Ed Cooley was told – over and over – how difficult it would be to win at Fairfield. How there wasn’t much support from the administration and how he’d never win with the Stags.
Well, Cooley and his team currently sit at 22-5 overall and 14-2 in the MAAC – having already clinched the regular-season crown with a three-game lead over second-place Iona.
``They are as committed as anyone,” said Cooley, a former assistant under Al Skinner at BC and Rhode Island. ``They want to win.”
They just haven’t done much of it.
In fact, Cooley has two of the six 20-win seasons in program history.
And, as long as he sticks around (he could become a hot commodity), it’s likely he’ll add another next season.
But first let’s take a look at what he’s done this year:
He lost his top big man, Anthony Johnson (16.1 ppg, 9.8), who graduated a year ago. Jamal Turner transferred and projected starting guard Sean Crawford tore his ACL on the first day of practice.
Then Greg Nero, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 boards per game as a sophomore, called it a career after eight games this year due to chronic fatigue.
But Cooley has one of the best mid-major point guards in the nation in Derek Needham, whose numbers (14.4 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.1 rpg) don’t tell the whole story of his impact.
``His numbers aren’t what people want them to be, but they’re what I need them to be,” Cooley said.
Needham is the leader, but the supporting cast (Ryan Olander, Warren Edney, Maurice Barrow, Colin Nickerson) is solid – and all except for senior Yorel Hawkins will return next season.
``These are great kids and they believe,” Cooley said. ``
In addition to BC transfer Rakim Sanders, Houston transfer Desmond Wade and a three-man recruiting class that includes talented forward Adam Jones.
``No one’s giving Rakim and Desmond credit, but we’ve got to play against them every day in practice,” Cooley said. ``They are tough.”
And so is the current group, which has lost just twice since Thanksgiving and finishes with Siena at home on Friday and then the regular-season finale at Iona on Sunday.
Then comes the MAAC tourney – which will be held at Fairfield this year.