Cox intro

David Cox, left, the new head coach of the University of Rhode Island men's basketball team, acknowledges applause from the crowd, including athletic director Thorr Bjorn, second from left, President Dr. David M. Dooley and media relations coordinator Shane Donaldson, during a press conference announcing Cox's new position on Friday at The Ryan Center.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN - As he stepped to the podium, his photo beaming from televisions on the wall, a standing ovation still going, David Cox tapped into a piece of his own advice.

“Let me do what I tell the players to do in a big game prior to a big free throw,” Cox said. “Let me take a deep breath here.”

Seated to his right, University of Rhode Island President David Dooley and Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn may have been tempted to do the same. It had been a whirlwind two weeks since Dan Hurley departed for Connecticut, a stretch worthy of a sigh of relief.

“I was spending a lot of time on the phone, as my wife Cyndy will attest to,” Bjorn said. “That pacing in the bedroom - we always have to replace the carpets up in our room when I go through a search, because I do pace back and forth quite a bit.”

In the first two rows of the crowd, returning players breathed a little easier.

“Emotion, excitement. We’ve been waiting for this moment now for so long,” sophomore Jeff Dowtin said. “I’m just so excited to put this behind us and get ready to move on.”

And the dozens of fans and URI staffers in attendance caught their breath after sending up their loudest cheer of the morning, reserved for a man who’s already part of the family.

“This is my dream job,” Cox said. “I’m honored and humbled to be the head coach of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team.”

Cox was officially introduced during a press conference Friday morning in the Ryan Center Alumni Lounge. The 44-year-old native of Landover, Maryland, was on Hurley’s staff for four years, the last two as associate head coach.

After Hurley’s exit, Bjorn embarked on a nationwide search with the help of Dooley and a committee of URI athletic department staffers. Interviews of four finalists were conducted Tuesday. Cox got the job Wednesday and signed a five-year contract Thursday worth $700,000 per year.

“I think Thorr could not get his phone from his ear in the days after Dan Hurley’s announcement, with agents calling and saying, ‘My guy is very interested in this job. We think it’s a great job,’” Dooley said. “When we announced David Cox, you should understand thoroughly that this wasn’t a decision that just happened automatically. Coach Cox came in and he earned everything.”

Bjorn said the process was vastly different than his first men’s basketball hire at URI, when Hurley was plucked from Wagner to rebuild a moribund program. Now the Rams are coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, runs that put the program back on the map and launched Hurley to one of college basketball’s most storied programs.

“We had probably 25 or 30 coaches that I talked to on the phone, agents, representatives, people that want our job,” Bjorn said.

As soon as the process began, Bjorn told Cox he would be a finalist but didn’t guarantee anything else, even as Cox was tasked with running day-to-day operations of the program while the search was ongoing.

“All he did over those next 10 days is act like a head coach,” Bjorn said. “He made sure he ran this program and that our student-athletes were assured that everything was going to be fine - not only that, but ensuring that they’re working out, they’re going to class, they’re taking care of business. He made sure our recruits knew what the plan was. No matter the case, he handled that with incredible integrity.”

Those 10 days and Cox’s experience with the program the past four years provided a solid foundation. His final interview did the rest.

“He impressed everybody who was in the room with him with his vision for URI basketball, with his thoughtfulness,” Dooley said. “He impressed everybody with his character and integrity, which we knew we could count on.”

The vision is to keep URI on its current trajectory. Every player who’s slated to return was in attendance for the press conference, except for redshirt-freshman Michael Tertsea, who had a class.

“It was a long process, with coach Hurley leaving,” said freshman guard Fatts Russell. “Coach Hurley really means a lot to me personally. I really love coach Hurley. It was tough for me to see him go, but with this coach Cox hire, I’m solid.”

“I’m happy. My teammates are happy,” sophomore Cyril Langevine said. “It was a tough process, waiting 10 days to hear it. We’re happy. It’s going to be fun.”

Recruits Jermaine Harris, Tyrese Martin and Dana Tate - the nucleus of a nationally ranked class - all tweeted their support for Cox to get the job in the last week. The fourth recruit, Brendan Adams, has asked for a release of his letter of intent.

“Prior to Danny leaving, I think it was known that he was a pretty popular coach and he was going to be highly sought after,” Cox said. “We spent quite a bit of time over the last month or two just bracing [the recruits] for the possibility. When the transition occurred about a week ago, I went down to see those guys personally, just to assure them it’s a transition phase, but we would love for them to remain with us and that there was a possibility that I would be the head coach.”

Cox said he will retain assistant coach Tyron Boswell and will work quickly to assemble the rest of his staff. Whatever the final product, Cox envisions a similar brand of basketball

“We’re going to be the aggressors,” he said. “It’s very important that we dictate and not be dictated to, at both ends of the floor.”

Cox will make a base salary of $300,000, with an additional $225,000 in gate receipts, $125,000 for athletic department appearances and $50,000 for media obligations. Performance-based bonuses are also included.

Bjorn said possible program enhancements pitched to Hurley when he was weighing his options - including a practice facility and charter flights - remain on the table, though they were not written into Cox’s contract.

“I want to sit down with Dave and say, ‘What’s the next important thing for you?’” Bjorn said.

Cox closed the press conference by thanking Bjorn, Dooley, Hurley, his former mentors and the family that he called his “original team.” His wife, Tasha, and children Leila and Jacob were seated alongside a full cast of family members. Cox jokingly offering a scholarship to Jacob, who’s in middle school.

“To a young man in the class of 2024, a really sharp guard at Westerly Middle School,” Cox said. “As the coach, I say, ‘You should take that now.’ As the father, I say, ‘We’re going to make him sweat it out.’”

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