clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Syracuse Basketball: History Will Not Be Kind To Trevor Cooney

You could say that Trevor Cooney's legacy will be cemented based on what happens in the next couple weeks, but it's more likely that Syracuse fans have already made up their minds about him.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few days a lot of e-ink has been spilled on the topic of Trevor Cooney. Brent Axe pondered how Syracuse Orange fans will remember him. Jesse Dougherty presented a profile of a player whose work ethic cannot be questioned but whose results always are. Our own James Szuba riled up Orange fans simply by defending him.

You could say that Cooney's legacy will be cemented based on what happens in the upcoming ACC Tournament and, Boeheim-willing, NCAA Tournament. Then again, barring a Gerry McNamara-esque run where he single-handidly carries the Orange to an ACC Championship and beyond, its more likely that everyone's mind is already made up about the three-year starter.

Cooney has unquestionably been a leader on and off the court for the Orange this season. He's put in more time in the last two years than any other player (basically averaging 37 minutes a game both seasons). He scored in double-digits more often than not, netting 27 against North Carolina and 22 vs. Notre Dame. He's also the rare guy who played to the end of his eligibility and sacrificed countless hours to win every game for Orange fans. On paper, you'd think he was destined to a post-SU career full of standing ovations, handshakes, and adulation.

But all of that exists not just on paper but for paper. It's the kind of information that fills up the press notes and helps color commentators talk up why a guy is special to an audience who doesn't know him. Its the kind of information that people like me can use to pepper a column in an attempt to defend Cooney or at least provide justification to offset his detractors.

Unfortunately for Trevor, a lot of Orange fans don't go by what they read on paper, they go by what they see with their own eyes.

They say that people see what they want to see. If you don't want to like something, your brain blocks out the good things about it and focuses on the bad ones. Its why two people can look at the same thing and see it entirely differently. When it comes to Trevor Cooney, many SU fans made a decision about him a long time ago, making up their mind about who he is and what he's capable of. And quite frankly, he hasn't done himself many favors to dissuade them.

While one person can point out his exploits against Notre Dame, the opponent he's battered for 33 points and 22 points on separate occasions, another person can counter, "So what? It's Notre Dame. What did he do when it mattered?" True or not, our image of Cooney when it matters is what sticks out because its an image of him falling short of greatness.

He was doomed from the start when Jim Boeheim put the ball in his hands in the closing seconds of the 2013 Final Four game vs. Michigan. A bench player with a grand total of 38 minutes in the NCAA Tournament (most of which was garbage time), Cooney shouldn't have been in the game, let alone been the one taking the desperation shot to try and win it.

As a redshirt sophomore, he put up gaudy numbers early in the year but saw his scoring numbers plummet into single-digits by the time mid-February rolled around. After a solid performance in the first game of the NCAA Tournament, he disappeared in SU's loss to Dayton.

In his redshirt junior year, his best stretch was mid-December to mid-January and while he didn't drop off nearly as much as the previous year, he also didn't put up the same numbers come February and March. In the final six games of the season he made more than one three-pointer only once, all the while attempting six, eight, or nine a night. There would be no postseason for a chance at redemption.

Finally this season, his last in an Orange uniform, where that old pattern reemerged. He scored in double-digits in all but three games from the start of the year to mid-January. From there, he's been inconsistent. He'd have an so-so night, follow it up with a 19-point game, and then follow that with a three-point stinker. After a good performance against Louisville, he went 5-for-30 from three-point range in SU's last four games of the regular season.

This time, he gets a chance to rewrite the story with an ACC Tournament run. However, there aren't many Orange fans holding their breathe.

There are legitimate reasons for Cooney's rep, earned or unearned. While he played for a Final Four squad in his first season on the court, each successive Syracuse squad has been less talented or less deep than the one before it. Syracuse was ineligible to go to the postseason last year but would have been an NIT team anyway, the first for Jim Boeheim since 2007. This year's squad is planted firmly on the bubble and has battled serious depth issues, riding Cooney and Gbinije to the point of exhaustion. Its little wonder his production drops off towards the end of the year. He basically puts the team on his back in the early goings while everyone else figures out their game.

There's the truth and there's perception, however, and you can speak all the truth you want about Cooney's influence on teammates, his defensive prowess, and his ability to help create offense for others. Perception-wise, however, his reputation as an inconsistent shooter who is a non-factor when the team needs him most overrides all of it.

There's another reason SU fans soured on the shooter: his predecessors. You cannot deny that Cooney came to Syracuse as the latest version of a type. The lanky white kid who shoots three-pointers. We'd already seen Jason Cipolla, Marius Janulis, Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins. The problem for Cooney is that they all became more consistent as their careers went on. G-Mac left SU with 400 three-pointers and a 35.3 three-point shooting percentage. Rautins didn't make nearly as many but he shot 37.4% from three. Devo was even better at 37.8%.

Cooney came into this season as a 32.9% career three-point shooter and and while he's bumped it up to 33.1% he's still behind his predecessors (not to mention guys like Preston Shumpert (37.8%), Demetris Nichols (35.8%), and Janulis (39.9%)). As of the time of this writing, Cooney's shooting percentage is the lowest of any Orange player in the top ten of three-pointers-made and is on par with Brandon Triche and Jason Hart, two good players not remembered specifically for their three-point prowess.

All of this is not to say that Trevor should not be remembered fondly because while the on-court results might have frustrated us more times than we can count, there has to come a time when you appreciate his efforts. Tyler Ennis, who spent a grand total of seven months at Syracuse University, is likely to be remembered more fondly than Cooney despite the fact that Trevor gave five years of his life to the program, the university, and especially the fans. His reputation as a tireless worker and trainer (perhaps to his detriment) cannot be denied and he's done plenty of great things off the court for the community while here.

Not to mention that, to be perfectly honest, he seems like a chill guy. Whereas Gbinije can seem like he's trying way too hard to project a certain type of persona, Cooney seems more "what you see is what you get." I mean, you can't show up with that neckbeard day in and day out and care all that much what people think about you.

My fear is that Cooney will disappear in the ACC Tournament, the Orange will play things out in the NIT or flame out in the NCAA Tourney and he'll end up the face of a disappointing season once more. I'm rooting for him to prove everyone wrong and go out guns blazing. But my perception of him colors how realistic I think that result might be.

However his Syracuse career ends, once the dust settles and the emotions fade, I hope that Orange fans take to him as an ambassador for the program like so many guys before him. It's rare to have a player represent the program for an extended period of time these days and, missed-threes-aside, he's been a great representative. You can question the results, but I don't think Orange fans can question the effort. Hopefully that's what we remember in the end.

But I'm not sure we will.