College – New Mexico
Former NBA player and WNBA champion coach Michael Cooper is in his third 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 L.A. Sparks to two WNBA titles as the team’s head coach.
One of the most successful coaches in WNBA history, Cooper enters the 2016 season ranked third in career regular season winning percentage (.628) and fifth in career regular season victories (201). He is the last WNBA head coach to have led his team to back-to-back league titles, winning the 2001 and 2002 championships with Los Angeles.
Cooper became just the fifth coach in WNBA history to record 200 career victories during the 2015 campaign.
In 2014, his first season in Atlanta, Cooper led the Dream to the team’s first-ever No. 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs as the team finished the regular season with a 19-15 record. It marked the sixth time in Cooper’s first nine seasons as a WNBA head coach that his team finished the regular season atop its conference standings.
Immediately prior to joining the Dream, Cooper spent four seasons (2009-13) as head coach of the women’s team at the Univ. of Southern California (72-57; .558).
Prior to that, he had two stints as head coach of the WNBA’s 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 two league championships, three Western Conference titles, and reached the Conference Finals six times.
After beginning his tenure with the Sparks as an assistant coach for one season, Cooper took over as head coach in 2000 and in his first year at the helm, led the team to a 28-4 record en route to WNBA Coach of the Year honors. He then guided the team to back-to-back WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002, and reached the WNBA Finals again in 2003 before falling to Detroit.
His second stint as Sparks head coach (2007-2009) 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).
Following his playing career, Cooper served as a special assistant to Lakers GM Jerry West for three years before joining the 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 as Denver’s interim head coach. He then became head coach of the NBA Development League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds (2005-07), winning the D-League championship in 2006 and posting a 50-48 (.510) regular-season mark.
Cooper attended Pasadena (Calif.) High and Pasadena City College before starring at New Mexico, where he made the All-Western Athletic Conf. 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.