USC has named former Women of Troy standout and Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke as its new head women's basketball coach. (Photo by Dan Avila/USC Sports Information)
USC has named former Women of Troy standout and Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke as its new head women's basketball coach. (Photo by Dan Avila/USC Sports Information)

USC taps Cynthia Cooper-Dyke as new coach

April 11, 2013 - 4:41pm

LOS ANGELES -- Basketball Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who as a player helped lead USC to a pair of NCAA championships before winning an Olympic gold medal and four WNBA titles, was named head coach of the USC women’s basketball program, Trojan athletic director Pat Haden announced today (April 11).

Cooper-Dyke's initial foray into coaching with the Phoenix Mercury was far less successful than her storied playing career, as she saw the Mercury finish out of the money, in fifth place in the Western Conference at 13-19 in 2001, then stepped down with the team hovering at the 6-4 mark in 2002. But since moving to college coach at the mid-major level, Cooper-Dyke has earned a reputation for resurrecting struggling programs, first at Prairie View A&M, then at UNC-Wilimington and this past season at Texas Southern, winning conference Coach-of-the-Year accolades in both the Southwestern Athletic Conference (2007, 2009) and the Colonial Athletic Association (2011).

"In Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, we have a proven winning coach who happens to be a USC basketball icon," Haden said. "She was a part of the best basketball ever played here at USC, and she has seen success at so many levels of the game. As a coach she has turned around several programs. We believe she can lead USC back to successful women's basketball, and we welcome her back to the USC campus."

"If you were to ask me what my dream job was at any point in my coaching career, I would always have said my dream is to come back and lead the USC women's basketball team," Cooper-Dyke said. "I'm literally living the dream coming back to California and being named the new women's basketball coach at USC.

"I want to thank Pat Haden and Donna Heinel and the entire Trojan Family for giving me this awesome opportunity. I don't take it lightly. I feel like the different programs I've been a part of, from Prairie View A&M to UNC Wilmington to Texas Southern, have prepared me in many ways for the Pac-12 and USC. We've been successful at these programs. I can't promise it will happen in a year like it did at these other programs, but I promise we will put forth our best effort as a staff to create a program that embraces the work ethic and mentality that will help us be successful.

"I also want to thank my coaching staffs and all the players I've coached. The players are always in the forefront of everything we do. It's about helping these women grow and succeed in this world. As a coach, you can't be successful without your players believing in you and performing to the best of their abilities. I wouldn't be here without them.

"I'm very excited to coach every one of these USC players. I'm excited about the talent we have. I'm excited to teach and learn and motivate and really see them blossom into the players they can truly become. It's a very talented group of women and I'm excited to be their new head coach."

Cooper-Dyke, 49, has an eight-year collegiate-head-coaching record of 150-106 (.586), having guided her teams to seven post-season appearances. As the head coach at Texas Southern in 2013, she guided the Lady Tigers—who were 5-26 the year before her arrival—to their first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season championship with a 16-2 league mark (14 more league wins than in 2012). TSU advanced to the SWAC Tournament’s semifinals (as the tourney’s No. 1 seed, a first in program history) and earned its first-ever WNIT berth. At 20-12 overall, the Lady Tigers set school records for season victories (20) and consecutive wins (15).

“Texas Southern University is ecstatic for the opportunity Coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has to take over the USC women’s basketball program,” said TSU Director of Athletic Dr. Charles McClelland. “When we brought Coach Cooper-Dyke into our athletics program we asked her to recruit quality student-athletes, assist them with their progress towards graduation, and win championships. She was able to accomplish all of those goals during her first year at Texas Southern.”

“We’re extremely sad to see her leave but we’re very excited about the foundation that our women’s basketball program has built under her leadership and we look forward to our program continuing to succeed in the classroom and on the court.”

Prior to her arrival at Texas Southern, Cooper-Dyke spent two seasons (2011-12) as the head coach at UNC Wilmington. Inheriting a Seahawks team that had gone 12-19 the prior season (and just 6-12 in league play), her debut 2011 squad notched a school record for victories with a 24-9 overall mark and went 14-4 for second place in the Colonial Athletic Association). The Seahawks also won 11 consecutive home games, got to the semifinals of the CAA Tournament and advanced to the second round of the WNIT in the school’s first-ever post-season appearance, bringing Cooper-Dyke 2011 CAA Coach-of-the-Year honors. In 2012, UNCW posted its second consecutive 20-win season (20-13) for the first time in school history, made it to the CAA tourney semis again after going 11-7 in the league and was a WNIT participant.

