Providence Friars head coach Ed Cooley is in the damn building — that building being, of course, Chicago’s United Center, where the Friars will face top-seeded Kansas tonight in the Sweet 16.
Cooley has led his team to a fantastic run this postseason after losing to Creighton in the Big East semifinals — the four seed has handled South Dakota State and Richmond and is preparing to face their biggest challenge yet, and they’re embracing the thrill.
When in Chicago, who better to channel than the GOAT himself? Cooley recreated a scene from the ESPN limited series “The Last Dance,” which followed Michael Jordan and the ‘90s Bulls through their dynasty years. If you can remember to way back at the beginning of COVID, when we were all beginning to go a little stir-crazy, one man and his incredible permed mullet grasped the hearts of the nation with his appearance in the miniseries, in which the security guard beats Jordan in a casual game of quarters in a back room at the United Center and shrugs his shoulders to the camera. This moment, incidentally, led to one of the greatest SNL skits in years.
In what appears to be a very similar room in the Bulls’ home arena, Ed Cooley plays a game of quarters in a high stakes gamble for deep dish pizza. When he wins, he gives the camera that legendary shrug.
“Guess I got lucky.”
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“Lucky” has been used time and time again to describe Providence’s success throughout this season and tournament after several close games ended up going their way. Luck may have something to do with it, but that term diminishes their ability to finish games when it matters. Whether they can do it against a blue blood like Kansas — well, we’ll find out tonight. Cooley and the Friars are more than ready to prove the country wrong.
Cooley has been the head coach at Providence since 2011, and this is the Friars’ fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament under his tenure. But despite making a semi-regular appearance, they’ve never made it past the round of 32 under Cooley until now. The last time they made it this far was an Elite Eight appearance in 1997 — before any current player on the team was born.
They have one high-profile believer, at the very least — Patriots owner Robert Kraft lent the Friars one of his team airplanes to fly family members and friends out to Chicago for the tournament (let’s hope the NCAA doesn’t find some sort of violation they can pin on that offer).