by John Torsiello
In his four seasons at Fairfield, men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley has posted a 67-61 overall record, including a 23-11 mark last year, making it the fifth 20-win season in school history and the first since the 1995-96 campaign. The 23 wins are the second-highest win total in school history.
Cooley also led the Stags to their first post-season berth since the 2003 season, and their first post-season win in more than 30 years. In that victory, Fairfield set an NCAA Division I post-season record for biggest comeback in history when the team erased a 27-point second-half deficit to defeat George Mason in overtime.
Cooley’s 67 wins are the most by any Fairfield men’s basketball coach through the first four years of their career, and he became the first Fairfield men’s basketball coach to post a .500 or better record in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play in each of his first four seasons. The Stags own a 43-29 record in conference play since Cooley took over the helm. The 13 wins in 2009-10 equals the most MAAC wins in a season for the Stags, joining the 2002-03 (13-3) and 1985-86 (13-1) teams for that honor.
In recognition of his achievements, Cooley was the recipient of the inaugural Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award, initiated last year by CollegeInsider.com and presented annually to the top minority men’s basketball coach in the nation. It is named in honor of Ben Jobe, who coached at a number of historically black colleges but who is best remembered for his 12-year tenure at Southern University.
Fairfield University Magazine: What was your reaction to winning the Ben Jobe Award?
Ed Cooley: It certainly meant a lot to me, as well as for the University community to be recognized for the diversity initiatives it has implemented. I was very honored and humbled to have myself and Fairfield University attached to the award. It says we are doing things right here.
FM: Are you pleased with the direction of the men’s basketball program?
EC: Yes. We are definitely headed in the right direction, while we continue to learn from where we came from.
FM: How has the support been from the University administration?
EC: I’m very happy and appreciative of the support school President (Jeffrey P.) von Arx and the rest of the administration have given us. They have made some fundamental commitments to our recruiting, which has allowed us to put kids in situations where they can attain life success. It’s been a pleasure to work with Father and (Athletic Director) Gene Doris.
FM: Your team was a pre-season pick to win the MAAC. Does that put pressure on your team to succeed this year in a big way?
EC: Somebody is picked first and somebody is picked last each year, so you have to deal with expectations no matter where you are picked to finish. At the end of the day, we want to win all our home games and be really competitive on the road. We understand we will have to be ready to play for those three great days at the end of the regular season.
FM: The MAAC Tournament is being held at The Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Will that be an advantage for your team?
EC: The tournament has been held at Siena for the last three years and it was a huge advantage for them. We hope it will be an advantage for us and that we will be able to use that advantage.
FM: How does the team look?
EC: We’re chomping at the bit and ready to go. We have a great group of players led by people like Derek Needham ’13, Yorel Hawkins ’11, Desmond Wade ’12, and Ryan Olander ’12. We’re getting Greg Nero ’11 back from injury and we have a nice freshmen class coming in that hasn’t experienced regular season games but will hopefully mature as the season progresses. I do know this team is working as hard as any team I have coached and we have a good mix of chemistry and talent.
FM: How important is chemistry to a team?
EC: You need talent but developing the proper chemistry – and that is the job of the coaching staff – can win you some ball games where you might not otherwise have come out on top.
FM: How does the MAAC look?
EC: Probably as competitive as it has been since we have been in the league. Siena is the defending three-time champ and until somebody beats them they remain the champions. Iona will be good, and Canisius and Loyola have lots of seniors and will be tough tests for us. We definitely have our work cut out for us.