Cooper-Dyke began her college coaching career at Prairie View A&M, where she earned her bachelor's degree. Taking over a program that had never had a winning season, she posted an 86-72 record with four post-season appearances during her five-year (2006-10) tenure there.  After going 7-21 overall (6-12 in the SWAC) in 2006, she guided her second team in 2007 to the program’s first winning campaign (19-14), its first SWAC regular-season title (at 14-4), its first SWAC Tournament crown and its first NCAA Tournament berth, earning recognition as SWAC Coach of the Year.  The Lady Panthers repeated as SWAC regular-season champs in 2008 with a 15-3 league mark and finished at 22-12 with a trip to the WNIT.  Prairie View went 23-11 in 2009, winning its third consecutive SWAC regular-season title (going 17-1 in conference play), and also winning the SWAC tourney title and playing in the NCAA Tournament, as Cooper-Dyke repeated as the SWAC Coach of the Year. The Lady Panthers were 15-14 in 2010 (12-6 in for second in league play), achieving a WNIT bid.

Cooper-Dyke's final two years of success at Prairie View, which like Texas Southern is an historically black college that faces financial and recruiting hurdles, came despite NCAA sanctions that included scholarship reductions and probation.  The program was penalized for violations that occurred during Cooper-Dykes’ first season, but the NCAA said those violations were the result of the school’s failure to educate the first-year coach about NCAA rules.

Cooper-Dyke takes over a tradition-rich USC program that has been among the nation’s elite.The Women of Troy have appeared in four Final Fours, winning twice, and produced such icons as Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, the McGee twins, Tina Thompson and Cooper herself.

But the current edition of the Women of Troy is in sore need of Cooper-Dyke's rehabilitative touch. Despite a talented roster, the 2013 USC squad went 11-20 overall and finished seventh with a 7-11 record in the Pac-12 under former head coach Michael Cooper (no relation), who was then in his fourth year. The USC women last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2006, though they were the runner-up in the WNIT in 2011.

One of the world’s greatest and most decorated women’s basketball players, Cooper-Dyke was the 1981 L.A. City Player of the Year at Locke High in Los Angeles while averaging 31 points a game and leading her team to the California State 4A championship.  She also was on Locke’s track team.

She then starred as a 5-10 guard for USC’s 1983 and 1984 NCAA Championship teams. A four-time letter-winner (1982-84, 86), as a senior in 1986 she was named an All-Conference first teamer and made the NCAA All-Tournament team as the Women of Troy made it to the NCAA Final.  She averaged 12.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.1 steals during her career as USC won 114 of 129 games.  She currently ranks ninth on USC’s all-time scoring list (1,559 points), eighth in assists (381) and third in steals (256).

Cooper-Dyke began her pro career in Europe for Spain’s Samoa Betera (1986-87) and Italy’s Parma (1987-94) and Alcamo (1994-96) teams.  She led the league in scoring once (36.7 average) with Samoa Betera and eight times in Italy.  She was the MVP of the European All-Star team in 1987 and was named to the All-Star team of the Italian leagues in 1996 and 1997.

During that time, Cooper-Dyke collected five medals while representing the United States in international play.  She won a gold medal at the 1987 Pan American Games, a gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, golds at the 1986 and 1990 FIBA World Championships and a bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

She returned to the United States in 1997 at the age of 34 to play with the Houston Comets of the newly-formed WNBA.  She led the Comets to a record four consecutive WNBA championships (1997-2000), being named WNBA Finals MVP each time. She was the league's MVP in 1997 and 1998 and was a two-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2000) before retiring in 2000.  She led the league in scoring three consecutive years.  She became the first WNBA player to hit the 500-, 1,000-, 2,000- and 2,500-point career scoring plateaus.  She scored at least 30 points 16 times and had a 92-game double figure scoring streak.

