PROVIDENCE – If Providence College basketball fans are wondering if the relationship between the head coach and star player has shifted gears based on all the preseason attention that Kris Dunn has received to date, the redshirt junior seeks to set the record straight.
To summarize, it’s still business as usual between Dunn and Friars head coach Ed Cooley. All of the hype and buildup surrounding Dunn has not skewed the lines of communication between the program’s two most important pieces.
“The relationship hasn’t changed. We’ve always had that bond, that connection. That’s the reason why I came (to PC),” said Dunn during a recent 1-on-1 interview. “To be honest, coach Cooley has my back. He makes sure no one keeps me off-track. He knows I love the game of basketball and that’s what he wants me to keep focusing on, but also the education part. That’s what’s going to help once the basketball part stops.”
Said Cooley, “I think we have a very good relationship and it’s continuing to build. The older you get, the stronger it grows because of trust. He’s shown that he can run a team and that he’s mature.”
Despite the calendar displaying a mid-September day, college basketball’s hype machine is in full spin cycle when it comes to compiling watch lists. Friar followers need no reminders about the talent the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Dunn possesses, yet it seems he’s no longer a regional or Big East secret any longer.
From earning a spot on Blue Ribbon’s All-America team to being touted by Sporting News earlier in the week as a Preseason All-America second-team selection, Dunn is well on his way to entering the season as a marked man. Surely seeing one’s name in bright lights long before the first game is grounds for boosting one’s self-confidence. But as usual, Dunn is electing to take everything in stride.
“Not at all,” said Dunn when asked pointblank if all of the praise he’s received already has in any in any way shape or form changed him. “When people see me I’m still going to be the same person … goofy, smiling, laughing and humble. I have a great support system at home. We know the objective is to stay focused and respect the process. That’s all you can do. You can’t let anything else stand in your way.”
This was said with no obvious braggadocio, simply a statement of fact from a young man who in one way or another has never been able to completely avoid the spotlight’s glare. The only difference this time is that the jumping-off point to the conversation has nothing to do with the McDonald’s All-American tag that accompanied Dunn’s arrival to Providence, or coming back from major injuries.
It has to do with how Dunn is adjusting to life as a known commodity of the highest order. In the eyes of Cooley, Dunn is handling everything just fine.
“I think Kris has blocked all of it out. He’s just trying to have the best possible year he can have,” said Cooley. “Hopefully he can lead us to another Big East championship and continue to develop as a student and a player.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03