By Vin Parise
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Ed Cooley grew up in Providence watching Rick Pitino and his beloved Friars advance to the 1987 Final Four. Fast forward 25 years and Cooley’s first ever Big East win as head coach of Providence is against Rick Pitino and his 14th ranked Louisville Cardinals. And it’s worth noting, it was the largest margin of victory Providence has ever had against a ranked opponent. And coincidentally, Providence just happened to honor that ‘87 Friar team at halftime last night.
It is without question a night Cooley will always remember.
“To grow up down the street and then to have a night like this is something I’ll never forget,” Cooley proudly told me last night after his Friars pounded the Cardinals, 90-59.
Pitino on the other hand, will quickly try to erase last night’s disaster from his mind. Pitino received a mixed ovation of cheers and heckling during the introductions, received a technical midway through the 1st half and sadly didn’t come out for the halftime ceremony honoring his ‘87 team. The night was specifically picked because Pitino would be in town.
A Providence official said Pitino was supposed to be part of the halftime ceremony but entered his locker room and did not return until the start of the 2nd half.
Pitino, however, was only concerned with his apparently overrated team which is now 1-3 in Big East play.
“There’s always one game in the season you can’t explain,” Pitino lamented. “Nothing goes right, everything goes wrong and they do everything right.”
“This is such a great night for the kids and our fans because we’ve obviously been struggling,” Cooley said after the 31 point win.
The night was obviously all about the Friars, but both coaches kept the season and the big picture in perspective. And the future Hall of Famer Pitino couldn’t say enough about Ed Cooley.
“Ed Cooley can win big here at Providence,” Pitino told me at the morning shootaround. “He knows this city and all the challenges of the job. Look at the job Kevin Willard is doing at Seton Hall — they’re Top 25 and that job is just as challenging as Providence. Ed has already beat me out for my top recruit so he’s got me sold.”