She moved into the coaching ranks in 2001 as the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury and spent that season and the first half of the 2002 season there, going 19-23 overall. At 40, the oldest player then to appear in a WNBA game, he returned briefly to the Comets' 2003 playing roster, earning her third WNBA All-Star selection, until an early injury curtailed her season and led to her retirement. She finished as Houston's all-time leader in scoring (2,601 points), free throw percentage (.871) and assists (602), having averaged 21.2 points per game in her career.

Cooper-Dyke was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 (the first WNBA player enshrined).  She was the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 1998 Sportswoman of the Year.  In 2011, she was voted by fans as one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history.

Born in Chicago on April 14, 1963, in Chicago, Ill., Cooper-Dyke grew up in Los Angeles as one of eight children.  She speaks Italian fluently. She and her husband, Brian Dyke, who is a sports agent, have 10-year-old twins, son, Brian Jr., and daughter, Cyan.

In 2000, Cooper-Dyke published her autobiography, “She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey,” chronicling her childhood, her basketball career and her mother's battle with breast cancer.


2006 Prairie View A&M 7-21 6-21/8th tie SWAC --
2007* Prairie View A&M 19-14 14-4/1st SWAC**
2008 Prairie View A&M 22-12 15-3/1st SWAC WNIT
2009* Prairie View A&M 23-11 17-1/1st SWAC** NCAA
2010 Prairie View A&M 15-14 12-6/2nd SWAC WNIT
2011* UNC Wilmington 24-9 14-4/2nd CAA WNIT
2012 UNC Wilmington 20-13 11-7/4th tie CAA WNIT
2013 Texas Southern 20-12 16-2/1st SWAC WNIT
COLLEGE CAREER RECORD 150-106 (.586) 105-39 (.729) *League Coach of the Year

**League Tournament Champion
2001 Phoenix Mercury 13-19 West - 5th place  
2002 Phoenix Mercury 6-4 --  
WNBA CAREER RECORD 19-23 (.452)    


"Some people, when they hire a coach, the athletic department hits a home run. Southern California has hit a grand slam, with two out and down three with the bases loaded. They hit it out of the park. This is one of the greatest hires. She's the perfect fit. She's the hardest working person I've ever been around. She's a recruiting machine and she loves Southern California. As a player she had the most tenacity, she was gritty, hard-nosed and hard-working. And she possesses the same characteristics as a coach as she did as a player. They better tie up their shoe laces in Southern California and tie them up now!"

-- Van Chancellor, former Houston Comets head coach

"It's obvious that she's going to be an outstanding coach. She'll make a splash on the national stage. I've had the opportunity to play against her and it's obvious that she's knowledgeable and she knows what she wants to do. She's a great coach. Her teams play hard and with purpose. She was clearly a great competitor herself. When it comes to USC, that's her heart. I can think of no better representative than her. She's a wonderful person and a great ambassador for the sport. She has the great respect of coaches across the country. She has given so much of herself to the game, she won't be satisfied with anything less than the best. She'll put out a product that USC can be proud of. I'm very excited for her."

-- C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers head coach

"I absolutely enjoyed playing with Cynthia Cooper. She is the ultimate winner. She has an incredibly work ethic and a deep passion for being the best in whatever she does. When I think about her, I think about passion, desire, and a work ethic to be a winner. "

-- Coquese Washington, former Houston Comets teammate

"One thing for sure she's really passionate about the game and the players. From the outside looking in, she's hard and she's in your face, but it's about positive reinforcement. It's really motivating. You want to do your best, but you need someone to bring it out of you and give you that extra push. All four years, our game developed so much every year. She took the time and taught us. She gave us a better basketball IQ and understanding. The way she had us work, she helped us create a strong work ethic and it was followed by victories. PVAMU hadn't won more than maybe eight games in a season and we had four straight winning seasons while I was there. Under anyone else's coaching we couldn't have done that. I really appreciated her as a coach."

-- Gaati Werema, former PVAMU player

"It is very exciting to see Cynthia Cooper return to USC as the head coach for women's basketball. Cynthia brings a wealth of experience as a player and coach as well as an unmatched spirit and passion for the game. I look forward to the next few years under coach Cooper, as USC women's basketball -- once again -- becomes a national championship program."

-- Barbara Hedges, former USC Senior Women's Administrator

Source: Substantial portions of this article were obtained from press releases from the USC and Texas Southern University Offices of Sports Information.