cooley’s long-term goal is a holistic rebuild that may not wholly materialize this season on the court, there will certainly be a difference in how the team plays this year. There’s a saying in the college basketball world that teams play like the coaches that lead them. This will be true of Georgetown under Cooley’s staff as well. “Discipline is a staple. Toughness, energy, connection, and enthusiasm. Those things will also be staples of our organization,” he said.
Given the men’s team’s recent struggles, many are craving instant success and contention. But, similar to his previous stops at Fairfield and Providence, Cooley is looking to build a program with staying power, not a flash in the pan. While Cooley said that the Georgetown program is “different based on the history and the tradition” from ones he’s rebuilt in the past, those advantages don’t mean it’s going to be a quick process.
“It’s not gonna happen overnight. I can’t preach patience enough. I know our fans, our students, our alumni, and our supporters want instant success. But at the end of the day, the process is what it is and we’re going to go through it,” he said.
Cooley ended the interview with a message for the Georgetown community, and particularly the students, on what is to come.
“It is my hope that our students give us an opportunity to grow together, to come to the games no matter who we’re playing, but cheer for what we’re doing,” he said. “Come with some energy, enthusiasm. It is our goal to try to get 4,100 students per home game. Everybody’s saying, ‘Okay, are we going to win?’ Do you win first, then be supported, or do you support and then win? I think it’s a balance of both, and playing in the number one conference in the country is going to take us some time, but I need everybody to buckle up, put their seatbelt on, and let’s go through this rocky beginning together.”