ATLANTA, Nov. 21, 2013 – The WNBA Atlanta Dream today announced that former NBA player and WNBA champion coach Michael Cooper has been named Head Coach. 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 second in career winning percentage (.663) and sixth in career victories (167). 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.
Said team owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler: "As we look to take the Atlanta Dream to the next level, Michael Cooper brings a caliber of coaching and leadership that is truly unique. His passion for the game, for the WNBA and his focus on player development will be invaluable. We are excited to build on the success of our franchise for our team, our fans and for the city of Atlanta, and are already working toward an exciting 2014 season."
"We are thrilled to announce Michael Cooper as our new head coach," said Dream CEO Ashley Preisinger. "We had an outstanding pool of candidates to consider for the position, and we are excited for Michael to lead our team. He is a proven winner and leader with a track record of success at the highest levels of basketball and we believe he will be a tremendous asset to our team."
"I'm very honored and pleased to be named the head coach of the Dream," said Cooper. "It's a great organization, and the leadership has it headed in the right direction. The team's appearance in the WNBA Finals shows they are on the right track. They've been knocking on the door of a championship, and I know what that felt like in my early years with the Sparks, but now it's time to kick the door in and make it happen."
Cooper comes to the Dream after spending the past 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.
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 (2006-07), winning the NBA D-League Championship in 2006 and posting a 50-48 (.510) regular-season record.
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.
The three-time Eastern Conference Champion Atlanta Dream completed its sixth season in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 2013 with a trip to the WNBA Finals. The Dream has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, including conference titles in 2013, 2011 and 2010. Season tickets for the 2014 season are now available and can be purchased by calling (877) 977-7729 or visiting www.AtlantaDream.net.