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Ed Cooley, Providence College’s basketball coach, receives a key to the city

While the Friars didn’t end up advancing to the Elite 8, Cooley was named the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year and was honored by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza on Tuesday.

A ceremony was held at Providence Career & Technical Academy to honor Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley (right). Mayor Jorge O. Elorza (left) presented him with a key to the city.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Providence College men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley was presented a key to the city of Providence by Mayor Jorge O. Elorza on Tuesday.

Elorza was joined by former state senator Harold Metts — who was Cooley’s high school basketball coach at Central High School — at Providence Career & Technical Academy for the presentation at 1:45 p.m. Providence Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez, students, and other community members were also present.

“I’m overwhelmed... This is something you don’t even think about,” said Cooley to the packed auditorium. “I’m honored to be here, not just as the Providence College basketball coach... But as a Roger Williams Middle School graduate. And as a proud, proud Central High School graduate.”

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Cooley smiles as he enters his former high school. Cooley was given the key to the city by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Cooley led a scrappy team this past season to secure the school’s first-ever Big East regular-season title. The Friars made it all the way to the Sweet 16 — all while national pundits already had written them off.

“Why not the Friars?” Cooley asked reporters prior to the team boarding the bus that would ultimately bring them to the Sweet 16 in March.

But Cooley, a local icon who has been credited for rallying the entire state of Rhode Island coming out of the pandemic, knows what it’s like to be the underdog.

Cooley grew up in South Providence in the 1980s and had to sneak into the Civic Center to catch a PC game because he couldn’t afford a ticket.

“Each generation takes it to the next level,” Metts said. “Ed, you are to be commended... You are an asset to our community.”

Elorza said Cooley has “deep roots in this city, and those roots are only growing deeper.”

Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley (right) with his former basketball coach, former state senator Harold Metts (left) on Tuesday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Now, on campus and off, Cooley is a celebrity. Now, he’s known to amp up every rowdy student section, waving his arms whenever he isn’t shouting plays.

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While the Friars didn’t end up advancing to the Elite 8, Cooley was named the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year. He’s the first Providence coach to receive the award after the Friars tied their second-highest single-season record at 27-6. Cooley also earned Big East Coach of the Year honors.

Jared Bynum, a senior guard at Providence College, said “there is nobody else better to receive this award other than coach.”

“This award... It’s not my award, it’s their awards,” said Cooley of the individual honors he’s received over the last year, including this key to the city. He encouraged students at Providence schools to try to fail as it’s the “only way to succeed. “As young men and women, I need you to dream big. I don’t [just] want you to be a mayor or superintendent. I want you to be president. I want you to be CEO.”

“Don’t ever, ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something,” he said. “Keep fighting and keep trying.”

“I am from the streets of Providence,” he said. “And I am proud to be from the streets of Providence.”



Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.