Why Cox was the correct choice to be the 20th head coach in URI men’s basketball history
The news broke the morning of March 22 that Dan Hurley would be packing his bags and heading west to Storrs, Connecticut to lead the University of Connecticut Huskies. For the first time in six years, the University of Rhode Island will have to turn elsewhere to find leadership and integrity at the helm of its men’s basketball program. After a two-week search national search, Rhode Island didn’t have to look far to find the right guy for the job. That man is David Cox.
Cox was officially announced as the new head coach this past Wednesday. Considered by many to be the next “coach-in-waiting,” Cox has been a pivotal member of Hurley’s staff since joining the program in 2014. His strong recruiting ties to the Washington D.C area, including bringing in the likes of Jeff Dowtin and new recruit Jermaine Harris, has brought premier talent into a program that made consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in almost 20 years.
Glancing at his head coaching resume may deter those who blindly observe wins and experience as the defining features. Cox only has three games under belt as a head coach, compiling a 3-0 record at Rutgers in Dec. 2012 filling in for then suspended head coach Mike Rice Jr. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Georgetown from 2007-2010 and the associate head coach at Rutgers from 2010 until 2014. This will be Cox’s first head coaching gig at the collegiate level, a welcoming challenge.
But look past experience and tenure and look at Cox’s track-record at finding and coaching elite talent. Cox has found and coached NBA level talent at the AAU level, coaching the likes of Nolan Smith, Dante Cunningham and Michael Beasley. At Georgetown he coached big-men Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe, college stars and NBA starters. As the associate head coach at Rhode Island, in addition to Dowtin and Harris, Cox helped bring in Stanford Robinson from Indiana and recruited Fatts Russell and Tyrese Martin. While Harris and Martin have not yet suited up in a Keaney blue uniform, together with Dana Tate they make up a top 25 class in all of college basketball. One would hope as long as Cox is the guy in Kingston, the talent will continue to pour in.
Cox is also no stranger to success. At the AAU level with the Washington D.C Assault, he helped guide the team to the under-16 National Championship in 2004. At Georgetown he helped coach the Hoyas to two NCAA Tournaments and a No. 2 seed in the 2008 tournament. At Rhode Island, in addition to the consecutive tournaments, Cox has had his hand in guiding the Rams to their most successful four-year stretch in program history. Simply put, the guy knows how to win.
Perhaps, in my opinion, the most important reason why Cox is the right man for the job is not because of any accolades or secret strategies for success, but because he will continue the legacy that Hurley built. It’s all about continuity for the Rams. The legacy has been laid out for the program moving forward. The transition from a fan base to a culture has already begun, and a new head coach from the outside strips that away and rebuilds it.
When you have a program where it was prior to Hurley leaving, one that included winning Atlantic 10 titles, competing for national relevancy and maintaining a core of great players on and off the court, the best thing you can do is continue on what that program was building upon. Cox’s relationship with the players, coaching style and overall demeanor carries on that legacy that Hurley and staff built.
Time will tell if Cox will go down as a program legend or a program pariah. The last time Rhode Island promoted from within saw Jerry DeGregorio compile 12 wins in two seasons, a total whiff. However, the first move Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn made for the men’s basketball program was hiring Hurley, a home-run hire. Bjorn made the call again and took his time in making sure he chose the correct fit for a program that will continue to knock at the doorstep of success. I think I can speak on behalf of the many Keaney blue when I say that Bjorn made the right choice, and I look forward to seeing Coach Cox on the sidelines where Hurley once stomped his feet.