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Georgetown legends Jerome Williams, Michael Sweetney on Ed Cooley hire

Georgetown legends Jerome Williams, Michael Sweetney on Ed Cooley hire

On Wednesday afternoon, Ed Cooley was introduced as the new head coach for the Georgetown Hoyas. 

This move follows 12 successful seasons at Providence, including seven NCAA tournament bids in the past nine years it has been held and a Big East regular-season championship in 2021-22.

"I am excited for the opportunity to lead the men's basketball program at Georgetown University," Cooley said in a statement. "I plan on hitting the ground running, getting to work on the court and cultivating relationships in and around the District. Accepting this opportunity with Georgetown is not a decision I took lightly."

In an exclusive interview with John Fanta of FOX Sports, Cooley described his reasons for leaving Providence.

"When I did a deep dive of what's important — I always said yes to everybody, and I always said no to Ed. Coach Cooley did everything, but Ed needed a change," Cooley said. "I thought Georgetown was the place for me to make that change. As hard as it was because it's in-conference, and because a lot of people look at that as villainous or betrayal, I hope people give me an opportunity to serve Ed. And it sounds selfish, it sounds real selfish, but sometimes change is need on both sides and I felt for me change was needed...

"The Big East has a lot to do with the change even though it's tough because it's in-conference. I love the Big East. I love basketball-centric places. They're the recruiting fertile ground of the DMV area that expands.” 

I caught up with two Georgetown Hoya legends in Jerome Williams (a.k.a. Junk Yard Dog) and Michael Sweetney to discuss their thoughts on the changing of the guard at their alma mater and the direction of the program. 

Jerome Williams (JYD) 

Etan: Talk to me about your first thoughts on the new hire Ed Cooley for Georgetown.

JYD: "From first impressions, he hit the ball out the park. He really ushered in the alumni. He even got people like Reggie Williams commenting positivity about him taking over the reins of Georgetown’s basketball program, and that’s a long-term Hoya alumni who helped bring a national championship to the hilltop. So right now, all of the alumni, myself included, we're very excited.

"We’ve always supported every regime that has been at Georgetown since I’ve been here, and that includes Coach Patrick (Ewing), Coach JT3 (John Thompson III), Coach (Craig) Esherick. And obviously, I was blessed to have Coach John Thompson. So Ed Cooley is no different in terms of the support that he will receive from me, and the Junk Yard Dog Dogg Pound. I’m here to support this alma mater through thick and thin. But like I said, Ed Cooley’s first impression has really gone over well with everyone. And add to that — he has the resume of what he accomplished at Providence that has really energized this entire Georgetown community, with him being a Big East Champion and Coach of the Year, so that all helps. So yeah, we’re all definitely excited."

Etan: Yeah, people are really buzzing here in the DMV. This seems like this was the coach that a lot of people wanted. You heard the chatter even during the tournament before Providence lost. But the electricity around the program seems to have been reignited. Would you say that’s an accurate description? 

JYD: "Definitely, the electricity is back. When he says he wants to sell out the arena which holds 20,000 [people], that’s exactly what needs to happen. And that starts with the alumni, it starts with the students and it starts with the overall community. So that’s the key."

Etan: Now, of course, programs don’t turn around overnight and it’s been a tough few years for Georgetown just as far as wins and losses. So what would your advice be to Hoya fans as far as patience? 

JYD: "My advice would definitely be that everything is a process and Rome wasn’t built in a day. But, with the world the way it is around college sports and the transfer portal, you look at teams like Missouri, who transformed very quickly into a winning program. And that was largely due to the transfer portal."

Etan: Yeah, the transfer portal is definitely a game changer, but it’s like musical chairs; you lose four players and then you get four new players. It’s an interesting dynamic right now that we’re in with college basketball.

JYD: "That's absolutely correct. In some ways it’s damaging, and in other ways, it can be transformative."

Etan: Very true. So let’s talk about the history of Georgetown and why it’s so historically special as a program and what it means to the DMV area and really all of college sports.

