Auburn's John Cooper Named Head Basketball Coach at Tennessee State
March 27, 2009
AUBURN----John Cooper, who has been Auburn's associate head coach for the last five seasons, has been named head basketball coach at Tennessee State University on Friday.
Cooper played a vital role in the revitalization of the Auburn basketball program as the Tigers went 24-12, tying the mark for the second-most wins in school history, this past season while only SEC Champion LSU had more league wins than Auburn's 10-6 SEC record.
Auburn, which came within an eyelash of the NIT Final Four this year, has had two winning seasons in the last three years as the Tigers played for the SEC's Western Division title in the 2007 regular season finale.
"First of all, it is a lifelong dream and a lifelong journey," said Cooper. "As I think about it, I am so grateful for one having the opportunity to come to Auburn and having been allowed to grow as a coach and given the opportunity by Jeff. Two, when I informed the team I told them that without them, without the year they had and what they did, I wouldn't have been given this opportunity.
"Friends never say goodbye. Friends say until we meet again, and we leave a lot of friends here. I am really enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity. My goal is to obviously be successful, but also to put a product on the court that Tennessee State University is proud of, and one that is successful both on and off the court. In the future, we want to be able to say that we competed for championships in the OVC and hopefully say that we have won championships."
When Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo missed a game because of an illness in 2006 and 2007, Cooper was the acting head coach. With Lebo sidelined with a stomach virus, Cooper coached Auburn to an 80-68 victory over LSU on Feb. 28, 2007. Cooper made his coaching debut in an
84-64 loss at Arkansas on Feb. 11, 2006, when Lebo spent the entire game in the Tigers' locker room lying on a table as he was sick with the flu.
"I am real excited for John to get this first opportunity to be a head basketball coach at Tennessee State," said Lebo. "He certainly has been an integral part of our program for the last five years. Tennessee State is getting a class act, and we all will miss him and wish him nothing but the best."
Prior to coming to Auburn in April 2004, Cooper spent two seasons at Oregon where he helped the Ducks to a 41-23 mark. Oregon went 23-10 with a NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002-03 and had an 18-13 record in 2003-04, losing in the NIT semifinals.
He coached a pair of All-Americans in Pac-10 Player of the Year Luke Ridnour of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks and NBA player Luke Jackson.
Cooper spent six years as an assistant at South Carolina under his former college coach, Eddie Fogler, from 1995-2001, helping lead the Gamecocks to the SEC Championship with a 24-8 record overall and 15-1 in the SEC in 1996-97.
Cooper and Lebo were Fogler's assistants at USC for three years from 1995-98. South Carolina made four postseason appearances, including back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 1997 and 1998 and a pair of NITs in 1996 and 2001. Cooper coached former Cleveland Cavalier Ryan Stack and the Gamecocks' all-time leading scorer, B.J. McKie, at South Carolina.
Prior to South Carolina, Cooper spent two seasons as an assistant to Rick Duckett at Div. II Fayetteville (N.C.) State where the Broncos went 18-10 in 1993-94 and 15-10 in 1994-95.
Cooper, 40, was a standout forward for Wichita State, playing his first two seasons under Fogler. He scored 1,153 points during his career (1988-91), which ranks 21st in Shocker history and was the team MVP as a junior.
The Kansas City, Mo., native led Wichita State in scoring and rebounding during both his junior and senior seasons, averaging 20.8 points as a senior and 17.0 points as a junior. He was team captain his final two seasons and a Rhodes Scholar candidate.
After graduating in 1991 with a Business Administration degree from Wichita State, Cooper was drafted by Fort Wayne of the Continental Basketball Association. He played one year with Fort Wayne and then another season for the commodore Mustangs in Den Helder, Holland, before joining the coaching ranks.
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