Michael Cooper Returns as Head Coach of the Sparks

LOS ANGELES – Michael Cooper, who previously coached the team to two WNBA Championships, is returning to the helm of the Los Angeles Sparks, the team announced. Cooper replaces Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, who has been and will continue to be the head coach of the Tokyo Apache in the Japanese BJ league.

“We are delighted to have Michael coming back to a place where he has enjoyed so much success,” said Sparks’ co-owner Carla Christofferson. “The Sparks are very excited about the 2007 season and we are looking forward to contending for the WNBA title under Michael’s direction.”

“We were Sparks’ fans and very impressed with the way Michael coached the team to those championships,” added co-owner Kathy Goodman. “It was apparent that he shared our enthusiasm and love of the game and the community.”

“We want to thank Joe Bryant for his coaching contributions to the Sparks, and we wish him great success in his career in the Japanese BJ league,” Christofferson said.

“I am thrilled to be returning home and to have the opportunity to coach a team that provides me with so many fond memories,” Cooper said. “The franchise is starting a new chapter and we want to bring another championship banner to Staples Center.”

After originally joining the Sparks as an assistant coach in 1999, Cooper was named head coach in November of that year. In his first year as head coach, he earned the 2000 WNBA Coach of the Year Award after leading the Sparks to their best record in franchise history (28-4). In four-plus seasons, Cooper guided the Sparks to a 116-31 (.789) regular season record and four playoff appearances. His teams captured back-to-back WNBA Championships in 2001 and ’02 and made the finals three consecutive years.

Cooper joined the staff of the NBA Denver Nuggets as an assistant coach prior to the 2004-05 season. On Dec. 28, 2004, he became the interim head coach but returned to his role as an assistant upon the hiring of George Karl on Jan. 27, 2005.

Most recently, Cooper coached the Albuquerque Thunderbirds to the 2006 NBA Development League title.

A Los Angeles native, Cooper began his coaching career in March 1994, serving as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers under Magic Johnson and later with Del Harris from 1994-97. Prior to his coaching stint with the Lakers, Cooper served as special assistant to General Manager Jerry West for nearly three years.

A 12-year NBA veteran, Cooper was a third-round draft choice (60th overall) by the Lakers in the 1978 NBA Draft after graduating from the University of New Mexico. He earned eight NBA All Defensive Team selections – including five First Team honors – and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1987. He spent his entire career with the Lakers and was a member of five NBA Championship teams (1980, ’82, ’85, ’87 and ’88).

Retiring after the 1989-90 season, he was ranked among the club’s all-time top 10 in three-point field goals (378), games played (793), total minutes played (21,784), steals (966), blocked shots (487), assists (3,451), defensive rebounds (1,860), offensive rebounds (682) and free throw percentage (.829).

Entering their 11th season, the Sparks are operating under new ownership led by investors Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson. The Sparks will open the 2007 season in Chicago when they play the Sky on May 22. The Sparks will take on the Minnesota Lynx for their home opener on June 8 at STAPLES Center. For season ticket information, call (877) 44-SPARKS.