JYD: "Well, it helps when the Georgetown University basketball program is in a good place. It helps all of college basketball. And Georgetown has meant so much to the Black community from what Coach Thompson has built not only as an individual for himself, not only as a program and a university, but for what he has done for other Black coaches who helped build other programs. The John Chaneys and Nolan Richardsons and countless others who he has helped open doors for, including Ed Cooley. So that’s where, when Georgetown is in a good place, they represent a larger piece to the masses."

Etan: That’s great. So are we going to see you at some of the games? Can fans expect to see you and the Junk Yard Dog Dogg Pound representing on the sidelines this season?

JYD: "Yes sir, you saw me at many of the games this season supporting Patrick (Ewing) and the program. I was able to move back to the area this year. My son [Jeremiah] goes to St. Albans now and plays for Team Takeover, so I’m here ready to continue to support the program. My daughters [Gabby and Giselle] are playing volleyball for Georgetown, so I’m here."

Etan: That’s great, and what year is your son? I’ve seen some of the clips you’ve posted on social media. He looks like he’s gonna be good 

JYD: "Thanks I appreciate that, and your son [Malcolm] as well. But my son is a little younger. He’s [in the] 2029 [class] and he is just loving the game, working hard, and getting better and better. And that’s all you can ask at this age. But let me say, thank you for writing this and showing some love to your school’s biggest rival historically."

Etan: No problem, it’s always been nothing but respect for Georgetown.

Michael Sweetney 

Etan: Okay, so how do you feel about the new hire of Coach Ed Cooley and the new direction that Georgetown is going in? What were your first initial thoughts? 

Sweetney: "Well, first let me say that it was sad for me personally to see how it went for Patrick (Ewing) these last couple of years. Winning trumps everything, and we’ve had it tough for his last few years, so I was definitely sad to see Patrick struggle the way that he did. He loves Georgetown so much and had such a special relationship with Coach Thompson, and I know he really wanted to be successful. So that part was definitely sad for me to see."

Etan: Yeah, I grew up a Patrick Ewing fan. I was a Knicks fan. I actually interviewed him on The Rematch last year. It was just an honor to be able to sit down with him. I mean, Patrick is a legend. 

Sweetney: "Exactly, I definitely feel the same way. And he’s a great guy all around. But to answer your question about the Ed Cooley hire, I think everyone is excited about what’s to come. I personally really respected the way he immediately connected with the alumni and made a concerted effort to make the point clear that he wanted the alumni to be involved, and that’s important. It’s no secret that, for a long time, a lot of the guys felt distant from the program. So for him to come in and that’s one of the first things on his agenda was to reach out to the alumni, it made a lot of ears throughout the Georgetown community perk up. It was a great first impression for all of us, so we’re all excited about that aspect for sure."

Etan: Now, I’ve heard that from a few guys that over the last decade or so, there has been distance from the program. I don’t understand why, but I’ve heard quite a few former players mention that. 

Sweetney: "Yeah, that’s pretty accurate, because a lot of guys have been feeling like that. I don’t think it was intentional. It’s just a lot of people from the program never reached out and said, 'Hey guys, come to the games,' or, 'We’re going to have this special program to bring the alumni back together and back into the fold of the program.' It was really no interaction. It was almost like, 'Hey if you want to come to the game, you have to jump through hoops.'

"Luckily for me, I had direct access. So I would just call Pat Jr. and he would always look out. But it was never anyone from Georgetown who ever contacted me and said, 'Hey, come around. We have this event.' I don’t even know if they had anyone assigned to do that — not really sure why. I don’t think it was personal. But yeah, a lot of guys felt they weren’t embraced the way alumni who have given so much to the program should be."

Etan: And what did Coach Cooley do differently? You and JYD both mentioned this, so I'm just curious. What exactly did he do? 

Sweetney: "Well, for example, he held a Zoom [meeting] just yesterday and JYD was on there. But it was just with a lot of Georgetown former players and he introduced himself to us, told all of us how honored he was to be given this opportunity for a program he has so much respect for. He was knowledgeable of the history of the program, and he specifically told us, 'Hey, I want you all to be involved. This is a family thing and whatever I have to do to make things comfortable for you all, just let me know because I want you to be a part of this entire process.'

