- JuliaKate E. Culpepper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After going 12-22 this season, the Atlanta Dream announced the firing of coach Michael Cooper on Tuesday.
In four seasons with the Dream, Cooper had a 63-73 overall record and coached the Dream to the WNBA Playoffs in 2014 and 2016.
Jeff Schultz: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper
“I am very proud of the young and cohesive team we’ve built and I want to thank the Atlanta fans, the Dream organization, and, most of all, our players for their dedication and hard work,” Cooper said in a statement. “We’ve grown as a team and I’m confident these talented and exciting players will continue to realize their potential both as a team and individually.”
Cooper's departure comes eight months after after Dream’s star guard Angel McCoughtry announced in January she would rest during the 2017 season and not play.
McCoughtry is expected to return to the Dream for the 2018 season, along with 2017 All-Stars Tiffany Hayes, Layshia Clarendon and Elizabeth Williams and Rookie of the Year candidate Brittney Sykes.
“I think Angel obviously is a great player, and I would hope to some degree (she's beneficial) to our success,” Dream president Theresa Wenzel said. “That's difficult to say if it would influence the decision or not."
A fifth-year guard out of Connecticut, Hayes led the Dream in points per game (16.3) while Williams, a second-year out of Duke, led the team in rebounds per game (7.2). A fourth-year guard, Clarendon led the Dream in assists per game (6.6).
Finishing the regular season in fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Dream lost their final two games of the season. On Friday, the Dream lost 81-56 to the Los Angeles Sparks and Sunday, they lost to the Phoenix Mercury 84-70.
Jeff Schultz: WNBA’s expectations for success just a dream?
“We are grateful that Michael Cooper has been part of our franchise over the last four years,” Dream owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler said in a statement. “Michael shared a wealth of experience from his championships in the NBA and coaching two WNBA championship teams. We hope our fans will join us in thanking him for his dedication to the Atlanta Dream.”
Wenzel said the Dream owners met with Cooper on Tuesday morning to alert him of his termination, but did not begin the search for a new coach until after the team notified Cooper out of respect.
In his 24-year coaching career, Cooper has had stints with the Los Angeles Lakers (1994-97), Denver Nuggets (2004-05), Albuquerque Thunderbirds (2005-07), the Los Angeles Sparks (1999-2004, 2007-09) and USC women's basketball (2009-13).
In his first stint as Sparks coach, the former Los Angeles Laker led the team to back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002. The Sparks made an appearance at the 2003 WNBA Championship game, but lost to the Detroit Shock.