Ed Cooley has been the Providence College basketball coach for just over a month, but he wasted little time making clear where the Friars' Big East rivalry lies.
Monday night, during Providence's end-of-season banquet, Cooley officially announced new associate head coach, Andre LaFleur, who until last weekend had spent the last decade working for Jim Calhoun, and had been instrumental in landing many of UConn's biggest recruits.
While Cooley's introduction was your typical "We're excited and fortunate to have someone like LaFleur join our program," the head coach also told the audience, “we took him from the devil and brought him to God.”
I'm sure Calhoun got a good chuckle out of that. Or, more likely, Calhoun will somehow find a way to use it as motivation for his team next season (assuming, of course, he comes back).
In all seriousness, it's an innocuous comment from a new head coach who, if anything, sounded like he was trying to inspire a group that hasn't seen much in the way of quality basketball in recent years. Cooley comes to Providence from Fairfield where he amassed a 92-69 career record, and finished first and second in the conference the last two seasons.
Providence, on the other hand, is now on its sixth coach since 1986, the year Calhoun came to UConn. The Friars haven't had a winning season since 2008-2009, and last made the NCAA Tournament in 2003-2004.
So there is room for improvement. And while X's and O's are important, recruiting is the life blood to sustaining a big-time program. That's where LaFleur comes in.
“I could tell that Andre was looking for a different challenge,” Cooley said, according to the Providence Journal, “So he became a priority. … Andre and I will be a deadly combination out there recruiting.”
LaFleur reiterated that it was no easy decision to leave UConn. “[Calhoun's] the coach that I committed to when I was in high school,” LaFleur said. “We sat there and hugged each other. He said, ‘You’re like a son to me.’ I told him he’s like a father to me. It was tough.”
But there is no doubt that LaFleur is now focused on the Friars. “I’ve been here for a couple days now, and this school and this city hired the right person,” he said. “If you’re committed to winning, you’re going after the best players in the country and that’s we’re going to do. We think this is the right time for this program, and we’re ready to shock a lot of people.”
It's not parable, but it gives Friars fans something they haven't had in some time: hope.