"And a few players — I don’t want to say their names because it wasn’t a public meeting — but a few guys specifically said that, for years, they thought the program didn’t like them or respect them, so this was a breath of fresh air. So yeah, Coach Cooley definitely started off on the right foot with all of us."

Etan: You know, the DMV is really excited about the direction of the program. Do you get that same feeling? 

Sweetney: "Definitely. And a large reason for that is because Cooley is saying all the right things. And what he did at Providence, when he got there, the program was where it was, and he’s shown that he can turn programs around. He has the resume to support that, and people in the DMV are hoping that he can do the same thing here. And also, with the DMV being a hotbed as far as recruiting, it’s one of the top places in the country for high school players going on to play Division I. So hopefully, he can get in and develop those relationships in the DMV and get some of this local talent."

Etan: So you mentioned that, and that’s something else that’s always brought up. One of the biggest criticisms you hear around the DMV is that two of the biggest schools in the area — Georgetown and Maryland — haven’t kept the local DMV talent local. You saw Coach Kevin Willard came in on Day 1 last year and made a concerted effort to recruit guys from the DMV: Jamie Kaiser, Deshawn Harris-Smith and Jahnathan Lamothe. All of them are from the area.

Do you expect that same level of focus from Coach Cooley? People don’t understand the level of talent in this area, but for a long time, so many have left to play somewhere else. I just watched Jordin Hawkins for UConn light up Arkansas for 24 points last night. They’re headed to the Sweet 16 and he’s from right here and went to DeMatha.

Sweetney: "Definitely, that’s one of the things Coach Cooley mentioned. He’s definitely aware of it and he told us specifically that he wanted to focus on and develop those relationships in the DMV and get some of this local talent to stay home. And I hope that’s the case because there is so much talent in this area."

Etan: There definitely is. It’s really amazing. KD made that documentary a few years ago — "Basketball County: In The Water.” So I think that really showed the world how special the DMV is.

Sweetney: "Now, let me ask you a question if you don’t mind?"

Etan: Oh, you’re gonna take over the interview? (Laughing) Sure, go ahead.

Sweetney: (Laughing) "No, but seriously. Because we were discussing the DMV talent and I’ve seen your son Malcolm play, he is a tremendous talent and can do a lot on the basketball court. But would you be open to him coming to Georgetown? I know we’re a rival school and you’re Syracuse royalty, but 'What If' you know?"

Etan: Oh, you just gonna put me on the spot huh? (Laughing) Well honestly, and people ask me this all the time, that’s one of the reasons I did an article with Malcolm. We sat down and discussed this because so many people say to me, "So Malcolm is definitely going to Syracuse?" And I always respond with, "He’s going to whatever situation is best for him, whether that’s Syracuse or somewhere else." Of course, both his parents went there, so yes, there is history there. But I was glad to hear him echo that he wants to go to the best place for him. 

Sweetney: "So it wouldn’t be weird for you to cheer for Georgetown if he came to us?"

Etan: Not at all. Listen, I bleed Orange, make no mistake, but I genuinely want him to go to the situation that’s best for him. My situation at Syracuse worked out for me, but it has to be the right situation for him. 

Sweetney: "That makes total sense."

Etan: I mean, Malcolm grew up here. He’s a PG County kid. Although he has his love for Syracuse because both his parents went there, he grew up watching Georgetown, Maryland and all the DMV schools and surrounding schools like all of the other kids who grew up here. What do you think with your sons? I know they’re a little young now, but when they get older.

Sweetney: "It’s funny because people always say that to me too. They say they’re future Hoyas and I’m like, 'Well I don’t know, we’ll see.' But like you said, I want them to do whatever is best for them. Whatever fits their needs and their happiness. So I get it. Just had to ask you that, and honestly, that’s good to hear because your son can play. So I'm glad to hear that you’re open to it.

"But yeah, we’re in a good place as a program and going in a good direction, so I think fans can expect an entire wave of local talent coming to Georgetown and exciting times in the near future."

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