College – New Mexico
Former NBA player and WNBA champion coach Michael Cooper is entering his fourth season as Head Coach of the Atlanta Dream. Cooper was a five-time NBA Champion as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, and led the Los Angeles Sparks to two WNBA titles as the team’s head coach.
Cooper is one of the most successful coaches in WNBA history, ranking sixth in career winning percentage (.616) and fourth in career victories (218) entering the 2017 season. He is the last WNBA head coach to have led his team to back to-back league titles, winning the 2001 and 2002 championships in Los Angeles.
In his first season in Atlanta, Cooper led the Dream to the team’s first-ever No. 1 seed for the playoffs, after the team finished the regular season with a 19-15 record. It marked the sixth time in Cooper’s nine seasons as a WNBA head coach that his team finished the regular season atop its conference standings.
Cooper came to the Dream after spending four seasons (2009-13) as the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Southern California, compiling a record of 72-57 (.558). Prior to that, he had two stints as head coach of the Sparks, amassing a record of 167-85 (.663) over eight seasons (2000-04, 2007-09), including a 25-13 (.658) playoff record. He guided the Sparks to three Western Conference titles and reached the conference finals six times.
After one season as an assistant coach for the Sparks, Cooper took over as head coach in 2000 and in his first season, led the team to a 28-4 record while being named the WNBA Coach of the Year. He then guided the team to WNBA Championships in 2001 and 2002, and reached the WNBA Finals again in 2003 before losing to Detroit. His second stint with the Sparks included two more trips to the Western Conference Finals in 2008 and 2009.
Cooper’s association with Los Angeles started when he spent his entire 12-year (1979-90) NBA career with the Lakers, helping the “Showtime” Lakers to five NBA titles (1980-82-85-87-88). Known for his defensive prowess, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team eight times – including five first team selections – and was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1987.
Cooper finished his career ranked in the Lakers’ top 10 in games played (873), minutes played (23,635), 3-point field goals (428), steals (1,033), blocked shots (523), assists (3,666), defensive rebounds (2,028) and free throw percentage (.833). He also spent one season playing professionally in Italy in 1991 with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma.
Following his playing career, Cooper served as a special assistant to Lakers general manager Jerry West for three years before joining the Lakers’ coaching staff for four seasons (1994-97). Cooper ended his first stint with the Sparks to return to the NBA in 2005 as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets, and spent part of that season serving as interim head coach. He then became the head coach of the NBA Development League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds for two seasons (2005-07), winning the NBA D-League Championship in 2006 and posting a 50-48 (.510) regular-season record.
Cooper attended Pasadena (Calif.) High and then Pasadena City College before starring at New Mexico, where he made the All-Western Athletic Conference first team as a senior in 1978. He was selected to the Lobo Hall of Honor in 1992.
Cooper has also been recognized for his community efforts off the court. During the 1985-86 season, Cooper, along with New York’s Rory Sparrow, was selected by the Pro Basketball Writer’s Association as the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. Cooper was also honored with the Commitment to Excellence Award during the 2007 Los Angeles Sports Fans Choice Awards