Providence College basketball coach Kim English will make his league debut against Tyler Kolek. Ed Cooley and Rick Pitino will return to the place where they rose to coaching fame and the defending national champions will round out the regular season.
Those were the highlights of the Big East men’s basketball schedule released on Friday morning, as Providence sits barely three months away from opening its 20-game conference slate.
“This league is special because of the size, the speed, the physicality,” English said during the conference’s online schedule release show. “The guard play is a separator. And the coaching in this league is second to none.”
The Friars will host defending league champion Marquette on Dec. 19 to tip off a three-month run to March. The Golden Eagles swept the regular season and tournament titles in 2022-23 behind Kolek, a Cumberland native who brought home league Player of The Year honors.
That will double as the first conference game for English at Amica Mutual Pavilion. He’s coming off two years at George Mason and will be expected to keep Providence on its recent run of NCAA Tournament and postseason appearances. Season and student tickets have long since sold out for all 10 league home dates — the majority of those were gone by the end of May.
Cooley comes back to his home city with Georgetown on Jan. 27. He left the Friars after 12 seasons, seven NCAA bids, a first Sweet 16 in 25 years, the school’s first regular-season title and its second conference tournament title. Cooley’s departure to a conference rival — the first such coaching move in this league — left bitter feelings that are certain to surface on that Saturday.
Pitino led Providence to its second Final Four in 1987 and will be back with St. John’s on Feb. 13. He’s built a Hall of Fame resumé in the four decades since he helped the Friars embark on a storybook ride with Billy Donovan playing point guard. Pitino and the Red Storm will be expected to reach the top half of the league in his first season.
Connecticut closes the regular season for Providence with its March 9 visit, an occasion that is likely to double as Senior Night. The Huskies cut down the nets in Houston last season, claiming a fifth NCAA championship in program history. Dan Hurley has restored UConn to blueblood status after prior rebuilds at Wagner and the University of Rhode Island.
“It’s no secret sauce,” English said. "We’re going to do things the hard way. You have to in this league because it’s just so good.”
The Friars open league play with three straight home games and have an extended break around the Christmas holiday — Dec. 23 against Butler, Jan. 3 against Seton Hall. That could make for an ideal start under English, who counts veteran talent like Bryce Hopkins, Devin Carter, Josh Oduro and Ticket Gaines among his key pieces.
“It’s everything to have Bryce return to us, to have Devin Carter return to us,” English said. “To have two all-league guys as staples in our locker room — two guys who have played at a high level in this league — helps everyone.”
Specific times and broadcast assignments will be made public at a later date. The schedule builds to the annual Big East Tournament, which will be held March 13-16 at Madison Square Garden. Providence was eliminated by the Huskies last year in New York and eventually finished a four-game losing streak with a March Madness loss against Kentucky.
PROVIDENCE BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
19, Marquette; 23, Butler.
3, Seton Hall; 6, at Creighton; 10, at St. John’s; 13, Xavier; 17, at DePaul; 24, at Seton Hall; 27, Georgetown; 31, at Connecticut.
4, at Villanova; 7, Creighton; 10, at Butler; 13, St. John’s; 17, DePaul; 21, at Xavier; 28, at Marquette.
2, Villanova; 5, at Georgetown; 9, Connecticut.
On X: @BillKoch25
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Rick Pitino, Ed Cooley, Dan Hurley among the coaches coming to the AMP