Cynthia Cooper-Dyke hired to head women’s basketball

USC has hired hall of famer and former Woman of Troy great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke as it new women’s basketball head coach, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced Thursday.

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, looks to restore the winning tradition of the USC women’s basketball program.

“In Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, we have a proven winning coach who happens to be a USC basketball icon,” Haden said in a statement. “She was a part of the best basketball ever played here at USC, and she 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.”

Cooper-Dyke, 49, has an eight-year collegiate head coaching record of 150-106 (.586), with seven postseason appearances and three league coach-of-the-year awards.

“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 in a statement. “I’m literally living the dream coming back to California and being named the new women’s basketball coach at USC.”

She takes over a squad that went 11-20 overall and finished seventh in the Pac-12 under fourth-year head coach Michael Cooper, who resigned last month (the two coaches are not related).

“I’m very excited to coach every one of these USC players,” Cooper-Dyke said. “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.”

Prior to coming to USC, Cooper-Dyke was head coach at Texas Southern University and resurrected the Lady Tigers’ program, taking a 5-26 team and leading them in her first year to a 16-2 league mark and their first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season title.

Before the stint at Texas Southern, she spent two seasons as the head coach at UNC Wilmington, where her team not only set a school record for victories with a 24-9 mark, but made its first ever post-season appearance.

Cooper-Dyke began her college coaching career at Prairie View A&M, where she posted an 86-72 record with four postseason appearances during her five-year (2006-10) tenure there.

“I want to thank my coaching staffs and all the players I’ve coached,” Cooper-Dyke said. “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.”

Cooper-Dyke is one of the most decorated players to ever play women’s basketball. She won the 1981 L.A. city player of the year award at Locke High in Los Angeles, was named an All-Conference first teamer and made the NCAA All-tournament team as the Women of Troy advanced to the NCAA Final. At the professional level, she led the WNBA’s Houston Comets to a record four consecutive WNBA championships (1997-2000), being named WNBA Finals MVP each time.

She 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, in the latter becoming the first WNBA player to do so. At USC, she currently ranks ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,559 points), eighth in assists (381) and third in steals (256).

“I want to thank Pat Haden and Donna Heinel and the entire Trojan Family for giving me this awesome opportunity,” Cooper-Dyke said. “I don’t take it lightly. I feel like the different programs I’ve been a part of…have prepared me in many ways for the Pac-12 and USC…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.”