Everything Ed Cooley said after Providence basketball exits NCAA tourney with loss to UK

It’s the end of the road for the Providence Friars.

No. 11 seed Providence fell to No. 6 seed Kentucky 61-53 on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament first round at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Friars were held to a season-low 53 points, and head coach Ed Cooley’s team shot just 21-for-58 (36.2%) from the field in defeat.

Kentucky won the game on the glass, and largely thanks to the contributions of star big man Oscar Tshiebwe.

Tshiebwe secured 25 rebounds in the game, which set a single-game NCAA Tournament record for a Kentucky player.

As a whole, UK outrebounded Providence 48-31 and the Cats also had an 18-8 edge in offensive rebounds.

UK had 18 second-chance points compared to just two from the Friars.

After the game, Cooley and Providence players Jared Bynum and Ed Croswell met with the media in Greensboro, N.C.

Here’s everything they said, including comments from Cooley about his coaching future at Providence given recent rumors about Cooley potentially becoming the head coach at Georgetown.

Opening statement (Ed Cooley): First, we want to give Kentucky all the credit. It was a well-played game, low-scoring game, a defensive game. I thought that was the best defense we played in about a month. You know, we didn’t capitalize on — we didn’t capitalize on some of the mistakes they made, and they capitalized on ours.

At the end of the day the game was won on the backboard. When you look at that, game, set and match. Plus-17 on the glass, 18 offensive rebounds. That’s the game right there. Take everything out, you limit them to one shot. You know, five or six of those, it’s a different game. They made the plays they had to make to win the game.

In this tournament, it’s do anything you can to advance, and that’s what they did.

Very proud of our players. I’m proud of our grit. I was proud of our toughness. We just couldn’t overcome our lack of offense. We had some open shots we missed early.

Credit them. I thought their length was somewhat bothersome around the rim, but I thought we had open shots we made all year. This may have been the lowest point production we had all year as well.

You know, I’m very proud of our guys. Especially Jared and Ed that’s here on the dais being here with me three and four years respectively. They won a lot of games for us. They played in back-to-back tournaments, so I don’t want them to put their head down because we lost a game. We’re still winning the game of life, and hopefully we have an opportunity to get back here next year.

Providence Friars head coach Ed Cooley reacts in the first half against Kentucky during the NCAA Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina.
Providence Friars head coach Ed Cooley reacts in the first half against Kentucky during the NCAA Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina.

Q. For the players, when Tshiebwe picked up his fourth foul going out there, did you feel like that was an opportunity for you to make a run? Looking back, how was it not able to capitalize on that?

ED CROSWELL: We just continued to play basketball, and at that point we were just trying to put the ball in the hoop. It didn’t matter if he was on the court or not, but we were just trying to get something going to put some points on the scoreboard.

JARED BYNUM: I thought we had a lot of opportunities to make a run throughout the game. I mean, you know, their best player comes out, you think you have an even better chance. I felt like we had a lot opportunities. A couple of shots we usually make didn’t go down. We played through a lot, and then, you know, you could say if this shot goes down, this happens, or this person comes out, this happens, but at the end of the day I felt like we had a lot of opportunities.

Q. Ed Croswell, obviously we knew that Oscar was going to be a problem. What is it like to go against him off the glass?

ED CROSWELL: I mean, he just gets the ball, man. He is a world-class rebounder. You know, you have to box that guy out. Two, three people. You know, he really displayed his dominance on the board today.

Q. Just the kind of frustration to not advance this year after what you went through last year.

JARED BYNUM: Yes, you know, it’s a lot of frustration. At the end of the day I feel like we had a good year. We made it to the tournament. We had a lot of naysayers throughout the year after we dropped a couple of games, and I couldn’t be more proud of the group this year for what we did and what we overcame and what we accomplished.

Everybody doesn’t get the opportunity to play in the tournament at the end of the day, and we had that opportunity, so I’m grateful for that. You can say you wish you could win this game and all that, but you have to embrace the moment at the end of it.

