The 6-9, 246-pound senior has ratcheted up his game from a seldom-used freshman to a first-team All-Big East performer and a consistent double-double threat.
He's been a major factor in Notre Dame's recent postseason run, especially in the last two seasons. He's led the seventh-seeded Irish (25-9) into tonight's East Region game against 10th-seed Iowa State (22-11).
And it's those postseason team achievements, rather than his impressive individual accomplishments, that make him stand out, coach Mike Brey said.
“I'm proud of it, with the consistency of our program to have his class be the first in 23 or 24 years to do it every year.”
The Irish last had this kind of streak when they went to six straight NCAA Tournaments from 1985-90.
“He's probably spoiled,” Brey said. “Our seniors are spoiled a little bit because not a lot of people live like that. Jack came to us as a young guy when we had some good older players. He learned a lot from them.
“Then he was able to carry us to NCAA Tournaments. He certainly had a big hand in it this year.”
Cooley has averaged 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds this season. That's a huge jump from his freshman year, when he averaged 1.0 points and 1.8 rebounds. He's had 19 double-double games this season, although none in the last four games.Iowa State averages nearly 10 three-point baskets a game, the best in the nation. Coach Fred Hoiberg gives his players a green light to shoot and they take full advantage.
“It's great,” guard Korie Lucious said. “At any position, at any time of the game, all five guys have the ability to shoot the three. Coach gives us all confidence, and we all have confidence in each other.”
When the three-point shot doesn't fall, Lucious said, the Cyclones find other ways to score.
“We'll get the ball down low, get to the free throw line, and try to get stops on defense,” he said. “But hopefully the threes are falling because that's what we like to do.”Notre Dame's new bright green uniforms have generated plenty of attention.
“It was kind of love or hate,” guard Jerian Grant said. “Some people loved them. Some hated them. There was really no in-between.”
Added Cooley: “I could tell a lot of people weren't telling me the truth when they said how they felt about them.
What do the players think of them?
“I like them because they're different,” Grant said.
Notre Dame will wear white uniforms tonight.Brey has led the Irish to nine NCAA tourney appearances in his 13 seasons, including four straight and in six of the last seven seasons. He is 6-10 in the NCAA tourney as a head coach.
Brey has a 285-141 record at Notre Dame, 384-193 overall. That makes him one of the most successful of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's former assistant coaches who have gone on to run their own programs.
What's his secret of success?
“Maybe one advantage I had was playing for (DeMatha coach) Morgan Wootten and then coaching with him. I played under (former George Washington coach) Bob Tallent, who was a Kentucky Adolph Rupp guy. Then I played for (another former George Washington coach) Gerry Gimelstob, who was a Bob Knight guy. So I probably had more experiences other than Mike Krzyzewski.
“His preparation was the ultimate for me and I'm forever thankful because he hired me. He let me get my hands on everything. I really let me be ready to be a head coach.
“But I had more than just a Duke background. I think that was helpful.”