A huge loss for the Panthers

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: May 15, 2010

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, one of the most decorated players in the history of women’s basketball, has been named the ninth head coach in UNCW’s women’s hoops history.

Cooper-Dyke takes over the helm of the Seahawk program following a successful five-year stint at Prairie View A&M in central Texas.

The former college great, Olympic gold medalist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Most Valuable Player will be enshrined into the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on August 13 in Springfield, Mass.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Cynthia to the Seahawk family,” said Kelly Mehrtens, UNCW’s athletic director. “She has been ultra-successful at all stages of her life and I’m confident she will elevate our women’s basketball program. She has an intense passion for the game and loves motivating young people to achieve their best, both on and off the court.”

A native of Chicago, Cooper-Dyke was a four-year standout at Southern California, where she sparked the Women of Troy to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1983 and 1984. She later completed her Bachelor’s Degree at Prairie View A&M.

Cooper-Dyke, 47, collected four medals while representing the United States. She won a gold medal at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, captured gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, claimed gold at the 1990 FIBA World Championship in Malaysia, and won bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Cooper-Dyke began her professional career overseas and played 10 seasons in Spain and Italy. She returned to the United States in 1997 to play with the Houston Comets of the newly-formed WNBA.

She subsequently led the Comets to four consecutive WNBA championships and was named WNBA Finals MVP four times. Cooper-Dyke was voted the league’s MVP in 1997 and 1998 before retiring in 2000.

Cooper-Dyke moved into the coaching ranks in 2001 as the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury and spent two seasons on the sidelines before returning to the Comets’ playing roster briefly until an injury curtailed her season in 2003.

She announced her final retirement prior to the start of the 2004 campaign and finished as Houston’s all-time leader in scoring (2,601 points), free throw percentage (.871) and assists (602).

The popular player-turned-coach joined the Prairie View program in May of 2005 and guided the Panthers to their first Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) regular season title, SWAC Tournament crown and NCAA Tournament berth in 2006-07, collecting conference Coach-of-the-Year honors.

PVAMU repeated as SWAC regular season champions in 2008 and 2009 under Cooper-Dyke. The 2008 club made its first appearance in the WNIT and Cooper-Dyke was voted SWAC Coach-of-the-Year for the second time in 2009 after leading the Panthers to their second NCAA Tournament appearance.

Cooper-Dyke, who was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame last June, has also been active beyond the basketball court. In 2000, she published her autobiography, “She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey,” chronicling her childhood, basketball career and her mother’s battle with breast cancer.