Q. This question is for Coach, but players can chime in also. When you see somebody like Tshiebwe, you know he is a great rebounder, but the guy gets 25 boards. We’re told that’s the only time it’s been done in the last 40 or 50 years. Were you surprised by his rebounding prowess, even knowing what you knew about him?

ED COOLEY: No, it’s not the first time he had 20-plus rebounds in a game. He is an elite. He was the national player of the year for a reason, and his defensive and offensive rebounding was probably the number one reason why he was awarded that last year. He is very quick to the ball. He has a knack for the ball.

Sometimes you just have an “it,” a la Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace. Those guys just have an “it” for it. Some guys have an “it” to score. Some people have an “it” to pass. He has an incredible “it,” an elite “it” to rebound.

I think the players did a great job trying to prepare for it. You know, he is quick. He is long. He is athletic. You know, credit him. It’s not like we were out there not trying, so I think it’s double the credit to him.

Q. Ed, will we see you on the bench with the Friars next season?

ED COOLEY: Next question.

Q. Is there a chance that this was your last game as a coach at Providence?

ED COOLEY: You know, guys, there’s all kinds of rumors and speculation, and I know you guys are trying to do your job. I get it. But after a game like this, I just think it’s fair to talk about our players. I think it’s fair to talk about the game.

That, man, I’m right here right now. I think those are very hard questions when you just are going off of speculation. You’re doing your job, but it’s about this game, and it has nothing to do with my future or my present.

Q. To the players, what’s it been like to play for Coach Cooley these last few years and what are the memories that you’ll take from these years going forward, whatever your next stop is?

JARED BYNUM: It’s been a blessing to play for Coach Cooley and the coaching staff we have at Providence. I don’t feel as a transfer I was looking for a home coming in, and they embraced me for who I was and who I was going to be at the end of the day, and they helped shape me into the man, into the player that I am today. So I’m going to be forever grateful.

I feel like this is like a second family to me. I spent a lot of time in Providence. Just not even on the court, but just around the coaches, around the coaching staff, around the players, around everybody that’s part of the program. It’s been a blessing. I’m just very appreciative of the opportunity that Coach gave me. Coming here and recruiting me. I just get emotional thinking about it’s going to be some — it’s going to be a long time probably after the season until I see him again, but, you know, I’m just going to be forever grateful for Coach and everybody around the program.

ED CROSWELL: I want to take this time to appreciate Coach Battle and Coach Cooley for taking a chance on me. I’m a kid that didn’t have a lot of offers coming out of high school, and to see that Providence College took a shot on me and believed in my abilities to get to this level playing like this is like a dream come true. I wouldn’t expect nothing like this to happen.

I’ve built a good community up in Providence College. You know, teachers, everybody, my teammates. I love them all, man. I appreciate all the hard battles that we went through, Providence College, and it’s just been a wonderful opportunity here for me and my family.

Q. This is for you, Coach Cooley. It does look like you’re holding back a lot of emotion at the podium. No matter what happens after today or the future, what is it about this team that is so special to you that kind of has you holding back tears right now?

ED COOLEY: When you get into coaching, you try to change people’s life. I didn’t get into coaching for money. I didn’t get into coaching for recognition. When you see these young men grow, where Ed Croswell, where Jared Bynum is coming from, all the guys that we have had an opportunity to coach to get to this moment and then you hear the words of family, care, taking care of people. When you are a true guardian of the game and represent the Big East in college basketball, that’s the most important thing to me.

Both these young men will be graduates. Every player we’ve ever coached for four years have graduated. As much as I wanted to win this game not just for our players and not just for our school, for our community, our city and state, that means to me more than anything. When you can change people’s lives and give them hope and give them opportunity and they’ll walk across the stage with a degree, as much as all of us want to win, they already won. That’s what’s holding me back. That’s what I care about.

There will be some people frustrated because we lost. I tell them to grow up because we still have 18- to 22-year-olds, and when they understand the seat that we sit in in leadership and you can change people’s lives, that’s what it’s about.

Everybody wants to win. Give the credit to the teams that do win and advance, but don’t forget how hard it is to get here, but appreciate the ones that are leaving.

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