Coach Cooper Teaches Life Lessons
For Michael Cooper, former NBA star and head coach of the USC women’s basketball team, “being part of the USC family is exactly that – a family.”
Cooper joined USC last year and already has immersed himself in the Trojan community. He recently was a guest speaker at the Parkside dinner, a weekly event that brings guests to the residential college to share food, thought and discussion.
Professor Oliver Mayer, faculty master of the International Residential College at Parkside, struck a personal note when he introduced the evening’s speaker.
“My best friend and I watched Cooper play for the Lakers years ago,” he said. “It’s particularly moving to me as a teacher to see someone I idolized take his passion and athletic ability and transform that into teaching.”
Cooper shared anecdotes about playing for the Lakers, including tales of his former teammates Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also mentioned the long-standing rivalry between the Lakers and Boston Celtics, teasing a few Celtics fans in the crowd and jokingly referring to the 1985 Lakers championship win against the Celtics as the “Great Boston Massacre.”
However, he had much more to talk about than basketball. He shared memories of childhood hardship, including a debilitating accident that resulted in 104 stitches and a leg brace he wore for five years. Although doctors doubted his ability to walk on his own, he pushed himself to make a full recovery.
The experience inspired him to create “Coop’s five Ds: determination, dedication, desire, discipline and decision-making.” Specifically addressing the freshmen, Cooper advised the students to use these guiding principles during their time at USC.
“You’re starting on a very long journey,” he said. “You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. Make the right decisions, and keep it as simple as you can.”
Cooper then took questions from the crowd. He spoke about the value of teamwork, his favorite spots on campus and his special ritual of wearing the same socks from game to game. He also shared his dreams of being a trumpet player and light-heartedly insisted, “I’m 53 years old. I’ve still got time to learn!”
But when asked about his favorite aspect of coaching, he thought a moment.
“Teaching. I enjoy teaching,” he responded. “I try to teach our players how to be good basketball players, but also to be good, productive people in society. With the game of basketball, I try to teach young ladies things about life.”
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