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USC Alum Cynthia Cooper-Dyke Introduced As Head Women's Basketball Coach

Aaron Fischman |
April 16, 2013 | 10:47 p.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

Less than two weeks after USC Athletic Director Pat Haden officially welcomed Andy Enfield as the men’s basketball coach, he introduced the school’s brand new women’s coach, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. 

“We have had a history in women’s basketball of really successful programs here (and) we are so, so thrilled to have her leading our program to what we believe (will be) back to greatness,” said Haden.

In the 1980s, Cooper led the Women of Troy (‘82-‘86) to three Final Four appearances, including two national championships, before winning four WNBA titles with the Houston Comets (the first four in league history) and eventually earning a spot in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. 

A couple USC greats attended Tuesday’s press conference, including the coach's former teammate, Pam McGee, and Tammy Story. 

“I am so incredibly excited,” said Cooper-Dyke. “As a head coach, this is my dream. My dream was to come back to Los Angeles and be at the helm of the USC women’s basketball team.”

Two days removed from her 50th birthday, Cooper’s fiery attitude for which she came to be associated with as a player, was on full display during her brief speech that lasted no more than five minutes.

Cooper made her primary objective known from the beginning: “The main goal is to win. We want to win, we want to be on top of the Pac-12 and be a national powerhouse again.”

Although the coach flew in to L.A. on Sunday night and only had the opportunity to practice with her new team for an hour on Monday, she shared a glimpse of that initial meeting with the audience Tuesday.   

“The first thing we did was come together,” said Cooper. 

“I said, ‘Listen, I’m not here to run you in the ground. You don’t have to prove anything to me. I’ve watched game after game. I’m impressed with you all.’ 

“They are a talented bunch of women, and now it’s time for us to go out there and reach our true potential.”

USC guard Brianna Barrett, who will be a sophomore next year, shared her first impressions of the new coach: “She’s a teaching coach, so if we had any questions, she stopped us right away and helped us get through what we wanted to get through. Another impression was she’s very personable. She’s easy to talk to as a coach (and) very open.”

Cooper-Dyke replaces Michael Cooper, who posted a record of 72-57 with the Women of Troy but failed to lead the team to a single NCAA Tournament appearance in four years. This past season’s squad struggled mightily, suffering a series of key injuries and regressing defensively, among other areas. 

“We’re going to play some defense, and I know that seems funny for my teammates,” Cooper-Dyke joked. “I know. We didn’t play any defense, but I can coach defense.”  

Incoming senior Cassie Harberts expressed a similar sentiment: “Like she said at the press conference, ‘We’re going to have to step up our defense.’ We kind of prided ourselves on that (defense) when I first got here, but that kind of dwindled away, so I think that’s something she’s going to make a lot better this year.”

According to Harberts, both Cooper-Dyke and Cooper are “player’s coaches,” but they differ in two distinct ways: First, Cooper-Dyke is a woman. In fact, USC women’s basketball hasn’t had a woman at the helm since Chris Gobrecht was replaced nine years ago. Second, she's a USC alumna.

“I think the quote that kind of says it all,” said Harberts, “is she ‘literally bleeds cardinal and gold.’ She’s a Trojan at heart. I think she’s always going to be a Trojan, and it’s exciting to have one of our own here.” 

In order for Cooper-Dyke to return the Women of Troy to prominence, she emphasized that she must recruit well: “We want to win the recruiting battle in our backyard.” 

“Recruiting has been my thing, and I’m on fire. 

"I’m passionate about it, and I’m passionate for USC.” 

Cooper-Dyke has coached at the collegiate level since 2005, spending five years at Prairie View A&M before making stops at UNC Wilmington and Texas Southern. Her coaching career got off to a rocky start when the NCAA found her in violation of NCAA rules in 2008 (for the ‘05-‘06 season). It was later determined that the school did not properly educate Cooper-Dyke on NCAA recruiting procedures.   

Most recently, she led Texas Southern to a regular-season conference title last season. 

Cooper-Dyke’s goals may seem lofty, given that the Women of Troy have not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2006, but the new coach appeared confident in her ability to resurrect the program.

Back in her playing days, Final Four berths were the norm. For now, a simple tournament appearance would be an appropriate place to start. 

Reach Senior Sports Editor Aaron Fischman by email, or follow him on Twitter.



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