Current Atlanta Dream coach and former Women of Troy head basketball coach Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with early stage tongue cancer.
Cooper, 58, is in the midst of his first season as coach of the Atlanta Dream, who lead the Eastern Conference with a 15-6 record in the WNBA. The Dream have announced that Cooper will take a short leave of absence, which should last just over two weeks, and in the meantime assistant coach Karleen Thompson will fill in as the head coach.
The diagnosis comes just days after leading the Eastern Conference to a 125-124 overtime victory over the Western Conference in the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday. The two-time WNBA Championship head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks has the Dream in contention for its first Eastern Conference regular-season title in team history.
Luckily for everyone involved, the Dream have also announced that Cooper should be in store for a fully recovery from the cancer. In a statement released by the Atlanta Dream on Monday, coach Michael Cooper says he is fortunate to have an early diagnosis. He says his case "illustrates the importance of screening and early detection."
Cooper paid the ultimate respect for one of the best players to step on the court during his Trojan tenure by drafting First-Team All-Pac-12 performer Cassie Harberts, whom he coached for three years, in the second round of the WNBA Draft back on April 14th.
Harberts was the 11th Trojan ever to be selected in a WNBA draft, finishing out her outstanding USC career as the program's No. 7 all-time leading scorer, No. 8 all-time rebounder and No. 3 all-time scorer in free throws made.
While the Trojans certainly struggled in his final two seasons as head coach (11-20), the relationship Cooper had with his players, especially with a veteran presence like Harberts, left a lasting impression on his players development. Wish the best of luck to "Coach Coop" in his fight with cancer, the Women of Troy will always have your back.