'Cox or bust' fans rejoice

New era of optimism for URI basketball

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A new era has begun for the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball program. On Friday afternoon, David Cox was named the 20th head coach in program history, and there is quite a bit of optimism surrounding the move.

As a current junior at the University and a born and bred Rhode Islander, I chose URI because of the proximity to my home in Warwick. But also, like most drives across the state, the 20-minute drive was enough to persuade my mind into thinking I was far enough away from home.

What I didn’t know about making my decision to come to URI was the obsession I would grow to have with the school’s athletic department and sports teams. There is a specific sense of pride that I didn’t take into consideration while choosing between the likes of Emerson College, Quinnipiac University and URI. Seeing your home state striped across the chests of teams competing in the NCAA Tournament was not something I thought I would get so much satisfaction out of.

Fast forward to today, as I am about to enter my senior year in the fall. That fandom has not withered, if anything it’s grown. My sophomore and junior year I had been spoiled to see the likes of the school’s men’s basketball team not only make it to the NCAA Tournament but win a game in each of the last two seasons. That certainly helped my passion for my school grow.

Growth doesn’t just stop after a couple trips to the “Big Dance.” True growth occurs when no matter what coach is stomping up and down the sidelines, or what student-athletes are dawning Keaney Blue the fan base, primarily the students, continue to show up. That what makes Cox becoming the next head coach so important: fans have stayed bought in.

If you checked social media over the past two weeks since the departure of Dan Hurley, a majority of Ram fans were on the “David Cox or bust” bandwagon, to which I can’t blame them. Cox comes with recruiting connections and a deep sense of understanding of the program, having served as Hurley’s associate head coach the past two years. With Cox at the helm, for now, Rhode Island’s fan base is beaming with optimism.

The last two years have been some of the best in the program’s history. As much as Hurley deserves credit for being at the helm of the turnaround, Cox cannot go unnoticed. Hurley had the name, attitude, voice and eventual resume to bring Rhode Island to the highest of the high.

Cox did exactly what he should have done and more as an assistant and eventual associate head coach. He developed relationships with the players that are so strong that every men’s basketball student-athlete that is eligible to play next year was at his introductory press conference.

Cox was the lead recruiter on both Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell, a frontcourt combo that should control the Atlantic 10 for the next two seasons. Hurley is respectively so credited with building the foundation for the state of URI hoops, but Cox drew the blueprint.

I was excited when the move was announced last week that Cox would be the next man in charge. However, I became even more optimistic thanks to one line he said in his introductory press conference.

“This is my dream job,” Cox said.

I know that this was something he said while caught in the moment, but I really think he was telling the truth. This is a coach that started in AAU and high school coaching and built his resume brick by brick. Making stops at Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Rutgers before coming to Rhode Island. Rhode Island is the first school to take the chance and give him the keys to the kingdom.

Buy into the culture that Hurley created and is now reinforced by Cox. Rhode Island basketball is back on the map and I don’t expect it to go anywhere.

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