“We just want to show people that we can do something here and prove people wrong and make Providence a better place.”
Um, yeah OK coach, whatever. Sounds great. Heard that before. Believe it when we see….Wait…what? What’s that now?
Kris Dunn said that? Of course he did.
Somewhere late Wednesday night, deep in a momentarily quiet corner of Alumni Hall, Ed Cooley sat back in a chair and conjured up his best George Peppard inspired Hannibal Smith, smiled half a smile as he bit down on an unlit stogie and allowed himself to think ‘I love it when a plan comes together’. This week’s events in FRIARTOWN have elicited many emotions but one thing for sure; surprise is not one of them. The signs were there all along.
On March 23rd as the once proud Providence College Friar Men’s Basketball program teetered on the brink of shameful irrelevance newly hired coach, Ed Cooley, stood there at the podium, looked the Friar faithful in the eye and revealed his plan. He didn’t beat around the bush either. Cooley talked about things like being the most dominant team every year, winning the Big East and doing it the right way, with the right players…..The right way, with the right players.
Matter of fact Coach Cooley used the word ‘promise’. He promised us all that last Wednesday was going to happen, and that it was just going to be the first step, albeit a major one, in that plan.
There is a saying in business ‘Under promise. Over deliver.’ What business school did Ed Cooley go to? How could he stand up there in that situation, with all that had occurred over the last three years, and say those things? Well, there is also a saying, ‘Do what you say you are going to do’.
Delivery of, at least, very solid recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013 was (and is) paramount for Cooley if he were to deliver on his promise. Enter Andre LaFleur, future head coach, and key recruiter of so many of those UCONN players who never cease to win while blazing a path to the NBA. Cooley had a plan and it centered on Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo.
As of the time of this post Ledo has yet to make a college decision and, although things appear to be very positive for the Friars especially with the Fox Providence report on Thursday night that a PC verbal is imminent, it is certainly not a foregone conclusion that he will choose PC.
Clearly, and as we will explore a bit further, Ricardo Ledo remains a key figure in all of this but Kris Dunn’s decision, in true fashion, set the tone.
PROVIDENCE FRIAR BASKETBALL IS BACK!
How did the plan unfold and what were the signs you ask?
Of course, one cannot put all of one’s eggs in one, or in this case two baskets. Shortly after Ed Cooley took the reins, there were various names associated with PC recruiting and it seemed as though they were all guards: Semaj Christian, Ian Baker, Kareem Canty, Carlos Morris and Javonte Hawkins to name a few. Very good players all, and players who would have helped Cooley accomplish his goal of building a high level talent base for the future.
However, all along it had been readily apparent that Dunn and Ledo represented the Friars’ top recruiting priorities. This had nothing to do with ranking. Dunn had not yet even blown up nationally. In fact, Cooley & staff had a relationship with Dunn dating back over a year when they started recruiting him at Fairfield. They simply believed Kris Dunn was the right player, and person, for this situation.
Dunn and Ledo comprise an obvious beast of a backcourt that any coach would covet, but there are certain intangibles that make it seem to work here in Providence the most. They compliment each other and seem to have the perfect make up both as individuals and collectively to buy in to what Cooley is trying to do and understand where this thing can go with them on board and at the forefront.
Dunn is the consummate point guard. A leader. Pass first floor general who defers the spotlight. Long as an Adrian Gonzalez homer. Handles and quicks for weeks. Steady, composed and thoughtful. A proven winner.
Ledo is the ultra-talented hometown kid who can relate to Cooley, and vice versa. 6’6” shooting guard and matchup nightmare that can flat out score the ball. A willing face of the resurrection.
Yes, Ledo previously decommitted from PC, has his doubters nationally, maybe a chip on his shoulder too. Formula for motivation. Someone who perhaps needs and wants a structured, family-like atmosphere, and is more likely to flourish in one.
It was all about the right players, the right way. Coach Cooley was just doing what he said he was going to do. Sticking to the plan.
As for the other recruits, PC hung in with them and them with PC for awhile. Some even named the Friars in their ‘Top X’ lists along the way. However as time went on it was apparent from the players’ actions and some of the recruiting news that PC had backed off. Christian verbally committed to Xavier in late July as Canty, who was also wooed by Xavier, waivered back and forth and entertained new suitors. Baker publicly dropped PC on his list and noted it was because he had not heard much from them lately. Not so coincidentally both Baker and Morris (also high school teammates) verbally committed to South Carolina on Wednesday, shortly after Dunn made his announcement.
And so on. The writing was on the wall. Providence had to be feeling pretty good about the relationships they had built with Ledo and Dunn to put the brakes on basically every other guard recruit. Of course this was no time to sit back and relax. In fact, it meant going harder and being visible to these guys, and that’s what they did. Since committing Dunn has been quoted heavily about what it meant to him to have PC coaches at all of his games during the summer live recruiting period.
It got complicated though. Dunn kept playing like Dunn, and the nations’ coaches took notice. Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette to name a few. We have definitely been down this road before. PC identifies a talented player early on and builds a relationship only to see the player get swept away with stars in his eyes when the big boys come calling.
But this was the right player. The key to everything was to find someone willing to make that first move. That first move against the grain. Kris Dunn.
Much like the point guard we will see on the court, a year before he will take dribble one on what is sure to be a pulsating Dunkin Donuts Center floor, Kris Dunn did what he does best and became a catalyst. Catalyst for the 180 of a program. That’s what leaders do. They make the right decision, even if it is not the sexiest one, without fan fare. They take ownership. They step up.
And guess what happens next…..
The signs are all there.
*Kris Dunn quote cited from ProJo.com ‘Analysis: With Dunn commitment, Cooley makes a loud statement about PC’s future’ by Kevin McNamara