"I have had the opportunity to spend some time with Ed and I believe he is the right person to lead our men's basketball team," Father Brian Shanley, Providence's president, said. "We conducted a thorough search and during that process Ed Cooley was the coach that consistently met our selection criteria."
Cooley hadn't signed a contract as of Tuesday, but he said he was going through the process of telling the Fairfield players and parents that he was leaving.
Cooley led Fairfield to the MAAC regular-season title earlier this month and a second-round appearance in the NIT after losing in the MAAC tournament semifinals to eventual champ Saint Peter's. Fairfield finished 25-8 overall, 15-3 in the MAAC.
"Ed Cooley did a great job rebuilding Fairfield into a consistently strong program," Providence athletics director Bob Driscoll said. "Each season his team showed improvement and the win totals increased. Throughout this process he used hard work and dedication, and that is part of what makes him a good fit for Providence College.
"I saw knowledge, passion and commitment that is necessary to lead our men's basketball program."
Cooley arrived at Fairfield in April of 2006 after being one of the top assistants to Al Skinner at Boston College.
Davis was fired at Providence after just three seasons. He was hired following his one and only season at Drake where he led the Bulldogs to the Missouri Valley regular-season and conference tournament title.
Cooley takes over a Friars' program that finished 15-17 overall, 4-14 in the Big East and will lose its best player in senior Marshon Brooks, who averaged 24.6 points and seven rebounds per game.
Cooley played at Stonehill College and coached as an assistant at Rhode Island. He is an in-state success story, working his way from a poverty-stricken background as one of nine children to his mother Jane Cooley in downtown Providence to a college graduate and then a major college head coach.
Former St. John's coach Norm Roberts is expected to be one of the top candidates to replace Cooley at Fairfield. The Stags return one of the top guards in the MAAC in Derek Needham and add BC transfer Rakim Sanders for the 2011-12 season.
Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.