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Breaking at 9:55am — T-Birds `Coop’ To Fly Away

LA Times reporting today that former Lobo great will coach WNBA's Sparks again.


The Los Angeles Times is reporting today that former Lobo basketball great Michael Cooper is leaving the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League to sign a multi-year deal with the Los Angeles Sparks — a team he led to the WNBA to two championships. (Thanks for the heads-up from e-mailer S. Chapman!)

"There's a good chance of it happening soon, and it feels damn good to be reconnecting with L.A.," Cooper told the Times shortly after the T-Birds lost 121-104 to the Los Angeles D-Fenders in an NBADL game.

An official announcement from the Sparks is expected today, the Times reported.

The 50-year-old Cooper led the Sparks to four WNBA Western Conference regular-season titles and three Western Conference playoff championships, winning it all in 2001 and 2002,  before leaving the team in mid-season in 2004 to become an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets and briefly served as the Nuggets' interim head coach, according to the Times.

"We're really excited because he brought the Sparks their first championship," Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman told the Times Tuesday night from Cleveland, where she was the NCAA women's basketball championship. "He's a coach that totally respects the women's game in its own right and he's committed to being with the team during the season and the off-season."

Cooper coached the Albuquerque Thunderbirds to the NBADL championship last year, and this year the 21-27 T-Birds are 1 1/2 games behind the LA D-Fenders for the third and final playoff spot in the league's Western Conference with three games left to play, according to this morning's Albuquerque Journal.

An All-American at the University of New Mexico in the 1970s, Cooper was a third-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1978 and was a defensive standout during his 12-year career in the Lakers' "Showtime" era, the Times reported.

"Some may see it as taking a step down in my coaching career, but it gives me a chance to still be a head coach," Cooper told the Times.