Former Los Angeles Lakers great Michael Cooper has been diagnosed with tougue cancer. Cooper, head coach of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, made the announcement on Monday, one day after coaching the East team to a 125-124 win in the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game.
A news release from the WNBA said Cooper will undergo a surgical procedure this week in Atlanta; recovery is expected to take two weeks. Assistant Coach Karleen Thompson will take over coaching duties in the interim.
“The doctors and staff at Emory (University) have been tremendous, and I know I’m in good hands,” Cooper said this week. “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. I know the team will be in good hands with Coach [Karleen] Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I’m looking forward to returning to the court soon.”
Cooper has led the Dream to a 15-6 record so far in his first season with the franchise. The former Lakers All-Pro won five championships with the team in the 1980s and was a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player. After retiring, Cooper became an assistant coach with the Lakers and went on to coach the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA to back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002. He was named WNBA Coach of the Year in 2000. Cooper also briefly coached the U.S.C. women’s basketball team.
The Los Angeles native can be seen regularly during the NBA season with former Sparks center Lisa Leslie and sportscaster Rob Fukazaki on ABC7 “SportsZone.”