As one Cooper moved out, another moves in.
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is back home, and the USC hall of famer was formally introduced Tuesday as the new women’s basketball head coach in a reception at the Galen Center.
Surrounded by many of her former teammates, new players, coaches and alumni, Cooper-Dyke took the stage with a feeling of excitement in the air after Athletic Director Pat Haden welcomed her back to the USC campus.
“If you had asked me years ago when I began coaching what was my dream and where I wanted to be, I wanted to be home, here at USC,” Cooper-Dyke said.
Cooper-Dyke, 49, opened by expressing her enthusiasm for finally being able to lead her alma mater and thanked Haden and the rest of the athletic department for “getting it right this time.”
And after only one practice with the team, the former WNBA and international superstar had plenty of great things to say about her roster.
“My team is a fantastic and wonderful group of very talented young women,” Cooper-Dyke said. “I look forward to working with them in order to build confidence and build a culture [with] an attitude of winning.”
A winning attitude in the women’s basketball program is nothing new to USC, as Haden expressed in his introduction.
“We have a long history of really good women’s basketball teams along with a history of national championships, and Cynthia was a very important figure on those national championships teams,” Haden said. “We are so thrilled to have her leading our program … back to greatness.”
Cooper-Dyke is what Haden believes to be a “Trojan icon,” as she is one of the greatest players to ever play basketball at USC on either the men’s or women’s side. Haden also mentioned how her number 44 jersey is currently retired in the Galen Center and how she has accomplished virtually everything one can in the sport of basketball.
“We think she is going to be a terrific coach for our Trojan basketball team,” Haden said.
After turning other collegiate programs into winning teams during her eight-year coaching career and going 150-106 (.586) during that time, Cooper-Dyke looks to accomplish the same feat at USC.
“I’m excited to get started and really put USC women’s basketball where we deserve to be,” Cooper-Dyke said.
After talking about how she couldn’t have imagined accomplishing so much during her basketball career, Cooper-Dyke expressed how this position in particular is something she never fathomed.
“It was always my dream to come back to Los Angeles and be at the helm of USC women’s basketball,” Cooper-Dyke said.
The four-time WNBA champion also brings a new coaching style to the Women of Troy, and she shared how she has learned from her coaching experiences thus far.
“I have learned how to break things that I wanted to teach down however far I needed to in order for my players to get it,” Cooper-Dyke said. “It is my job as a head coach to teach them, and it is so gratifying to see when a player gets it and see them demonstrate that out on the court.”
Even after one practice, Cooper-Dyke’s coaching style already seems to resonate well with the players.
“She has a great sense of humor, has tons of energy and also is an alumni … so it is really easy to relate with her,” rising senior forward Cassie Harberts said. “She is so passionate and literally bleeds cardinal and gold.”
Another important member of this season’s squad agreed with Harberts’ assertion.
“She’s really easy to talk to and is very open,” junior Ariya Crook said. “She’s also a teaching coach, so if we had any questions, she stopped and helped us get through what we wanted to get through.”
Toward the end of the press conference, Cooper-Dyke fittingly stressed the importance of one of her main goals, which is to get to know her players and for her players to get to know her.
“It’s not about what happened in the past — rather, it’s about what we are going to do in the future, and this is my team’s time,” Cooper-Dyke said.
When talking about the team’s playing style, Cooper-Dyke mentioned how the Women of Troy are going to emphasize defense, get up and down the court and play a fun-to-watch style of basketball. However, for Cooper and the rest of the women’s program, it all comes down to one thing.
“The main goal is to win,” Cooper-Dyke said. “We want to be on top of the Pac-12 and become a national powerhouse again.”