Ed Cooley had a standout collegiate career at Stonehill College, spent nine years as Al Skinner's assistant at Boston College and is currently in the process of turning around Fairfield's program in his third year at the helm.
Surprisingly, one of his "greatest" accomplishments on the basketball court has slipped his mind.
Almost exactly 22 years ago, Cooley pumped home 26 points to lead the Central Knights to a 78-36 thrashing of the Barrington Eagles -- as evidenced by the above, accompanying box score from the following morning's Providence Journal. (I don't have the exact date, but I recall it being shortly before Christmas). And one of the players he drove and shot around and over that night was yours truly. We were both juniors on our respective teams.
(Now, something must be pointed out here: My rather paltry, 5-point effort that night was the lowest scoring output of either my junior or senior year. In fact, it was one of only five games over both seasons where I failed to hit double figures (I have the box scores to prove it). I could post the 30-point effort against Cranston East, or the 25-point night against East Providence, as examples, but I won't. Won'te even mention them. Oops, sorry, too late.)
But enough about me.
Ed Cooley was as good as it gets in Rhode Island high school basketball at the time. In fact, he was a two-time R.I. Player of the Year. A 6-4 shooter, I always felt he could have played at a higher level than Stonehill, but that's where he wound up.
And his Central teams were something to behold, as well. One of his teammates the following year as Abdul Abdullah, who'd go on to become the standout point guard/assist machine at Providence College.
When reminded of that game in December, 1986 in our conversation a couple of days ago, Cooley couldn't recall.
"Barrington was pretty good, weren't they?" he offered.
Actually, we missed the playoffs that year, but the following season (behind 17 ppg from a 6-3 center named Borges) we went 12-6 and advanced to the state quarterfinals. In Class B, however; Central played in Class A, and might as well have played in a different universe. The night they came to town was a classic case of an inner-city school waltzing into a suburban gym and wiping the floor with the home team.
I forgive Cooley for forgetting his team's rather routine drubbing of my team 22 years earlier. Talking to him the other day, he's just as entertaining and engaging in conversation as he was impressive on the basketball court back in the day.
Here's what he had to say about UConn, who hosts Fairfield Friday night at 7 p.m. at the XL Center:
"I’ll give you a scouting report: They’re good ... We're really excited about Friday. Our kids will be confident, loose, focused. We have everything to gain in those type of games ... We have a hell of a task. We need Santa to sprinkle a couple of baskets our way ... We're going up against a Hall of Fame coach, probably the No. 1 pick in the draft in (Hasheem) Thabeet. Watching him on tape over the last two years, he has really developed. They have veterans, (A.J.) Price is a special player. I recruited Jerome Dyson myself at BC. To see him overcome some adversity and play the way he did against Gonzaga was great to see."
Cooley said he believed Dyson's final college choice came down to BC and UConn.
"I was Roseanne Barr on that date," he said. "It doesn't matter who comes in second, you're either my bride or ..."
"Or Roseanne Barr," I offered.
"Or Roseanne Barr."
Cooley's Stags are 2-0 in the MAAC and 8-3 overall, their only losses coming against Virginia Tech, Missouri and Memphis. In the latter game, Fairfield became just the second team since John Calipari took over to shoot 50 percent (24-for-48) from the floor on the Tigers' home court. It didn't help that they were outshot from the foul line, 30-12. Expect something similar against the Huskies, who average 18.6 more free throws per game than their opponents.
***Nestled between UConn's come-from-behind, overtime win over Gonzaga last Saturday in Seattle and Monday's Big East-opener against Georgetown, this could be the proverbial "trap game," according to Jim Calhoun.
"This game is a dangerous one," Calhoun said. "Ed has done a phenomonal job with his team and they are playing really well. This is probably the best in-state team we will face, going back the past 8-10 years. They have seniors and juniors in their lineup that are experienced, and they have played against us in this environment, so they will not be intimidated."
"We will have to play well," Calhoun added, "and I think our guys realize that, especially after the experience at Buffalo (a narrow, 68-64 win), which is a very similar type of opponent."
***Following the Gonzaga game, the Huskies traveled back to their respective homes for Christmas, but had to celebrate early. They're back in Storrs tonight (Christmas Eve) for practice, and have another one tomorrow on Christmas Day.
***There will be several common bonds out on the XL Center floor Friday. UConn associate head coach George Blaney’s son, Brian, is one of Cooley’s assistants. And Mike Evanovich, a 6-9 junior forward and transfer from Iowa State, is the brother of Justin Evanovich, a former UConn walk-on who’s now a graduate assistant for the Huskies.
"I have to ask (Evanovich's) parents, Dolan and Sue, who the hell they're cheering for, where's the love?" Cooley joked. "His mom will probably root for us, but his dad works at UConn, so ... That mortgage has got to get paid."
*** This is the only game on the Division 1 docket on Friday. Originally slated for Saturday, the Huskies asked to switch it when the Big East schedule came out and had them playing Monday night against Georgetown.
***Who sang "Tall Cool One?"
***Merry Christmas, everybody.